If you suspect your teen is addicted to alcohol or drugs, it can be an incredibly challenging and stressful time for your family. Substance abuse is a serious problem that many parents may not realize is happening until it deepens to the point of addiction. Parents may not understand the signs and symptoms of substance abuse or addiction.
If you suspect your teen is addicted, you may not know how to approach your addicted teen. For this reason, it’s important to learn how to cope with your teen’s addiction as well as how to approach them and manage the situation.
Don’t Try to Punish the Problem Away
While it’s important for parents to set boundaries for their teens and be firm when it comes to enforcement, addiction isn’t a situation that can be simply “punished away.”1 Grounding your teenager isn’t going to magically wipe away their compulsion to use alcohol or drugs. Only addiction treatment can set the recovery journey in motion.
Nevertheless, as you approach your addicted teen, you can still set those boundaries and let them know they exist before and after treatment. They need to know that drinking and drug use is unacceptable, but that you also understand they are in a situation where they need help to maintain those boundaries—and that help comes through addiction treatment.
Corroborate What They Say
You’ve known their sweet face since birth. You may even have a long history of mutual trust, but you must realize that addiction is associated with high-risk behaviors—and lying. The fact is, addicted individuals lie to themselves constantly about the extent of their problem. Many addiction sufferers lie because they are terrified of withdrawal and will do anything to obtain drugs or alcohol.
Addiction affects both physical and mental health, so as you approach your addicted teen, you have to focus on their actions—not merely their word. They may tell you they haven’t used a substance, but you may need proof in the form of a urine test. This isn’t to punish them. This is ultimately to help them, to ensure that you are taking steps that could safeguard their life and health.
Take a Positive Tone
It’s easy to show anger when you approach your addicted teen, but anger could push them away, and it won’t solve the problem in any case. Consider accentuating the positives of addiction treatment, of getting on a healthy track and improving their lives.
There are any number of reasons that led your teen to abuse alcohol or drugs in the first place. Together, you can begin to address these issues and solve them. Whether it was peer pressure, low self-esteem or even a mental health problem like depression, these problems can be managed with therapy. When you approach your addicted teen, you can take a positive, proactive route that lays the path toward recovery.
If you are still unsure how to approach your addicted teen or your methods aren’t working as planned, you can contact an addiction treatment center for help.2 An interventionist may be able to help you, and addiction specialists can recommend treatments that are ideal for addicted teens.