"Outside help" is not rehab.
Don't be put off by the term "get help." Outside help includes school counselors, your family doctor, and even your child's sports team coach. All of them can be great resources and sources of support for you and your teen during this time. There are many actions and approaches you can take that have nothing to do with rehab.
You don't have to do this alone.
Telling others about teenager's drug use can be scary. You may feel guilty or ashamed, fear you're going to embarrass your child or believe that you can "deal with it" on your own. But you can't handle this problem by yourself and you shouldn't have to. It's important to get outside help.
Here are important tips to keep in mind when you seek outside help.
Your child's drug use can be an act of teenage rebellion, a sign of fullfledged addiction, or anything in between. What you need help with first is identifying the actual problem. Professionals can use these methods help you pinpoint the issue you're dealing with. These methods will also help you decide the best course of action for your child:
- Drug and Alcohol Assessment
This is a phone interview or facetoface meeting between the user and a doctor or counselor. It is usually conducted at or by a treatment facility. [Instruct to use Treatment Finder on this page]
- Evaluation or Screening
This is an extensive assessment in which a user stays at a treatment center for a few days to be observed by experts. He or she also takes part in a series of tests during this time.
- Drug Test
While home drug tests can be unreliable, having a doctor perform a drug test can be a helpful tool; Although be aware that teens find all sorts of ways to beat these tests and even professional tests can be inaccurate.
See what the experts have to say about identifying the actual problem and the course of action to take.
Whether your child is addicted to drugs, uses them infrequently, or was just "experimenting" one time with friends, a problem exists. It is far more dangerous for an adolescent to use drugs or alcohol than an adult — because his brain and body are still growing, drinking or using can take a permanent, irreversible toll on a kid. And because their brains are not fully – developed, teens do not always make the best decisions; when you add alcohol or drugs to the mix, the consequences can be deadly. That's why you need to step in now and make sure that your child speaks and listens to all the various people who can help him quit using.
Kids — especially teenagers — often think of their parents as "overbearing" or "nagging." If your child hears the same information you're trying to give him from someone of authority, he may be more inclined to listen.
Experts share their thoughts on who can help.
Many kids who use drugs have other problems in their lives. Some are stressed about school. Some feel very alone or have been deeply affected by family issues, such as divorce. And more than half of adolescent drug abusers also suffer from a (usually undiagnosed) psychological disorder, like depression or bi–polar disorder. A school counselor, drug counselor, or therapist can help your child pinpoint and discuss the underlying issues behind his/her drug or alcohol use.
Your kid's coach is much more than just someone who runs practices and calls plays. He/she is the person who will be first to notice changes in your child's athletic abilities, appearance, motivation, and behavior if your kid continues using drugs. You can enlist a coach's help in monitoring your child, or you can ask the coach to speak to your child about how his drug use negatively affects his body, his performance, and his team as a whole.
Member of the Clergy
Because many drug users rely on clergy for assistance during recovery, many clergy members are now being professionally trained to help those battling addiction. If your family has been at the same place of worship for a long time, your child may feel comfortable opening up about his problems to someone he knows very well and who he is sure won't judge him.
Many adolescent substance abusers say they drank or used drugs during hard times because they had no one else to go to. Your child may be in serious need of someone to talk to in order to alleviate her stress in a healthier way. A teacher, family friend, aunt or uncle, or other adult that your teen trusts may be able to lend the listening ear and shoulder to cry on that your child is seeking.
Pediatrician /Family Doctor
Ask your child's doctor to give him a talk about alcohol and drugs and their lasting effects on the body (be sure to mention this when you schedule the appointment so the doctor is prepared.). Remember: for confidentiality reasons, a doctor can't tell you what your child disclosed, but he/she can persuade your kid to quit using casually or to get help if the problem is more serious.
If your child's alcohol and/or drug use has started causing serious and recurring problems, it's time to start looking into intensive treatment programs. Both in– and outpatient programs provide the stability, education, discipline, and counseling adolescents need to get better. Locate a treatment facility near you [using the treatment finder on this page].
Getting Help for You and Your Spouse/Partner
In order to help your child tackle her drug problem, you (and your partner) must be healthy and in a clear state of mind. However, many parents lose the ability to think and act rationally when they have a child in danger. Some parents become so obsessed with their child and her problem that they neglect the other important aspects of their own lives: their jobs, physical health, and other kids. It is therefore as vital that you seek help for your own emotional well-being as it is for your drug-using child.
- Support Groups such as Al-Anon
- Treatment Centers offer support to families
Drug addiction affects more people than just the addict. Even if your non–drug–using children seem okay, chances are they're harboring some resentment towards their sibling and you for his destructive behavior or all the attention he's receiving, or may live in fear of the drug user's unknown future. These negative feelings are detrimental to both the user and the other family members. By getting help to make sure that your other children are emotionally stable and fully comprehend their brother or sister's situation, you're aiding in everyone's recovery and healing process. It also helps the non–using sibling to have his feelings of resentment and anger validated. They have a right to be angry, frustrated and hurt about the situation.
- School counselor
- Caring Adults (teachers, coaches, friends' parents, aunts, uncles)
- Support Groups (Al–Anon or Ala–Teen)
Experts provide sound tips on getting help for the rest of the family.
I'm too embarrassed to tell others about my child's drug use because of the stigma
It is unfortunate and understandable that you may feel a little embarrassed by telling others of your child's drug use, but the reality is that you must put your child's health first.
Substance use and abuse does not have the same negative stigma it once did. If you treat your child's drug or alcohol problem like a health issue and not a behavioral one, most others will follow suit. There will always be people who believe drug users are "bad people," but it's not up to you to worry about their views. It is up to you to keep your child healthy and out of harm's way.
Remember: As a parent, you are your child's biggest advocate! If you are too embarrassed to talk about his drug problem and get him help, no one else is going to do it. You are the person who can make a world of difference in this situation.