Myers Counseling Group presents our third article “Addressing Your Teenagers Substance Abuse” in our four part substance abuse series. Our last article will be “Tools for Abstaining from Drug or Alcohol Problems.”

At Myers Counseling, we offer various services and resources for the community. In addition to our individual, couple, and family counseling, we continue to offer group therapy, individualized presentations, drug screening, and school consultations to the community. Myers Counseling Group also appreciates feedback from the community in addressing various needs.

“Being a child sucked. Being a teenager was worse. And being an adult seemed so far away that I had a better chance at swimming the length of the ocean than growing up.” 

Shannon A. Thompson2013: A Stellar Collection

Addressing Your Teenagers Substance Abuse.

Parents and children have different value systems. What may seem important to a parent will most likely be several levels down in importance to an adolescent. Adults bring different life experiences and perspectives into their relationship with kids. It should not come as a surprise then, that parents and some kids may differ on how they view drug use/abuse. Marijuana, synthetic marijuana, and nonmedical use of prescription drug use among teens, has increased over the last five years (National Institute of Drug Abuse). Parents are faced with the challenge of new synthetic drugs that are more powerful and deadly than ever before.

First, it is helpful to distinguish the difference between use and abuse. If you discover that your child is using substances that do not mean he/she is abusing them. However, you also need to keep in mind that in most cases when a parent discovers their teen using substances, that most likely would not be the first time their child has used. A parent’s job is to intervene and make sure that patterns are not established. The longer use goes on, the more difficult it would be to break the reinforcement and benefits they perceive from their use. Another factor to keep in mind is the longer use goes on with a youth, the less they are able to utilize their own problem solving and coping skills to address life’s challenges.

If you discover your child to be using drugs expect some denial or minimizing of their use or problems. It is important to remember that energy is best spent getting your child to stop use, not as much as to convince your child that their use is bad. Their life experiences and perceived consequences of use are different than yours, so convincing them at this point may be a hard sell. The focus should be on giving them a clear message use is not to be tolerated and the consequences that will be attached if they continue to use. If another parent is involved, make sure you are on the same page. When parents present inconsistent messages, the limits they try to set will be ineffective. Make sure rules are clear and direct and the consequences are clear as well.
This does not mean you should not have conversations about your child’s use. Dialogues regarding use and how a teen perceives benefits from use are important. This could help you gather information on what benefit they may be getting from their involvement with substances. It could help shape your future interventions and direct your child in a constructive way.  Moving forward, monitoring of your child’s activity should be continued. Once trust is reestablished, a discussion about parameters for an adolescent could be pursued.

Failure for your child to adhere to your requests to stop using, could indicate a bigger problem than you anticipated. At that point, talking to a professional, with or without your teen present is needed. The professional could further evaluate the use and develop strategies to discourage their involvement in use.