Addiction in Teens and How to Treat It

Addiction in Teens and How to Treat It

Children’s brains do not fully develop until they are 25 years of age. Since teens’ brains have not fully matured, it leaves plenty of room for them to make questionable decisions, like experimenting with drugs or alcohol. Teen addiction is a worst-case scenario for most parents. Not only is addiction likely a life-long struggle, but the consequences can be traumatizing. Your teen may not have a conventional or “normal” childhood after struggling with addiction. However, with proper treatment and resources, you can help your teen get sober and learn healthy habits before adulthood.

Treat the Disease

Addiction is a disease sometimes known as substance use disorder (SUD). Much like if your teen has a severe illness or a debilitating infection, addiction is a disease that affects the mind and body. In teens, this is especially prevalent because addiction will change their brains and affect how they grow into young adults.

Treating addiction isn’t a cakewalk, and it’s difficult for parents to see their child struggle in this way.

To help teens treat addiction, consider the following:

  • Get Help. Find a doctor or medical professional to assess your child and determine a safe recovery plan. Some substances are dangerous to quit cold turkey, and your child may have painful withdrawals. Even if your child is struggling with a legal substance like alcohol, getting help and a treatment plan from a professional will be more beneficial in the long run than forced abstinence without context and structure.
  • Abstinence. Part of getting clean is abstinence. Giving your child a structured routine and keeping substances out of the house takes away temptations. If this is impossible or your child lives in an unsafe household, inpatient rehabilitation facilities may be the best option.
  • Continued care and treatment. Recovery takes work, a treatment plan, and continued care post-treatment so your teen can develop healthy habits.

Keep in mind; addiction is a chronic disorder. Your child may struggle in their recovery to some degree throughout their lives. It isn’t unheard of for a child to make a full recovery and drink in moderation later or take prescriptions without concerns, but this is often not the case. Your child may need therapy and resources to turn to when recovery gets hard, and that’s okay. For continued treatment education, visit the CDC’s recovery options.

Treat Co-Occurring Mental Health Issues

Most children don’t dive right into substance use. It may have become introduced to them through the environment they grew up in or through experimentation with peers. Many children experiment with substances to mask mental anguish or pain. Misguided as it is, this effort to self-medicate is usually a cry for help. Children who feel they need to use alcohol or drugs may be asking for support or nurturing through risky and adverse behavior.

Many people who struggle with addiction report mental health concerns. While mental health concerns can certainly contribute to their addiction, substance abuse can beget new or worsened mental illnesses as well. To fully understand your teen’s needs, treating their mental health concerns is vital for a sound recovery.

Some disorders and symptoms to look for include:

  • Symptoms of reactive attachment disorder
  • Trouble relating to friends and family
  • Trouble making or maintaining friends
  • Symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Symptoms of bipolar disorder
  • Symptoms of borderline personality disorder
  • Symptoms of trauma or trauma-induced reactions
  • Symptoms of PTSD

Enroll your child in therapy or talk to your doctor if you observe your child displays symptoms of any of the above conditions.

Nurture Your Relationship With Your Child

Addiction places an incredible strain on families. Parents who worry over their child’s substance use disorder may feel distant or resent the emotional, physical, and financial strain addiction can cause. Though you love your child, they can feel the effects of your negative emotions, and it can affect them more than you may realize. Though they may have broken your trust, they want and need your love, nurturing, and support–even if their behavior was not the ideal way to get it.

Family therapy can help nurture your relationship with your child. A therapist will encourage you to examine your family dynamics and determine how you can help your child succeed and help you dissipate some of that resentment.  A therapist may dive into strategies that can help you feel at ease around your child, especially after traumatic instances relating to addiction. Your child may still have to live with the consequences of addiction, and though unfortunate, that’s natural. Things might never be “normal” again, but they can significantly improve if you educate yourself, continue therapy with your child, and do everything in your power to keep your child safe.

The trauma that can proceed and follow teen addiction is hard to live with, but it is far from untreatable. With proper treatment, preventative care, and recovery care, teens can overcome addiction. Teens need lots of support from their parents, medical professionals, and therapists to achieve sustainable recovery. Though their adolescence won’t be conventional with addiction struggles, there is hope for a better future as an adult. For parents struggling with addiction and trauma hardships with their teen, turn to us at Havenwood Academy. At Havenwood Academy, we cater to young women who truly need more help than most families can provide themselves. Our sprawling Utah facility and a myriad of activities help provide an outlet and structure for teen girls with severe trauma. Teens need routine, structure, safety, education, and therapeutic support to recover from addiction and trauma. Call us at (435) 586-2500 for more information about our services. 

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