Does your intuition tell you that your teen is using drugs? Would you like to confront your teen but are unsure in how to do so? Have you identified your teen as a drug user but don’t know what type of help is available for your teen? To help answer some of these questions I have interviewed psychotherapist Robert Myers.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“I am a Masters level psychotherapist in private practice. I have been in private practice since 1999 and also have a history of having been a free lance musician, composer, and performing artist, a middle manager for social service agencies, and a life long surfer (we’re talking ocean here). Additionally I have as one of my specialties being a substance abuse counselor. I have worked in inpatient and outpatient settings and have assisted many individuals and families in negotiating the difficult terrain of familiarity with the all too familiar and debilitating pandemic of substance abuse and dependence.”
What are some signs that a teen is using drugs?
The first thing to look for is if your teen is missing from home, school, and life with good friends and loved ones. It goes without saying that the role of any teenager is to “burn down their parents house”, but when they have gone completely absent, substance abuse is always a possibility. Also, take note of the friends they keep. If as a parent, you are not allowed to meet members of the crowd they are running with, then you should suspect the worse. And please, do not get caught in the trap of thinking, “not my kid”. Substance abuse is so prevalent in teens today, that anyone’s child could be engaged in experimentation or worse, up and to including dealing to support a habit.”
What can a parent do if they have the feeling their teen is using drugs?
“Ask questions. Be involved. Confront them directly. Let them know you care. If they talk to you, you will be able to get a sense of the level of openness and vulnerability they have when sharing with you. If they refuse to share with you, then this should be a red flag.”
What type of help is available for a teen that is using drugs?
“There is a veritable industry'”inpatient and outpatient addiction services, group support'”both professional and non-aligned (such as AA, NA, Alanon), and independent professionals with expertise in addictions (counselors, therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists)'”that has emerged to address substance abuse and/or dependence. The under belly of our free wheeling and substance using culture is that there are many who cannot use substances without getting into grave difficulty financially, legally, and/or emotionally. Many persons can handle their drink or drug, while many cannot.”
What can a parent do to help prevent their teen from using drugs in the first place?
“Be a role model. Whatever is in the environment of your child will be readily available to them. If you do drink, do so with full regard for the laws and conventions. Do not let your children see or experience you impaired. If substance abuse or dependence is your challenge, then get clean and sober. Let your children know that this is something that can happen. The worst message is to be enslaved by substance abuse or dependence and allow your children to believe that there is nothing that can be done about it. Never act out when impaired. This is frightening to young persons and absolutely reprehensible behavior.”
What last advice would you like to leave for a parent who is dealing with a teen who is using drugs?
“Never stop loving them no matter how severe their difficulties become. There is nothing that will stop the love that flows between you and your children. That being said set real boundaries between yourself and the behaviors of a substance abusing or dependent teen. Do not suffer abuse from a teen, which is impaired by substances. There is no specific line for parents, but whatever the line is in your family, it should be a firm one. And do not hesitate to consult professionals early'”for your teen or for yourself. Avoidance and delay are not your friends when you suspect that your teen is engaged in the use of substances. Move quickly and make your message clear. Your child will be grateful that you did. And in the worst event, that they become estranged from you let them know that they can always return. They will come back if your love and your messages are strong and clear.”