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Preventing Teen Substance Abuse

May 13, 2016

Preventing Teen Substance Abuse

“How do I prevent my child from abusing drugs or alcohol? How do I prevent my son or daughter from developing a serious mental health condition? Is it possible to prevent these things?” As a parent, you have probably asked yourself or others these questions. With increased awareness about how many teens are drinking alcohol, using drugs and struggling with a mental health condition, it can be scary and overwhelming trying to figure out how to protect your child. The good news is, if you are reading this, you’ve already taken the first step towards preventing your child from going down the wrong path.

Being aware of what adolescents are up to these days is vital when it comes to understanding how to steer your child in a different direction. Take time to understand the latest teen drug trends, the prevalence of mental illness in youth and the common risk factors that lead to these outcomes. Some of these risk factors include: 

  • An existing mental health condition (e.g. depression, anxiety, ADHD)
  • A traumatic emotional event (e.g. divorce, abuse)
  • A traumatic brain injury (e.g. car accident, fall)
  • A history of substance abuse in the family
  • Inherent low self-esteem and feelings of rejection

By being aware of these risk factors, you can take the necessary steps to support your son or daughter when these life happenings occur. In addition, raising your child in a home with open communication goes a long way once they reach their teenage years. If your son or daughter feels comfortable talking to you, especially about substance abuse or mental health, they are more likely to reach out to you for help instead of turning to drugs or alcohol to cope. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, children who learn about the dangers of alcohol and drug use through conversations with their parents are 50% less likely to use these substances.

Establishing healthy boundaries with your teen is another important factor when it comes to prevention. Not wavering on the rules and consequences you have set in place a vital piece to the puzzle. When someone does not suffer their natural consequences, they do not have the ability to recognize their self-destructive behavior. Avoiding enabling behaviors and sticking to your boundaries will allow your child to develop healthy boundaries in their other relationships as well. 

Staying active and involved in your child’s life may seem like an obvious solution; however, as children get older, they gain more freedom and you may become less likely to know where they are or who they’re with all of the time. It’s important to stay in tune with your teenager’s activities, schedule, places they hang out and who they are hanging out with. If your teen starts abusing addictive substances or has a sudden decline in mental health, being in tune with these areas of their life will allow you to see the red flags. Some of the common signs of substance abuse include: 

  • Behavioral changes (e.g. moodiness, new social circle)
  • Changes in appearance (e.g. poor hygiene, unusual markings on arms or legs)
  • School or work performance (e.g. excessive lateness, drop in grades)
  • Health issues (e.g. nose bleeds, dilated pupils)

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “Behaviors and symptoms that signal the development of a behavioral disorder often manifest two to four years before a disorder is present. In addition, people with a mental health issue are more likely to use alcohol or drugs than those not affected by a mental illness.” If you are aware of the signs, you will be able to intervene early and get your child back on the right path. 


May 15th-21st is National Prevention Week put on by SAMHSA. We will be sharing additional valuable information each day on social media about teen substance abuse, mental health and prevention tips. Be sure to follow us: 

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If you find that your child is struggling with substance abuse or a mental health condition, it’s time to reach out for professional help. It is no secret making the decision about whether or not to send your child to a treatment facility is extremely difficult. It’s important to keep in mind the problems causing you great concern that are beyond what is typical for a teenager, and without help, the situation could become much more severe. Don’t prevent your child from receiving the help they not only need, but deserve.

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If your teen is struggling with substance abuse, mental health or behavioral issues, contact the Teen Treatment Center today. Don’t delay taking the first step to restoring your child and family: (844)319-5239.

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