Adolescent drug abuse: are parents to blame?

As a new mother and a former addict, I am very conscious of the genetics of addiction. However, I think that adolescent drug abuse (and drinking) is can signal major mental health issues in a family. How can parents deal with issues of drug use, drug abuse and mental health needs of teens? Share your opinion about adolescent drug abuse here.

minute read

Adolescent drug use step 1: experimentation

My husband often says that the mark of a wise person is the ability to learn from other people’s mistakes.

I am not wise. I need to experience things for myself to test them out, make errors, and learn from my mistakes.  I imagine other people are like me, as well. And I imagine that there are hundreds of thousands of teenagers who will agree with me that that experience speaks volumes.

Experimentation is an exercise in self-development that helps us determine who we are (or want to be).  I respect and believe in Erik Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development.  It is the fifth stage that adolescents grapple with as they transition into adulthood and ultimately answer the question, “Who am I and where am I going?”  And in this stage, curious teens who are becoming adults will want to try out drugs.  It seems only natural.  But should we as parents condone it?

Adolescent drug use step 2: mental health needs

If experimentation is part of the process of growing up, teen drug addiction is the learned reliance on chemicals to block out pain.  Adolescent drug use is anchored in the need to escape from reality.  Teens can face very real and present dangers which draw them inside.  As they withdraw, drugs can soothe the principle fear or anger that they have few tools to manage.  Good parents will step in right at this moment, recognizing their inability to help … and ask for help from the outside (third party role models, family or adolescent counselors, rehabs,  etc.).

It is the parents who do not recognize a problem (or are hiding or denying their own problems) that are to blame for adolescent drug ABUSE.  When experimentation becomes habitual, or when mental health needs drive the consumption of drugs, parents MUST STEP IN.  If a parent is tuned into their child, s/he will now step in to provide assistance…or barring this, ask for outside help.   But should those parents who fail to support a teenager and are not ready to look at their own character defects, admit the need for help, or (worse) deny that anything is wrong in the first place  … should these parents be help culpable for a drug abusing teenager’s behavior?

What do you think?

Teen drug use WILL start with experimentation.  Although abstinence may work for some people’s characters, it is not an option for the curious and free-thinking.  The trick as a parent is to identify the intention behind your child’s use of drugs, and to take appropriate action.   And when things start to go wonky, and problems surface, to get help immediately.  But these situations only bring up more questions:

  • Is there a difference between teens taking softer drugs (nicotine, alcohol, marijuana, ecstasy) and harder drugs (opiates, cocaine, nitric oxide)?
  • Should parents actively allow drug consumption?
  • Should parents take a “no tolerance” point of view when it comes to drugs?
  • Is teen drug addiction really just a symptom of underlying family problems?
  • Should the law react when a parent has left teen drug addiction untreated, either by denial or ignorance?

Enough from me.  What do you think?

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.
I am ready to call
i Who Answers?