Teen Intervention Strategies for Concerned Parents

drug intervention for teens in ct

A recent study found that only 14 percent of parents believed their adolescents had tried marijuana. Their teenagers were then surveyed. In actuality, 42 percent of these teens admitted to smoking pot – three times more than their parents had presumed.

Unfortunately, parents are often left in the dark about their teenagers’ drug and alcohol use. And they are not always to blame. The signs of teen drug use can be very similar to, if not masked by, hormonal teenage behavior: secretiveness, withdrawal from family, disinterest in once-loved activities, changing social groups, and moodiness are just some of the many examples.

The issue is, by the time many parents recognize their son or daughter’s drug use, the problem usually has exacerbated. With regular and prolonged drug use comes a great risk for addiction, especially in teens. Their brains are still developing. They are at a critical window for learning new things and developing skillsets. Substance abuse, however, interrupts that process; it forces teens’ brains to “learn” the feel-good effects of drugs, to “learn” what it’s like to function on drugs, and further pulls them into the disease of addiction. This can also cause lasting cognitive deficits, by affecting the brain’s progress.

If your teenager is battling a drug addiction, know that you are not alone. Throughout the nation, there are approximately 10 million young people (ages 12 to 29) in need of substance abuse treatment. As a parent, the best thing you can do right now is to intervene. Research shows that about 90% of adults battling addiction started using drugs in their teenage years. Early intervention now is critical to helping your child have a drug-free future.

The Importance of Early Intervention for Teens

The National Institute on Drug Abuse has stated that, when substance use disorders are identified and treated in adolescence – especially if they are mild or moderate – they often give way to abstinence from drugs completely, with no further problems. In their core principles of adolescent addiction treatment, the NIDA also affirms:

Adolescent substance use needs to be identified and addressed as soon as possible. Drugs can have long-lasting effects on the developing brain and may interfere with family, positive peer relationships, and school performance. Most adults who develop a substance use disorder report having started drug use in adolescence or young adulthood, so it is important to identify and intervene in drug use early.”

The NIDA also emphasizes the fact that teenagers can benefit from drug intervention, even if they are not yet addicted. Substance use disorders can range from problematic drug use to full-blown addictions, and can be treated at any stage and any age. Even “experimentation” is a cause for concern in the adolescent years, due to the high probability it will lead to more dangerous substance use down the road.

Tips & Strategies for Teen Drug Intervention

  1. Educate yourself before the intervention. Before going into the conversation, make sure you have armed yourself with some facts about teenage drug use. This will prepare you to answer your teen’s questions, as well as any counter arguments. Understand the dangers of using drugs at a young age, and what your options are for teen rehab. Perhaps most importantly, educate yourself about the disease of addiction. Drugs, biologically, change the chemical make-up of a user’s brain. Your teen did not choose to get addicted – more than likely, he or she did not know or think that addiction could happen at all. Teens, due to their stage of brain development, often do not think about the long-term consequences before making decisions. If you need help understanding the implications of addiction in teenagers, do not hesitate to contact your pediatrician or a reputable teen addiction counselor. Turnbridge is just a call away.
  2. Approach the conversation with a level-head. Make sure your teen is calm and sober, too. If you or your child is feeling angry, it is the wrong time to have an intervention. Same goes if anyone involved is intoxicated. (During the morning, perhaps on a weekend, is usually a good time to hold a teen intervention – when there are no time constraints.) You want to approach the intervention with a level head, and you want your child to be willing to hear you out. Don’t play the blame game. Don’t exaggerate, yell, cry, or guilt your teen. Doing so can prevent your teen from listening. It can also lead to overheated and overly emotional conversations, which typically are not as productive.
  3. Be open and honest with your teen. While it’s great to equip yourself with facts, also be prepared to talk about your feelings. This is what interventions are all about – how you feel about your teen’s drug use. Open up and let your child know that you are concerned for their health and safety. Intervention is not meant to be a punishment, but rather, protection against the dangers that could lie ahead. By opening up about your feelings, your teenager will also feel more comfortable doing the same.
  4. Avoid direct accusations. Rather, use open-ended questions. Teen interventions should also not be lectures. Be prepared to listen to your teenager and get the full story. Come with a list of open-ended questions such as, “What do you like about taking drugs?” and “What do you think caused you to start using?” Teenagers use drugs for many reasons, such as peer pressure, the desire to fit in, or even mental struggles like depression. Listen to your teen’s answers, no matter how painful, and do not judge.
  5. Make a plan with your spouse and do a dry run, first. Before approaching the intervention, make sure you and your spouse are aligned on the subject – what the dangers are, what the consequences should be, the severity of the problem, as well as what limits you will set. You do not want to argue in front of your teen, especially during such a delicate conversation. Once you have established a plan for the intervention, role-play the intervention with your partner where one of you is the teen. This can help you prepare to counter any arguments your teen makes, as well as develop better strategies for approaching the conversation.

For more tips and strategies for teen drug intervention, read our article, “5 Ways to Prepare for an Intervention with Your Teen.”

Seeking Help for Teen Drug Use

Most often, teenagers do not recognize when they have a drug problem. Other times, teens just do not have the incentive to change their behaviors. They may be scared to seek help. They may fear what others will think. They may not want to admit that they were susceptible, while maybe their friends were not. They may simply want to make their own decisions and are therefore resistant to help. These are common hesitancies we see in young people at Turnbridge. It makes sense, then, why only 10 percent of teens (ages 12 to 17) get professional help.

The fact of the matter is, your child cannot do this without you. As a growing teenager, your son or daughter still has a lot to learn about life and about rational decision making. He or she has great opportunity ahead. This is where you come in. This is where teen intervention comes in. This is where parents can truly make a difference.

Call Turnbridge at 877-581-1793 to learn about our drug treatment services for teenagers and young adults.