Teenage substance abuse

Being a teenager is hard enough. Being a parent of a teenager is even harder. Parents often notice some weird behavioral changes of their kids but blame it on their age and minor school or peers’ issues. Sometimes it’s not that simple and could be a sign of your son or daughter using substances like alcohol and drugs.

Reasons for teenage substance abuse

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Photo Credit: Peshkova

Statistics says that 9 out of 10 people addicted to different substances started using them as a teenager – before they turned 18. Good life probably wasn’t the reason for it, so let’s see what was. Scientists agree that the main reasons are:

  • A lot of kids first try smoking or drinking alcohol out of curiosity. These bad habits are constantly on a radar – looking at them from TV, Internet ads, banners. Naturally, teenagers want to try out the things everybody is talking about;
  • Bad example. This usually happens in troubled families. When parents use substances all the time or even from time to time, it sets a bad example for their children. Even if they strictly prohibit their teenage children to try it, kids would try it anyway, because they see their parents using it and having a good time;
  • According to the recent statistics, over 20% of teenagers constantly feel depressed and 10-15% experience the symptoms from time to time. And when they don’t get help in coping with it from their parents, they tend to look for support in other places. They can see drugs and alcohol as a way to escape from or even relieve the stress;
  • Pressure from their peers and bad companies. These two situations are often associated with each other. When a teenager gets in a ‘cool’ company, where everybody else uses drugs or drinks alcohol, he not only sees the bad example but may also feel a pressure to try it too. It could be both an inner urge and an expressed suggestion from the members of the company.

Signs and symptoms

Luckily, this phenomenon doesn’t go unnoticed. Observant parents can notice some of the next symptoms:

  • Sudden changes of mood;
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and things they used to like;
  • Change of appearance;
  • Alcohol or smoke smell;
  • Secretiveness;
  • Change of company and disinclination to introduce them to their family, etc.

However, if you see these symptoms, don’t panic! One or two of them can just mean that your kid is a teenager and is going through some mental changes. Always try to talk to them first and learn more about the reasons for their behavior.

Ways to treat it

If you as a parent notice these symptoms, don’t panic and try and scare your children with sanctions. Instead, follow the next steps:

  1. Talk to your children. Ask about their issues at school or with peers, but don’t take the aggressive tone and don’t be super-persistent, it may cause them to close even more;
  2. Be supportive. If you learn something has been happening, show your son or daughter that you accept and love them anyway, and you will deal with a problem together;
  3. Introduce some new family activities into your life. Doing something fun together can make your child open more and tell you about his or her problems. It can also show him that life is equally great without any substances;
  4. Be patient. Remember that teenagers are very secretive and may not want to share their feelings. So don’t lose your temper and scream at them, patience can do much more.
  5. If you feel the situation is out of control, make sure to find the Addiction Resource hotline number and don’t hesitate to use it in case you can’t cope with a situation with small measures.

Always remember that your teenage children are not kids anymore, so treat them as grownups and respect their personal space.


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