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Does Your Teenager Need an Intervention?

Teenagers are often secretive by nature, but a teen who is trying to hide their drinking or drug use can be even more reluctant to open up to you. To make matters worse, many parents are in denial about their child’s activities, even when there are clear-cut behavioral changes taking place. 

You may be reluctant to bring up the topic of substance abuse with your child, assuming that it is only a passing phase. However, addiction can happen at any age, and it frequently occurs among teenagers and young adults who are less capable of making good decisions and are prone to poor impulse control. That’s why early intervention and help are critical if you believe your teenager may be misusing drugs or alcohol.

What Can Concerned Parents Do?

Listen to your instincts: Don’t push aside the nagging suspicion that your teenager may be in over their head. Start a conversation where you explain your concerns as a parent. Your teen may have started down a risky path, but you can still take steps to correct it and get them into treatment with a mental health or addiction counselor. If you don’t know where to start, ask your family doctor.

Keep a watchful eye open: Your child may initially deny any issues with substance abuse. However, the conversation shouldn’t end there. Monitor them closely for any changes in their activities, friend group, behavioral patterns or attitude. It’s reasonable to allow teens their privacy, but if you suspect substance abuse, you are well within your rights to search their room, clothing or car to look for alcohol or drug paraphernalia. Be prepared that sometimes, forcing the issue might require you to have physical proof of your child’s behavior.

Talk to your doctor: Even if you don’t have concrete evidence, speak to your family doctor if you’re still worried about your child’s use of drugs or alcohol. Your child may have an underlying physical or mental health problem that is causing them to act differently. A physician can help you get to the bottom of the problem and figure out what is wrong.

How to Have a Productive Conversation With Your Teenager

If you think your teen is headed on the road to substance use disorders, you need to speak up. Failing to bring up this issue and passively allowing it to continue is an enabling behavior, which will only cause things to get worse over time. Here are some tips for having a successful intervention conversation.

  • Before bringing up the topic, write down and rehearse what you will say. Doing so helps you stay calm and avoid making hurtful or accusatory statements in the heat of the moment.
  • Remain calm. This conversation can be an emotional time for your family, but shouting or bursting into tears will not help. If you’re worried you won’t be able to maintain control of the situation, consider hiring a professional substance abuse interventionist to guide the meeting in the right direction.
  • Wait until your teen is sober before having the conversation. Intoxicated people can be unpredictable, and often won’t respond or react in the ways you would expect.
  • Choose a time and place where you will not get interrupted. Make sure there are no distractions available, like cell phones or other electronic devices.
  • Unless you have witnessed your teen abusing drugs firsthand, avoid direct accusations of drug involvement. You could be wrong, after all. Some behaviors that may lead you to worry about substance abuse are also symptoms of mental health problems such as depression. 
  • Don’t try to make your teenager feel guilty. Substance abusers are usually intimately familiar with shame, and may already feel intense remorse about the difficulties they are causing in your family. Increasing their mental anguish probably will not motivate them to stop drinking or using drugs. If anything, it might make them turn to alcohol or drugs to mute the pain.

It’s Never Too Late to Save Your Family

If you are worried about a teenager who is misusing alcohol or drugs, don’t procrastinate on starting the conversation that could save their life. A trained interventionist can help you plan a productive conversation about drug and alcohol abuse, and convince a young adult you love to enter treatment. Contact Whitman Recovery Service today to learn more about how we can help your family realize hope and healing.



Whitman Recovery Service is a Telehealth provider for addiction and mental health guidance. Please call (210) 291-0278
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