When it comes to dealing with teenagers and young adults who are struggling with drug and alcohol abuse, there may not be a more fitting adage. Raising children isn’t easy. One minute they’re holding your hand learning to walk, and the next minute they’re asking for keys to the car. The frustrating beauty of being a parent is that there is no single way of doing things. As a parent, when we find ourselves in those situations in which our kids find themselves involved in drugs and alcohol, it’s common to wish for an “easy” button; we long for a simple solution to a complex problem.
Once you have accepted the problem, and are ready to take action to address the issues – no matter how vast – there are many people in this world who can help. Among the many are support groups, other parents, medical and psychiatric professionals, social workers, generous volunteers, therapists, and the caring staff at detox centers and treatment centers.
While overall alcohol use among teens and young adults has been trending down, alcohol, due to its availability and prevalence in society, remains the most widely used drug among teens. Additionally, over 1,700 kids try drugs for the first time each day. That’s over 620,000 kids a year. We can take a look at the statistics to get a clearer picture of the changing trends in using habits:
Anyone can become addicted to drugs and alcohol, but everyone can also recover. The statistics for teen drug use give truth to the problem, but they don’t predict the future, and they don’t define the solution. You’re never alone, and it’s never too late to take action in addressing drug and alcohol use with your teenager; in fact, it has been shown that parental involvement is one of the major predictors for success in recovery. Being proactive in securing safe and effective drug detox is a huge step.
Withdrawal from drugs can be painful, uncomfortable, dangerous, and potentially deadly. Fatal withdrawal may be rare, but it would be irresponsible not to mention it. Despite the dangers and complications, drug detox can be managed safely with the right support.
It’s important to recognize the signs of withdrawal so that you can act quickly in securing help when needed. Here are some signs that a teenager or young adult is going through withdrawal:
Lack of Energy: Teenagers and young adults are typically brimming with youthful energy and enthusiasm. If you notice a lack of energy or a tempered enthusiasm in someone, it could be a sign they are going through withdrawal. Depression, fatigue, and lethargy are fairly common symptoms of withdrawal.
Insomnia or Changing Sleep Habits: Insomnia is a very frequent symptom of withdrawal. Insomnia may present itself in different ways, and somewhat ironically, can lead to daytime sleepiness. Younger people do require more sleep than adults, but if you notice drastic or sudden changes in sleep habits or patterns, this could be a sign of drug and alcohol withdrawal.
Missing School and Activities: Isolation and withdrawal from society are frequent signs of drug use and withdrawal, but the signs could worsen in withdrawal which can be painful, both mentally and physically. Some younger people use drugs and alcohol to help them socialize and have fun and can become dependent upon them to live their daily lives. If they no longer have access to drugs, they may pull away from people and things they normally enjoy.
Sudden, Drastic Mood Changes: Withdrawal from drugs and alcohol can cause severe mental instability. Many describe being in a “fog” for sometime after they stop using substances. Mood changes to watch for would new or excessive anxiety, depression, mood swings (high highs, and low lows), anger, aggression, and irritability are frequently associated with drug withdrawal. Teenagers specifically are known for their erratic behavior, but its major mood changes or unexpected behavior that will be significant clues that withdrawal could be a factor.
Inexplicable Physical Illness: Withdrawal can be deadly if untreated. It’s important to take these symptoms seriously. Young people are known for their ability to bounce back, but withdrawal can be so painful, it can lead to more drug use. Withdrawal from drugs and alcohol can look a lot like the flu; nausea, sweating, chills, vomiting, and diarrhea are all common symptoms. Opiates like heroin and oxycodone can cause the worst physical symptoms. If you notice a pattern of illness or illness combined with isolation and withdrawal from friends and family it could be a sign of drug withdrawal.
Suspicious or “Sneaky” Behavior: Suspicious or sneaky behavior can be a sign of drug use and withdrawal, however, these behaviors will likely worsen during withdrawal when someone is more desperately needing drugs or alcohol. Behavior that could fall under this category would be sneaking out at night, lying about where someone is going/where they’ve been, sudden changes in friends, or unexpected and unexplained interest in attaining money.
Obsessive Behavior: A sudden obsession in something – like video games, certain foods, the internet, money, body image – can be a sign that drug withdrawal is occurring. These sudden obsessions could be a sign that someone is trying to “fill the void” left behind as the drugs leave the system. Remember drugs and alcohol can have a dramatic and powerful effect on a young brain, and during withdrawal, they may try anything to get their mind away from the obsession to use drugs again.
The issues listed above are reason enough to seek help, but understanding the layers of physical symptoms can help you gauge the severity of the problem. Withdrawal from different drugs poses different risks and knowing more about the specific risks can help figure out the best way to proceed.
Some specific signs of withdrawal from different drugs include:
Finding the right care for your teenager may require some careful thought and consideration. There isn’t one single way to approach this critical step in recovery, but there are some key elements that can help you make the most informed and effective decision.
Teen-Specific Programs: Some detox treatment centers will offer programs specifically for teens and young adults. These programs may focus on community involvement, social skills, and personal or team accountability.
Educational Resources: Look for facilities that have the capability to offer accredited education services that can allow your teenager to receive school credit while participating in treatment. Some detox facilities will have affiliation with alternative high schools or homeschooling programs.
Credentials: Look for treatment and detox centers that have earned accreditation from organizations that oversee and advocate for high standards in the industry. Quality treatment centers will proudly display their accreditation/affiliation credentials on their website home page. Having accreditation doesn’t guarantee outcomes, but it can provide an indicator of the quality of care they provide. Common quality indicators would include:
Reviews: Google and Yelp reviews can make a major difference in selecting a treatment facility. By considering the honest feedback of previous patients, you can get a clearer picture of what to expect. Look for treatment centers with both a high number of reviews and high ratings as this would indicate high performance over time.
Staff: Quality facilities will be staffed with specialized and licensed professionals in their field. Check the facility website for information on their staff. Do they have staff members that specialize in children/teens or young adults?
Programs: Detox only? Residential treatment? Intensive Outpatient? Aftercare? Some facilities may offer a wide range of programs, others may not. More isn’t always better, but understanding what options they provide can help you ensure your teenager gets the level of care they deserve.
Educational Courses: Every facility will have something unique to offer. Facilities may engage their patients with outdoor or recreational activities, music, team building, and more. Selecting a facility that closely matches the personality and interests of your teenager may make a significant impact on their recovery.
Therapy: Many teens will use drugs and alcohol to deal with past trauma or to self-medicate for mental illness. Quality facilities should offer a wide range of therapy options to help get to the root of the drug use. These forms of therapy would include individual and family therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and holistic therapy. If medications are needed to treat underlying mental illness, the medical staff at a detox center can create and implement a medication therapy plan to address those issues.
Aftercare: Following detox and treatment, aftercare programs help bridge the gap between initial treatment and a life in recovery. Facilities that offer aftercare programs may be ideal for those who would benefit from more extensive and prolonged care.
—School During and After Detox
During acute detox, school will be on hold. However, once the initial detox period has been completed there are a number of options. Studies have shown that enrolling teens in recovery high schools can be extremely beneficial in helping them stay sober. The Association of Recovery Schools has a list of certified recovery high schools from all across the country.
—Support Through Community Organizations
Detox centers will often introduce different forms of therapy and support. There are many organizations which have been organized to support teens who struggle with addiction and can serve as a lifeline for those who feel isolated by their struggles, or who find it hard to connect with others following detox. Here are some youth organizations supporting young people with mental illness.
Community forums and web boards are a great resource for offering ongoing support for teens during or after detox. SMART recovery, for example, has a teen and young adult forum that is moderated for safety and to encourage a healthy dialogue.
—Volunteer and Support Recovery In Your Community
Following detox, your teen may find new hope and spirit in supporting other teenagers or young adults who are affected by addiction. Giving back in this way can help your teen feel a part of something, give them purpose, and remind them of the benefits of living in recovery. Partners for Hope provides a platform for fundraising benefiting the Center on Addiction and Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.
—Be a Part of the Solution
You can show your teenager you mean business by investing in them and your relationship. You can even begin taking these steps during detox, or immediately following detox. You can do this a number of ways including 12 Step Programs like Al-Anon or Alcoholics Anonymous that provide fellowship and support in the community for those who struggle with addiction or have someone in the family who struggles with addiction. Participation is free, and meetings can be found almost anywhere.
—Seek Personal or Family Therapy
By participating in therapy alone or as a family, you are sending a strong message to your teenager that you are committed to all aspects of their recovery. When a parent takes accountability to improve their behavior and relationships, children are more likely to emulate that behavior and accept accountability for themselves. You can search for adolescent-specific therapists or psychiatrists to find treatment that will work for your family. Also, a growing number of websites are offering online therapy options which may be appealing for a tech-savvy teen.
If you are seeking drug and alcohol related addiction rehab for yourself or a loved one, the sponsored hotline is a confidential and convenient solution.
Calls to any sponsored hotline (non-facility) will be answered by:
If you wish to contact a specific medical detox center then find a specific detox center using our detox locator tool.
Alternatives to finding addiction treatment or learning about substance abuse:
To learn more about how Detox Local operates, please contact us.