The Secret Of Getting Into Your Addicted Teen’s Mind

How do you break through to an addicted teen? How can you open the lines of communication? Ideas here.

ARTICLE OVERVIEW: The secret to talking with your teen about addiction is to communicate openly and without judgment. More tips on how to do that here.



The Biggest Test

Discussing an addiction problem can be one the biggest tests in parenthood. You might feel utter panic. You might feel guilt or desperation. The important thing to do know is that your teen can benefit from your response.

So, if you’ve just found that your teenage child is struggling with addiction, try to remain calm. Panic won’t lead you anywhere. Quite the opposite. Fear can become your biggest enemy and drag you to conflicts that round in circle.

Interested in finding out how to reach into your teen’s drug addicted mind? Continue reading and find out the secret. All your questions and your personal experiences are welcomed at the end. We will make sure to answer to you ASAP.

Why Teens Use Drugs

Adolescence and puberty are a period which includes dramatic change in the human life cycle. Adolescence is the period between puberty and adulthood. A child’s sexual and physical characteristics mature, provoked by spikes in hormones. But it isn’t just the body that changes. Behavior and psychology change, too.

One important behavioral characteristic of the teenager years is that people struggle with identity. They fight to differentiate from parents, becoming stronger and more independent. The need to express individual identity before being truly able to make decisions makes teens a most vulnerable target audience for alcohol and drug abuse.

According to the Monitoring the Future 2018 Report, the most common drugs used by teenagers are: alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco. But many parents want to know, “Why?” Why do teens start experimenting, using, or binging on psychoactive substances during this time? There are various reasons why teens might become open to the idea of use drugs. While the answer varies by person, some commons reasons teens start using include:

  • Curiosity
  • The need for relaxation and fun
  • Social acceptance among friends
  • Escaping pressure at school or at home

Drugs And The Teenage Brain

As defined by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, drugs affect the brain by tapping into its communication system and interfering with the way neurons normally send, receive, and process information. Some of the more popular drugs have a chemical structure similar to natural neurotransmitters. When these drug enter the body and reach the brain, they activate neurons.

However, despite the fact that these drugs have chemicals that are very much alike the natural ones produced in the brain, they don’t activate neurons in the same way as a natural neurotransmitter do. The result is usually extreme euphoria, a false sense of well-being.

Still, drugs work differently based on whether they speed up or slow down the system. Most stimulants act by making neurons release abnormally large amounts of natural neurotransmitters or prevent the normal recycling of these brain chemicals. Most depressants affect the pleasure center of the brain, relaxing processes and slowing down the brain and body.

The bottom line is that using drugs leads to distribution of abnormal messages through communication channels.

Teenagers do not have a fully developed brain. In fact, brain changes in teenagers occur faster than in adults. During the teenage years, the brain is still in the process of development, especially the areas associated with decision making, maturity, and self-control. These brain areas are a process of ongoing development until the age of 25.

The lack of complete brain development can help us understand WHY teens act the way they do. A teen’s risky, impulsive, and sometimes irrational behaviors can be caused by their growing brains. However, when you mix this developing brain with drugs…you get increased risk for a problem. There is great possibility that drug use during teen years significantly increases the chance of developing a substance abuse problem later in life. This is one of the main reasons why parents must not let drug abuse go unnoticed and untreated.

Effects of Drug or Alcohol Use

When teens develop a pattern of repeated drug use they expose themselves to serious social and health risks. Most of these are, well, bad. Some of the effects of drug or alcohol use include:

  • Bad performance at school
  • Increased risk of infectious disease
  • Loss of interest in healthy activities and sport
  • Memory difficulties
  • Mental health problems
  • Problems with family and other relationships
  • Risk of overdose and death

These are all serious consequences.

So, What Next?

If you want to reach a teenager who you believe has a drug or alcohol problem…what do you need to do?

You need to show them trust, respect, and compassion for whatever difficulty they are facing.

It’s important to approach the issue with some distance. This is why it can be super helpful to speak with a family therapist or counselor before sitting down with your child. Are you ready to talk with your child calmly and get to the bottom of the problem? Are you skilled in finding a way to work through their addiction together and help them manage this challenging condition?

Most parents don’t have these skills in place.

But not to worry…other people do.

You just need the willingness to talk openly. You need to be able to open up and shed light on the family situation. And if you can become a co-participant in recovery, studies have shown that family involvement and support can have a positive effect on a child’s health and their ability to deal with their drug habit.

Communicate Openly And Without Judgment

The secret of getting into your addicted teen’s mind is to learn how to communicate OPENLY AND WITHOUT JUDGMENT. Be honest with your teenage child. Then, seek professional help. You can ask for help from:

  • A licensed clinical psychologist
  • A licensed clinical social worker
  • A family doctor
  • An addiction specialist
  • A psychiatrist
  • A rehab center

These professionals can help you find a way to get your message across. You’ll need to educate your addicted son or daughter about the consequences of their drug use. During the process, you’ll also need to show your child readiness and support to accompany them through recovery. The message is that you love them but that boundaries can help you both.

Besides an open and honest conversation with your addicted teenage son or daughter you will need to take further steps towards looking for professional help and you might find these online resources helpful:

To reach a licensed physician check out:

1. American Society of Addiction Medicine, ASAM’s physician finder tool which might provide you with contacts from certified physicians.
2. Physician Compare from MediCare is another tool that might help you locate a physician near you.
3. AMA’s Doctor Finder is an online physician locator which provides basic professional information on virtually every licensed physician in the United States, it includes more than 800K+ doctors.
4. The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry can be helpful when looking for a psychiatrist.

To talk about addiction intervention services and treatment options, call our hotline. This helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year service offered by American Addiction Centers..

10 Things You Shouldn’t Do

All parents love their children. But sometimes when we’re face with a problem like addiction, we can get lost. Sometimes, parents do things that can have the opposite effect of what’s intended: to help our kids! Listed below, you will find the 10 DON’TS when becoming involved with your teen’s addiction problem:

1. Don’t be afraid. Addiction is a treatable disease.
2. Don’t close your eyes in front of your teen’s addiction problem. Denial can only make things worse.
3. Don’t blame yourself. Addiction is caused by multiple genetic, individual, and environmental factors.
4. Don’t isolate yourself because of shame. Reach out for help and contact professionals.
5. Don’t suppress your emotions. Join a support group or talk to someone about what you are going through.
6. Don’t try to handle the problem alone. Addiction is a complex disease, if not properly treated it can progress and become life threatening.
7. Don’t assume anything. Make a plan for further steps and inform yourself what to do.
8. Don’t resent your addicted teenager. Nobody wants to become or stay an addict. Instead, show understanding for your child’s fragile state.
9. Don’t argue or fight with your teen addict. Find a way to talk to them. Listen to what your child has to say.
10. Don’t forget to care about yourself as well.

You Questions

Did you find this information valuable? We hope so!

Let us know if you have any additional questions and/or valuable experiences regarding getting into your addicted teen’s mind. We will make sure to provide you with a personal and prompt response and in case we don’t know the answer we’ll refer you to someone who does.

Reference Sources: NIH: The Teen Brain: Still Under Construction
MedlinePlus: Adolescent development
Australian Department of Better Health: Drugs – teenagers
UMM: Puberty and adolescence
NIDA: Principles of Adolescent Substance Use Disorder Treatment: A Research-Based Guide
PsychCenter: The Teenage Brain on Drugs
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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