Home Page > Article > Preventing Drug and Alcohol Addiction in Troubled Teens: A Guide for Parents and Caretakers

Parents of teens often struggle because their children are yearning for independence, pushing boundaries, and failing to communicate. But, the job of being a parent or caretaker of a troubled teen is even more challenging because these kids are often violent, depressed, and/or reckless. Troubled teens often abuse alcohol and drugs, and the consequences of their actions can become costly for families. If you are the parent or caretaker of a troubled teen, you should know that there are steps you can take to help prevent him from becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol.

Talk to Your Teen About Drugs and Alcohol

Even if you feel as though your teen is not listening when you talk, you need to communicate with him about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Studies show that teenagers who are educated about drugs and alcohol at home are less likely to try them: 26% of teens who are educated at home tried a substance, while 33% of teens who were slightly educated at home do so, and 45% of teens who never discussed drugs and alcohol at home try them.

Be sure that you listen when discussing drugs and alcohol with your troubled teen. While he may admit to trying the substances and upset you, you need to remain nonjudgmental and listen when he is willing to speak to you about it. Ask only the most necessary questions and give your teen time to explain his opinions and his actions.

Avoid sharing your own experiences with drugs and alcohol with your troubled teen. You do not want to appear hypocritical. Rather, use facts and explain your concerns about his drug and alcohol use or desire to use. Explain the long-term consequences of substance abuse and refer to others’ experiences with addiction. It also may be helpful to point out the immediate consequences of substance abuse because troubled teens often live in the moment and feel invincible.

Be Aware of the Warning Signs of Alcohol and Drug Use

Keep in mind that just because your troubled teen is using drugs and alcohol, it does not mean that he is addicted. However, stopping the substance use is key to ensuring it does not turn into an addiction. There are warning signs parents and caretakers should be aware of in order to prevent addiction or to prevent a tragedy such as an overdose or suicide.

  • School work has declined and grades suddenly slip or drop dramatically
  • Skipping school or feeling too tired or sick to go
  • Drastic mood changes including irritability and crying for no apparent reason
  • Dropping out of activities, such as music, sports, or hobbies
  • Change in physical appearance such as poor hygiene and unusual style changes
  • Sudden change in friends
  • Money or valuables are missing from the home, parents’ wallets, etc.
  • Secretive behavior
  • Hostile, aggressive outbursts
  • Loss of motivation
  • Forgetfulness, depression, anxiety

While troubled teens may exhibit more of these signs than teenagers who are not at-risk, it is key that you are on the lookout for them and determine whether they can be attributed to alcohol and drug use.

Do Not Hesitate to Talk to Your Teen or Take Action

While it may be daunting to talk to your troubled teen about drugs and alcohol, waiting to do so is not advised. Doing nothing and ignoring the warning signs of drug and alcohol use will enable your teen to continue the behavior and increase the chances that he will become addicted or that his addiction will lead to dangerous consequences.

As soon as you suspect that your teen is abusing substances, speak to him to try to assess the situation and gain an understanding of what is happening. Next, enlist the help of a professional, such as a school counselor, social worker, or psychologist, to screen your teen for substance use. Formal intervention may be your next step, and local substance abuse professionals are available to help.

Steps to Prevent Addiction in Troubled Teens

While every family situation is different, parents and caretakers often just want a series of steps they can follow to do everything within their power to prevent addiction in their troubled teens. Unfortunately, there is no surefire method for preventing drug and alcohol addiction in teenagers, but talking to your teen about substances, knowing the warning signs, and taking immediate action is a good start.

Other steps parents and caretakers can take to prevent addiction in troubled teens include

  • Identify risk factors and address them as early as possible
  • Become educated about alcohol and drug abuse in your community and know which drugs are prevalent in your area
  • Monitor your teen’s behavior
  • Give them first-hand knowledge of the dangers of addiction by visiting a treatment facility, soup kitchen, or homeless shelter
  • Get professional help as soon as possible

Being a parent or caretaker of a troubled teen is hard enough, but the job can become impossible if the teen becomes addicted to drugs and alcohol. Early intervention is important, and parents and caretakers must talk to their teens about drugs and alcohol, be aware of the warning signs of substance abuse, take immediate action, and actively work toward preventing addiction.

This wonderful article was written by a guest writer: Jennifer McGregor

Susie Bean Gives Team