Some useful Guidelines for Parents Dealing With Teenage Substance Abuse

Catching substance abuse early can help guide a teen back on track and potentially avoid years of physical, emotional, financial and legal repercussions.

  1. Don’t assume it’s just a phase. 

Most adults who face substance abuse disorders started using drugs or alcohol as teens. While some adults will excuse teen substance abuse as “experimentation” it is important to remember that nobody sets out to become an alcoholic or an addict. Often, addiction begins as social or “fun” and can escalate quickly based on mental and emotional health and other factors. Sure, teens will go through many phases as they mature. However, unlike other short-term stages in your teen’s development, using drugs can have permanent consequences.

Catching substance abuse early can help guide a teen back on track and potentially avoid years of physical, emotional, financial and legal repercussions.

  1. Empathy is vital—for your child and yourself. You’re not to blame, but your job is to find a solution. 

When you first discover your child is using drugs or alcohol, you will probably be angry. This is a perfectly natural reaction, but try not to lash out because this may push them deeper into self-destructive behavior. Remember, just because you have lost trust in them doesn’t mean they have lost trust in you. Keeping the lines of communication open with your kid during this difficult time is crucial. You are not responsible for your teen’s bad decisions, but your job as a parent is to help them learn to solve problems.

Often, you are only seeing the symptoms—things like changes in hairstyle, dress, broken curfews and trouble at school—not the deeper problems. Teens struggle with an array of complex issues that can manifest as substance abuse. Difficult emotions, peer pressures, family dynamics and underlying mental health issues can all reinforce self-destructive coping mechanisms. Finding professional help for the underlying causes of your teen’s drug abuse is the first step in the healing process.

  1. Be on the same page with your co-parent and follow through.

You probably already know that parenting is one of the hardest jobs in the world. This can be even more difficult if you are doing it alone or at odds with your child’s other parent. When it comes to dealing with a crisis, it is crucial to be in close communication with your co-parent and present a united front to your child. If you decide to send your child to rehab, both parents should make the decision together and follow through with the required steps.

Having a treatment professional mediate the process can be useful in situations where emotions are running high.

  1. Get support for yourself.

Dealing with a child who is struggling with substance abuse is stressful. It is important that you find support for yourself so you can manage the added pressure and cope effectively. There’s no shame is getting help, for you and for your child. Finding extra support during a troubled time can help you be at your best for your family.

  1. Be prepared to support your child in long-term lifestyle changes.

The goal of treatment is to facilitate a lasting change in your child. Be prepared for your home life to adjust accordingly. There may need to be more structured boundaries in the home, a new style of communication, a different schedule or transportation to meetings or counseling sessions provided. These things can all help your child develop a firm foundation in recovery. You may need to continue in family therapy or an outside support group beyond the initial treatment. Having professionals who are trained to deal with teen substance abuse can help you make informed decisions that are best for your family.

Even great parents have kids who struggle with substance abuse. Unfortunately, for some teens, anti-drug messages are not enough and rather than resisting the lure of drugs, they gravitate toward them. Ultimately, each teen makes the decision to use or not to use.


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