Teens & Young Adults

Teen Alcohol and Drug Addiction: What Parents Can Do

Millions of teens and young adults across the United States living with one or more addictions, from drug addiction and alcohol abuse to process or behavioral addiction. High school-aged youth are regularly exposed to illicit drugs like marijuana, inhalants, prescription drugs, methamphetamines, opioids, bath salts, alcohol, and more. Combined with peer pressure and risk factors such as mental health issues and genetic predispositions, the teenage years are a vulnerable time when too many young people develop substance abuse issues.

While the NIH's most recent Monitoring the Future survey reported a decrease in reported drug and alcohol use among young people for 2021, teen and adolescent addiction is still far too common. If you have a teen or young adult in your life who is living with an addiction, it’s important to know there is hope and there is help.

Although it may seem daunting, the first step in supporting any teen or young adult with a drug abuse problem is talking to them. While they may be reluctant to open up or they may become defensive, there are ways to approach the conversation which can increase the chances that it will go well.

How to talk to teens and young adults about addiction

1. Pick the Right Time to Talk

It’s vital to select a time to talk when your teen is not drinking alcohol or under the influence of drugs. It’s also important not to bring up the subject when things are tense or emotions are already high. Being calm, loving, and in control of your own emotions will help the conversation be more productive.

2. Talk Without Accusing

Once you begin the conversation, it’s important to not be accusatory, hostile, or aggressive. Although you may feel many emotions, avoiding accusations while regularly expressing to your teen that you love them and are concerned about them is the best approach. Most people close up and get defensive when they feel attacked or accused, and this is especially true of someone with an addition. When you talk to your loved one about addiction, accusations are not your friend.

3. Stay Calm

Staying calm and resolving to not let your emotions get the best of you is essential in a conversation about addiction. It's not uncommon for a teen or adolescent in this situation to react strongly. Be prepared for a negative or hostile reaction, but commit to staying calm.

4. Enlist the Help of Others

From school counselors and therapists to your child’s health care provider, lean on the resources you have around you for help and advice with your teen's addiction problem. In addition, recovery support groups such as Twelve-Step programs can be particularly helpful in supporting you and your loved one. Groups such as Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous can help your young adult and Twelve-Step groups such as Al-Anon can help parents learn how to best support their child with an addiction issue.

5. Be Prepared

When you do talk to your loved one about drug use, it’s important to have a plan in place should they be ready to get help right away. The old saying, “Strike while the iron’s hot” applies to this situation. Often when a person with a substance use problem decides to get help, they can change their mind if too much time passes before they actually get into treatment. For this reason, it’s a good idea to contact some inpatient and outpatient addiction treatment centers ahead of time to confirm they have a room available for your teen or young adult. When contacting a treatment facility, you'll be able to discuss your loved one's substance use problem and potential treatment plans, including any potential need for accompanying mental health or physical health needs.

If you want to learn more about how Caron can help your teen or young adult recover from an alcohol use disorder, substance use disorder, or process addiction call us today at 1-800-854-6023. At Caron, we use evidence-based treatment to help people recover from addiction.

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