Drug Abuse During Development: Tips for Teen Interventions

National use of illicit drugs is at a record low amongst teens. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the risk of harm to teens from illicit drug use has been declining.

Only 13.3% of 12th graders reported using illicit drugs other than marijuana in 2017. That’s compared to 9.4% of 10th graders and 5.8% of 8th graders.

Nonetheless, teen drug addiction is still a prevalent problem. The opioid crisis and other drug crises have impacted teens, families, adults, and communities across the country. There were over 72,000 drug overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2017 alone.

Drug abuse can affect a child’s development and damage their future opportunities. It takes an emotional toll on the child and the family as a whole. Most importantly, the abuse of illicit drugs can negatively affect a child’s health and potentially be a risk to their life.

If you know or believe your teen is addicted to drugs, there’s no reason to stay silent. Drug interventions are a tool for starting the necessary conversation about your teen’s drug use. An intervention could lead your child to treatment and recovery.

Continue reading to learn how to spot the telltale signs of addiction and how to do an intervention.

Recognize the Signs of Addiction

It can be difficult to spot the signs of addiction in your child. You always want to give them the benefit of the doubt. They may be actively hiding their addiction for fear of getting in trouble.

It’s important to know that the symptoms of addiction and the symptoms of some mental illnesses sometimes look the same. It could be that sitting down to talk with your child is all that’s necessary to get them the help they need, whether they need mental health services or one of the many treatment and therapy options for drug addiction.

That said, it’s common for addicted teens to resist treatment.

There is a difference between the symptoms of drug addiction and the signs of drug addiction. Symptoms relate to how addiction directly affects your teen. The signs are outward identifiers that may signal drug addiction to family and friends.

Symptoms of Drug Addiction

Teenagers don’t often have the knowledge and life experience to recognize when drug addiction has taken ahold of them. They are under a great deal of social and academic pressure. They may feel the need to perform day after day, concealing any negative feelings.

Some of this is regular teen moodiness. But drug addiction often has a dramatic impact on a teen’s life. If your teen is addicted to drugs or alcohol, they may experience any of these symptoms:

  • Experiencing urges to use the drug
  • Feeling that they must use the drug regularly
  • Needing more of the drug to get the same effect as the first time
  • Taking more of the drug than intended
  • Maintaining a steady and hidden supply of the drug
  • Spending large amounts of money on the drug
  • Engaging in risky or unethical behavior to get the drug
  • Spending a great deal of time thinking about, obtaining, using, and recovering from the drug
  • Methodically planning out how they will use the drug
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when they attempt to stop using the drug

Some people who struggle from addiction experience severe withdrawal symptoms when they stop using a drug.

If your teen is experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms, such as difficulty breathing or violent shaking, you should take them to the emergency room immediately. They may require addiction detox treatment.

It is important to understand that some withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening.

Signs of Drug Addiction

It can be difficult to tell the difference between normal teenage behavior and the signs of drug use. Teenagers face an enormous amount of pressure and are getting used to their changing bodies.

But your teen could be addicted to drugs if there are major changes in their behavior and attitude. Here are some possible indicators:

  • Extreme Changes in Behavior – Your teen may be more secretive than usual or begin to disobey your rules. Your teen may be staying out after hours, lying about where they are going with friends, and barring you from entering their room. They may have a negative or dismissive attitude toward family functions and events.
  • Problems at School and Work – Your teen’s grades may suddenly plummet. Your teen may be missing school and work frequently or getting into trouble.
  • Loss of Interest in Activities – If your teen used to be active in sports or the arts, they may suddenly abandon those activities. They may lose interest in their regular hobbies, such as reading or making music.
  • Health Problems – Your teen may experience rapid weight loss or rapid weight gain. They may have other health issues, like a lack of energy, red eyes, or blisters.
  • Problems with Money – Your teen may stop spending money on the things they used to like. They may run out of money more quickly and be more stressed because of their lack of money.
  • Disheveled Appearance – Your teen may stop bathing, grooming, or putting on clean clothes.

The Most Commonly Abused Drugs Among Teens

Alcohol and tobacco are the most commonly abused drugs among adolescents. Marijuana is the second most common. Other commonly abused drugs include:

  • Synthetic Cannabinoids (K2/spice)
  • Prescription Medications
  • Steroids
  • Hallucinogens (LSD, mescaline, and psilocybin mushrooms)
  • Inhalants (spray paints, glues, etc.)
  • MDMA (ecstasy or “molly”)
  • Heroin
  • Methamphetamine (“crystal meth”)
  • Synthetic Cathinones (“bath salts”)

While abuse levels of these drugs remain relatively low, they can dramatically impact your child’s health and well-being if they are in fact using them. If you believe your teen is addicted to any of these drugs and they aren’t willing to get help, you may need to have an intervention.

8 Tips On Staging Teen Interventions

Interventions are usually necessary when a family needs to be more proactive about their teen’s drug use. They are sometimes employed after other strategies of providing help have failed. But in some cases, they are the first step.

A teen intervention is a process in which family, friends, and professional counselors can show a teen who is struggling with addiction that their addiction is having a negative impact on their own life and the lives of those who love them.

The goal of an intervention is to help the teen enter a rehabilitation program, usually at an inpatient facility.

The purpose is not to punish or chastise the teen. Instead, the intervention team explains the widespread implications of their addiction. An intervention is a display of love and support, but also a signal that the people in the teen’s life will no longer support or enable the teen in their addiction.

Typically, everyone present during the intervention will speak in turn. These are often rehearsed speeches aimed at motivating the addict to get help. Once everyone has had a turn to speak, they will ask the teen if they are willing to receive help immediately.

If you plan to stage an intervention for your child, here are some tips that can help:

1. Work With a Professional

When conducted with someone who is a trained and experienced interventionist, over 90% of people struggling with addiction end up committing to getting help.

A professional intervention specialist can set the tone of your intervention. They can also guide you through this difficult process. They can help you prepare for a drug intervention and provide much-needed expertise to answer difficult questions.

It is possible to do an intervention on your own, but it may not be as successful. This is especially true if you’ve tried to convince your teen to get help in the past and they have refused.

It will be much easier for your teen to reject help if they know they are only turning down a request from friends and family. A professional will know how to respond to your teen if they are combative or uncooperative.

2. Assemble a Team

You can’t do an intervention alone. Teen interventions are usually conducted by a team of individuals who have a relationship with the teen. These may include:

  • Family members
  • Friends
  • Classmates
  • Coaches or mentors
  • Work colleagues
  • Their girlfriend/boyfriend
  • Religious community members

Anyone who has a loving relationship with the teen can participate in an intervention. The idea is to show the teen that their addiction doesn’t just affect them, but all the people they love, as well.

3. Practice Your Intervention

This is a crucial moment in your teen’s life. It is important that everyone on your team is familiar with the plan. You may wish to rehearse your order of speakers and let your team members flesh out exactly what they will say.

Your intervention specialist can help you facilitate practice sessions. They’ll give you and your team notes and help you make refinements.

4. Pick the Right Location

While it’s possible to stage an intervention in the home, it can be problematic. If your teen is in familiar territory, they may resort to walking away or hiding in their bedroom. This is doubly true if you’ve already had unsuccessful talks at home.

Instead, pick a location that could be considered neutral territory. If your intervention specialist has an office, this might be the best location. It will be private and comfortable, but also formal and semi-public.

Your teen will instinctively want to behave better in a more formal environment. They’ll also recognize that you and your family are serious about getting them help.

5. Pick the Right Time

It can be difficult to convince a teen to go into treatment when they are under the influence of drugs. Choose a time to stage your intervention when your teen is not intoxicated.

At the very least, choose a time when they are as close to being sober as possible. The morning might be the best time, as they may not have used yet.

Another good time might be after a major incident involving drugs or alcohol. For example, if your teen was arrested for driving while intoxicated, they may be ready to accept that they have a problem.

Other incidents might include a bad fight with you or another family member, your teen missing an important event because of drugs or alcohol, or other consequences, such as suspension or expulsion from school.

6. Avoid Negative Confrontation

Most medical professionals understand that addiction stems from chemical changes in the brain. Anyone can become addicted, no matter their age, background, or social standing.

Your intervention needs to be kind and compassionate. After all, you are only trying to look out for child’s best interest.

Try not to scold or chastise your teen because of their addiction. Even if they have been neglectful or dishonest, try to recognize that these actions are merely symptoms of addiction.

If your teen tries to start a fight during your intervention, stay calm. It is not uncommon for people suffering from drug addiction to turn to anger when they believe they risk losing access to the drug.

7. Create a Backup Plan

It is difficult to predict how those suffering from addiction will react to an intervention. They may say insulting things, cry and yell, or simply stand up and walk out of the room.

It’s important to have a backup plan for all of these scenarios. Your intervention specialist can help you develop backup plans for the most common reactions. They’ll also help you understand which plans are appropriate and which are not.

As a very last resort, some states allow involuntary commitments for drug addiction. This may be your only recourse if you believe your teen’s life is at risk. Research the laws in your state before making this decision.

8. Keep Trying

Don’t give up if your teen doesn’t decide to get treatment right away. It may require several conversations to convince them. Your intervention could last only an hour, or it could last an entire day.

What Happens Next?

If your teen accepts that they need treatment, they should be taken immediately to a recovery center. This prevents them from changing their mind later and seeking out drugs instead. You and your intervention specialist will have already worked out the details.

The journey to recovery is one that thousands have made. If your teen does accept treatment, remember that recovery is a lifelong process. They will need your support when they are released.

It is not uncommon for those addicted to drugs to relapse after receiving treatment. Both you and your teen will need to be diligent to foster a culture of recovery in your home.

Interventions are an important tool for helping teens struggling with addiction. It can be difficult to step in, but it’s one of the most important decisions you and your family can make.

If you’re ready to speak to an addiction intervention specialist, contact Addiction Treatment Services online or call us right now at (833) 369-6443.