Children and teenagers experiment with drugs and alcohol for various reasons. In most cases, intense peer pressure is to blame, but there are other reasons too. Some children are used to alcohol and drugs being present in their family home and may not see it as anything other than normal. Their parents may also have a relaxed attitude to underage drinking, which could mean they are more likely to try it themselves.
Some are simply curious to see what all the fuss is about while others turn to drugs and alcohol because they are suffering from painful memories from a traumatic experience.
The Stages of Substance Abuse
Substance abuse begins with experimentation, and for most children, drug and alcohol use is limited to the weekends when they are out with their friends. The good news is that the majority of teenagers and children who experiment with alcohol and drugs will never go on to have a problem.
Unfortunately, some children develop a dependence on these substances. If they are using drugs and alcohol to make them feel good or to relieve stress, they are more likely to start drinking or taking drugs during the week as well as at weekends. They may begin to exhibit changing behaviours, and performance at school may suffer.
Once the teenager has become dependent on drugs or alcohol, he or she will lose control over his/her ability to stop or reduce their use. He or she may suffer withdrawal symptoms if trying to cut down on the amount of drugs or alcohol being used. These symptoms can include mood swings, irritability, depression and anxiety.
Taking Immediate Action
If you notice that your teenage son or daughter has been acting strangely, and you are worried about substance abuse, you need to take action as soon as possible. There are definite signs that you may have noticed such as increased isolation from the rest of the family, a complete change in behaviour, extreme guarding of possessions, and a dramatic change in school performance. If you have noticed these signs, then you should not hesitate to bring up the subject.
The sooner you tackle the issue, the sooner it can be addressed and treated. Do not worry about upsetting your child for no reason; if you are wrong, then you will be glad of it. However, if you are right, it is important that your child gets treatment immediately to prevent him or her having to live with addiction for longer. Your child will have a much better chance at a healthy future if you deal with the issue now.
Most people with addiction will practice denial at some stage, so do not be surprised to be met with anger and defensiveness from your child. He or she may not realise that they have moved into the realms of addiction yet. Your child may also be afraid of what admitting the problem might mean. It is up to you to stay calm but do not drop the issue if you still suspect addiction to be a problem.
If you are lucky, your child will be grateful and glad you have brought up the issue. He or she may have been dealing with the weight of addiction for a while now and might have been scared to mention it. If this is the case, now is the ideal time to get a professional assessment of your child’s problem. You can call us here at Middlegate for advice and support. We offer confidential, free advice and referrals and our expert counsellors and therapists are ready to take your call today.