Facing the Challenges of Having a Drug Addicted Teenager


Drug addiction among teenagers is perhaps at the highest rate statistically today than it has been since the 1960’s and the hippy revolution. What’s worse is that teenagers today are using much more powerful and infinitely more addictive drugs in recent years. If you have a teenager who has been exhibiting odd behavior recently and think that he/she may be using drugs then you will want to pay close attention to the following information. You may only be dealing with a small window of opportunity when it comes to doing something important in your teenager’s life that will make a difference. How you handle this situation could very well determine the fate of your child and the choices he/she makes. There are many traditional methods of family intervention and some of them work better than others. The problem seems to be in using force to try and get an addicted teenager to quit using drugs. In many cases this can backfire and cause the opposite to occur.

You Cannot Force a Person to Get Help

While you are probably scratching your head and thinking, “Is this person crazy? This is my kid! I can force him/her to do anything I want to!” please take a moment to consider a couple of important facts. Most likely you have heard the old expression “You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink”. The same is true when you are dealing with a drug addict. Can you force your teenager to go unwillingly to a drug rehabilitation center? Of course you can! However, can you force your teen to desire a change in his/her life? Not so much. This certainly does not mean that you should ever allow your teenager to stay in a situation that may be dangerous or life-threatening. As a parent you do have a responsibility to make sure and remove your child from any situation that is not safe. However, what you need to understand is that this may be a temporary solution. Just because you have momentarily intervened and taken your child out of harms way does not mean the battle is over. Your teenager will have to want to quit using drugs before this will occur. You must face the fact that you could be in for a very long ordeal.

Offer Love and Support

When you have a teenager, whose actions are causing turmoil and disappointment; your first reaction may be to become angry. This is totally understandable; after all it is no fun dealing with anyone who is on drugs, let alone your own child. It is very important to try and take a step back and realize that any wrong action from you could be detrimental to your teenager’s situation. Screaming and yelling and locking your teenager in his/her room will not fix anything. In fact, this kind of behavior from you may even push your teenager further away. In the face of something as potentially dangerous as this, it is important to understand that your teenager needs as much love and support as you and your family can give. This does not mean that you should enable him/her to continue using drugs, it simply means that you may want to handle this delicate situation with kid gloves, so to speak. Make sure that you state your case and that your teenager knows that no matter what he or she is doing, your love is unconditional.

Open the Lines of Communication

Once you have made your position clear and your teenager knows that you are there for him/her no matter what, you can begin to open the lines of communication in the hopes that you can help your child understand your concerns. By not coming across as a drill sergeant but rather as someone who is understanding and compassionate, you may have more success in reaching your teen. This is very hard to do for most parents. Our emotions tend to get the best of us and we are fearful it is very hard to remain calm. Just keep in mind that what is happening to your child is very serious and there is no room for error on your part. If you are able to establish trust with your teenager, you must do your best to show him/her that you are coming from a place of love and concern. The first step in helping your teenager to overcome his/her addiction is in helping him/her realize that there is a problem. Without proper communication skills this will be quite tricky. In a way, you must abandon everything you have previously believed to be true of what good parenting is. Remember that desperate times call for desperate measures.

Suggest Going to Therapy With Your Teenager

Another good strategy is to suggest that you and your teenager see a therapist together. While the ultimate goal will be receiving help for your teenager’s drug problem, it may help if it does not seem like you are singling him/her out. Drug addicts have a tendency to become quite defensive if they feel as if they are being attacked. It may be a better idea to approach this from the stand point that a little bit of therapy may help improve your relationship, rather than targeting the drug problem itself. This is how you gently lead your teenager willingly to a therapist without making him/her believe that he/she is being forced to address the problem of drug addiction. Once you have begun therapy any and all issues can be discussed and addressed. The tricky part is getting your teenager through the door in the first place. However, by helping to own the problem with your teenager, you may find this will be less of a challenge. Try to keep in mind that drug addiction is usually a symptom of a much deeper underlying issue. Many times treating that issue will help to begin the healing process.

In conclusion, try not to beat yourself up or focus on what you may have done wrong as a parent. It does not matter what type of family a teenager comes from or from what social standing, drug addiction does not discriminate and does not always follow rhyme or reason. Sometimes there’s just no explanation and no one to blame. The important thing is not who, why or what, but what will be done to solve the problem.

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Christopher Jacoby

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Christopher Jacoby