Teen Substance Abuse: How to Have Tough Conversations

February 4, 2020

Teenage-hood is a tricky period. Teens are just starting to establish their identities, and this means typically challenging the limits of parental controls. Concerning alcohol and drugs, pushing the boundaries can lead to risky territory. Setting clear rules regarding substance use helps give teenagers the structure needed to stay safe. Let us be realistic: You cannot guarantee that your rules will not be broken.

Be that as it may, studies show that teens who have clear rules are less likely to stumble into serious trouble than teens who don’t. In any event, when the rules are broken, teenagers whose parents have plainly stated what is and is not acceptable are less likely to get into trouble and more likely to settle on safer decisions.

So, you need to have the discussion; however, for many parents starting a potentially difficult conversation is overwhelming. A couple of guidelines can help get the show on the road and make for a smoother, more productive experience for everyone.

The Problem of Teenage Substance Abuse

Lamentably, many teenagers consider experimenting with alcohol and drugs to be a significant part of growing up, in spite of the substantial hazard and many disastrous outcomes. Some teenagers are introduced to drug use via prescriptions and later start to use recreationally. Some teenagers start trying out drugs because of friends or become curious after listening to a song referencing drug abuse. Some of them even come across drugs by stealing from their parents’ medicine cabinets. Regardless of how a teenager first starts on their path to substance abuse, teen substance abuse is a real risk.

One in five teenagers admits to recreational drug use. When asked why Common replies include:

  • To relieve stress
  • To fit in
  • Poor impulse control
  • Easy availability
  • To maintain a balance between responsibilities
  • Genetic predisposition to substance abuse
  • To self-medicate emotional or mental problems
  • To explore their curiosity
  • Addiction and dependence

Common Substances that Teens Abuse

The most widely recognized substances abused by teenagers are not much different than those of adults. Be that as it may, the reasons behind the abuse may be different as teenagers often abused substances based on their availability. Teenagers are likewise more likely to take excessive amounts of alcohol and drugs because of how they see the dangers and risks.


Alcohol is a substance generally abused by teenagers. The social acknowledgment of drinking among individuals of legal drinking age can lead numerous teenagers to see alcohol as relatively harmless. Research suggests that teens are more likely to binge drink since their impulse control has not fully formed. Binge drinking increases the addiction risks in people of any age, and the adolescent brain is more vulnerable to addiction. Talking to your teens about the dangers can prevent underage drinking.


Regular marijuana users often began during their teenage. The perception of marijuana use among teenagers is changing; most teenagers don’t think smoking marijuana occasionally brings any danger. Over 20 percent of teenagers reported using marijuana at least once in a month.

Prescription Drugs and Over-the-counter Medications

Many prescription medications have intoxicating effects, and this is no mystery to most teenagers. Narcotic painkillers like Benzodiazepines and OxyContin like Xanax produce pleasurable results that teens might look for. These medications have high addictive potential and risk of overdose.

Teenagers may likewise abuse over-the-counter drugs. The substance dextromethorphan (DXM), a cough reducing substance, is found in many regular cold and flu meds. DXM can lead to intoxicating effects in high dosage, and an overdose is a real plausibility.

Signs of Teenage Drug Use

Signs of drug use in teenagers refer to changes that an onlooker can spot and may act as a hint to confirm drug abuse. Signs can fall into a couple of general classes: physical signs, mental signs, and paraphernalia signs. Drug paraphernalia refers to tools or items used to hide, ingest, or use various drugs. The different types of gear vary depending on the drug and how it must be taken for it to work. Finding these gears is one of the warning signs of teen substance abuse.

Common items of paraphernalia by consumption means include:

  1. Injection: a rubber belt or cord for tying the arm, cotton balls for filtering, alcohol swabs, lighters, syringes, spoon with burn marks, and needle.
  2. Smoking: metal or glass pipes, lighter (torch or normal), straws (plastic or metal for smoking), water pipes (bongs), and tin foil.
  3. Snorting: rolled-up dollar bills, razor blades, snuff bullets, small mirror, straws (plastic or metal).

If you’re suspicious of a specific drug, lookup for symptoms of that particular drug. If you’re suspicious yet not sure which drug your teen is abusing, general physical signs of substance abuse may include:

  • Changes in sleeping or eating patterns
  • Worsening physical appearance or decreased personal grooming
  • Dry eyes, pupils which are smaller or larger than normal
  • Slurred tremors, speech or poor connection
  • Runny nose or sniffing
  • Strange odors on clothing or breath
  • An abrupt change in weight — weight loss or gain

General mental symptoms of drug abuse may include:

  • Appearing “scattered.”
  • Agitation, paranoid, or fear for no apparent reason
  • Periods of nervousness increased energy or mood instability
  • Abrupt lack motivation
  • Unexplained changes in personality or attitude

Signs of withdrawal begin within hours to days after the last usage. Withdrawal symptoms will rely upon which sort of drug your child is using. You can likewise lookout for physical proof of the substances themselves, which are most of the time left behind. Look for bits of cannabis (green plant material), unknown pills, white powder, and other new stuff. Regardless of whether you find proof, be careful not to accept the worst. In any case, keep every bit of evidence in mind to develop the bigger picture.

High School Drug Use

Among tenth graders who had attempted alcohol or drugs, most began drinking between eighth and ninth grade. 10% of tenth grade students who had tried marijuana used the substance for the first time in the ninth grade. More than 99 percent of the tenth and twelfth-grade students had never attempted heroin.

It is Never Too Early to Talk to Them

As a parent, you understand that your child is unique, alongside your family’s circumstances. It is up to you, at that point, to figure out what’s best for your teens throughout their growth. Some parents never talk to their children about alcohol and drugs. Some instill anti-drug messages from the moment they are born.

In any case, studies show that children who receive “the talk” and have strict home training are less likely to experiment with alcohol and drugs or build up a habit. If you decide to talk to them about substance abuse, experts suggest that 8 to 10 years old is an excellent time to begin.

If this appears too early, you can definitely wait it out a little longer. Better late than never. Remember that 62% of adolescents who confess to drinking have their first full alcohol at the age of 15 and that children as young as 11 are likely to come across others who do drugs or drink according to stats. When you hold the discussion with them early, you furnish them with the fundamental tools needed to identify dangerous circumstances and make smart choices.

Tips for having conversations with teens about drugs, while keeping your relationship intact:

1. Be Loving Open, and Involved

Respect that teens are experts in their culture, too, therefore invite them to show you around their world. Commending positive behavior, showing respect, and demonstrating real enthusiasm in their lives on an ongoing basis will help guarantee that you stay connected to them and maintain open communication. Your kid needs to know that you are there to listen and talk to whenever they want to. By establishing open and regular communication, you’ll show them that their concerns and thoughts are important.

2. Take Advantage of Conversational Opportunities

You can raise something you came across on the web, in a newspaper article, or on a TV show about alcohol and drugs to begin a conversation with your teen. Ask about what worries, questions, or concerns they have about ‘what’s going on.’ Opioids (e.g., pain meds) or other drugs may show up naturally when somebody in the family gets a prescription. Utilize these sorts of chances to chat about overdose prevention and substance use.

3. Ask Questions, and Then Listen

Ask questions and then listen to what they’ve got to say. You do not need to concur with everything, but it is helpful to avoid reacting with negativity or anger to what they share.

4. Talk from Your Heart

Concentrate on your heartfelt worries for their safety and profound regard for their wellbeing (as opposed to good/bad, right/wrong, obey/punish). Emphasize your profound love and care, commitment to trying to comprehend, and be present in their life.

Laying Good Groundwork

No parent, kid, or family is immune to the impacts of drugs. Any child can wind up in a tough situation, even those who have made an attempt to stay away from it, and even when they’ve been given the right guidance from their parents. In any case, a specific group of teens may be more likely to abuse drugs than others. Children who have friends who take alcohol or use drugs are likely to try it out themselves. Teens who feel socially isolated for reasons k own to them may turn to drugs for refuge.

So, it is critical to know your child’s friends — and their parents. Get involved in your kids’ lives. If your kid’s school runs an antidrug program, get involved. You may get the hang of something! Focus on how your children are feeling and let them realize that you are available and willing to talk and listen to them in a nonjudgmental way. Know when your children are experiencing difficult times so you can offer the support needed or seek professional help if required.

Role-playing can enable your kid to develop means to turn down drugs if they’re offered. Act out potential scenarios they may experience. Helping them develop expressions and responses to say no sets them up to know how to react before they’re even in that situation.

An open, warm family environment — where children can discuss their feelings, where their accomplishments are commended, and where their confidence is boosted — encourages children to come forward with their concerns and questions. When teens are censored in their own homes, they go somewhere else to find support and answers to their most critical questions.

Residential Treatment for Teens

Parent Child Therapy | Substance Abuse | Hillcrest

Teens and children are more vulnerable than adults to drug and alcohol addictions. Studies show that the younger people are committed to drugs, the more likely they are to build up a substance abuse disorder. If your teenager is using addictive substances, their brain is adapting to that particular substance.

Marijuana, alcohol, and other drugs typically used by teenagers can lead to dependence. That implies they will crave the drugs or experience withdrawal if they suddenly stop using them. Symptoms of addiction, for example, withdrawal or an urgent desire to use substances, may show that your teenager has a substance use disorder. If your teen is unwilling or unable to quit, residential Treatment is likely vital.

Personalized Treatment

When you send your teen to our residential treatment facility, they’re assigned an eight-person treatment team, which develops a personalized treatment plan to guarantee positive development and feasible healing. The Treatment Team comprises of:

  • Psychiatrist
  • Family Therapist
  • Individual Therapist
  • Registered Nurse
  • Medical Doctor/Pediatrician
  • Registered Dietician/Nutritionist
  • Clinical Director, who supervises the Treatment Team
  • Recovery Counselor

Do not be discouraged if your teen fails to respond immediately. They need to process everything in their own way and are most likely listening more intently than you think. You might be going to the grocery shop together two weeks after, and out of nowhere, there is a heap of questions. Know that there is probably not just one time you will have discussions like these.

Also, if your family needs professional help, our residential treatment facility offers teenage care for young people who may struggle with substance abuse, emotional issues, or the difficulties of growing up. Our residential treatment facility is open 24/7 and you can contact us for consultations and setting up appointments/tours. Positive Treatment can be the defining moment your teen needs to roll out effective improvements and set a course for a more satisfying life.