Worried About Substance Abuse?
It’s common for teens to try alcohol and other drugs. They usually start off thinking it’s something fun to do with friends. They may like how it makes them feel or think that it helps them ‘fit in’ with their peers. The problem is that it’s very easy for young people to lose control of their use and even to become dependent on drugs and alcohol. If this has happened to someone you know, you may notice that they’re using drugs regularly, that they’ve become either very quiet or aggressive, or that their marks have dropped.
If you think that a young person – your child, your family member or your friend – is drinking or using drugs on a regular basis, you need to talk to them about it. Don’t just ‘wait and see,’ hoping the situation gets better. A young person using drugs or alcohol is at high risk of becoming addicted, falling behind in school, losing friends, getting in trouble with the law or maybe using drugs to hide other severe mental health issues.
Before you talk to your friend, family member or child, prepare yourself. Explore a number of websites to learn more about substance abuse and how to best talk to teens about the consequences of misusing substances. Also find out what services are available to help them in your community.
Choose your time and place carefully. Pick a time when the young person is not likely to be drunk or high, and find a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted. Let them know you need to talk to them about something important. Tell them what you’ve noticed about how they’re acting differently and why this is making you worried. Share your concerns about the effects drugs or alcohol are having on their health, friendships, education, and future. Let them know how their drug or alcohol use is affecting you, too. Be prepared for the fact that they may not like what you have to say. They may deny their use is out of control, get angry, or break down and admit they’re worried too. No matter what, stay calm and don’t judge or blame them – but don’t let them off the hook, either.
You may want to suggest that the young person make an honest list, just for themselves, of what they think is good about their use and what they think is bad. Provide them with links to helpful websites and let them know that you’ll be there for them to talk to once they’ve thought more about the impact their use is having on their life.
Follow up after your first talk to ask them what they think and offer your help. You might want to make that difficult first phone call to a professional to set up a meeting. Reassure the young person that this professional will not judge or lecture them, but instead will listen and support them. Encourage them to think positively about how working with a professional will help them cut back or quit and move forward to achieve their goals in life.
To Read more about the addictions treatment options available at Choices, please read our Parent Brochure.