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Cascade Canyon

Teen Substance Use

As parents, you want nothing more than you make sure your children live happy, healthy, and beautiful lives. When your teen begins using drugs or alcohol, it can be easy to blame yourself, to become angry or defensive, and to feel very alone.

The truth is, you’re not alone. Many parents are dealing with teens who are struggling with substance use, and they aren’t sure what the next step is either. Once you become aware that your teen is using drugs or alcohol, it’s important that you work quickly to get them help. When substance abuse is caught early, treatment outcomes tend to be more successful

Understanding Teen Substance Use

There are a variety of reasons that teens turn to drugs or alcohol. One of the biggest reasons that your teen may have begun experimenting is peer pressure and curiosity. By 8th grade, 28% of teenagers have consumed alcohol at least once in their life. While some teens don’t make regular drug or alcohol use a habit, for many teens, substance use crosses the very fine line into addiction without them even realizing it.

Marijuana is currently the most frequently used drug among teens, with the second most commonly abuse drug being alcohol. Other commonly abused drugs by teens include cocaine, heroin, inhalants, and prescription medications like OxyContin and Vicodin.

Regardless of the substance being used, teens who begin abusing drugs and alcohol and putting their entire lives at risk. Besides the obvious safety and health concerns of teens who are abusing drugs and alcohol, teens are also sacrificing their relationships, education, self-esteem, and mental health.

When To Get Involved

If you suspect that your child is abusing drugs or alcohol, it’s imperative that you intervene immediately. Drug and alcohol abuse is extremely dangerous and can be deadly. If you ignore the signs of your teen’s drug and alcohol abuse, you are not only encouraging their behavior, you’re putting their life at risk.

As a parent, being able to recognize the signs and symptoms of teen drug and alcohol abuse may be the difference between life and death for your teen.

Some of the warning signs include:

  • An unexplained need for money
  • Stealing money or valuables
  • Decreased attention to personal appearance or hygiene
  • Secretive phone calls or text messages
  • A sudden need for privacy
  • Spending time with a new group of friends
  • Failure to attend school or extra-curricular activities
  • Sudden lack of interest in hobbies

Teen Brain Development and Substance Abuse

Brain development occurs until the end of the teen years. When a teenage brain is exposed to drugs or alcohol, the substance interferes with the normal processing and function of a brain, and eventually leads to changes in how well the brain works

Because the teenage brain is extremely vulnerable, drugs and alcohol affect the teenage brain beginning with their first use. Ultimately, drug and alcohol use is undermining and decreasing your teen’s ability to succeed in in life. This is why knowing what to look for, an intervening immediately, is your teen’s best chance at overcoming their drug and alcohol abuse.

Taking Charge

Most parents are aware that teenagers use and experiment with drugs during high school, but most don’t realize that drug and alcohol use is usually covering up a deeper problem that your teen is facing.

Some of the most common reasons that teens turn to drugs and alcohol include:

  • Peer pressure
  • Unhealthy or stressful home life
  • Co-occurring mental health disorders
  • Poor self-image or self-esteem
  • Stress relief
  • Coping with emotional turmoil
  • Curiosity

Getting Help

If you suspect that your teen is abusing drugs or alcohol, it’s time to get them help. As their parent, you are also their caregiver and their advocate, which means having some difficult discussions with them about the habits they’re currently forming and the illicit activities they may be engaging in. No amount of drug or alcohol use is acceptable for a teen, and they must understand that. It’s important to set firm boundaries with your teen from the get-go, so that they understand that their behavior is dangerous and unacceptable.

While many teens who are struggling with substance use do not require an inpatient or residential level of care, seeking outpatient mental health and substance use resources is an important first step to take.

Reaching out to Sandstone Care’s qualified team of admission’s coordinators is a great way to get a professional opinion about what would best benefit your teen. Sandstone Care offers a variety of resources for teen substance use and mental health concerns including an intensive outpatient program (IOP) and partial hospitalization program (PHP), as well as a teen residential program.

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