Seminars held weekly
Lately your teen has been acting more distant than usual. You never know what mood he’ll be in, and he doesn’t want to talk about his classes or activities. He’s been sleeping more than usual, and seems forgetful and distracted. Is this just normal adolescent behavior or a sign of something more serious?
That’s the question that confuses many parents of adolescents with substance abuse problems. While finding drug paraphernalia among your child’s things is an obvious sign of substance abuse, many other warning signs mirror typical adolescent behavior, such as:
- Mood swings or depression
- Dishonesty and secretiveness
- Deflecting questions about activities or money
- Anger, irritability or defensiveness
- Short-term memory loss
- Money missing in the home
- Suspicious phone calls or seemingly nonsensical text messages
- Unexplained weight loss, red eyes, poor hygiene
- Missing school or not coming home after school
- Trouble in school or with the police
Often, warning signs go undetected for a long time; research has shown that, on average, a drug problem exists for seven years before a family recognizes it and seeks help. If parents are too quick to write off these behaviors as “normal” without considering the possibility of a deeper problem, they may not realize their child has an addiction until it causes serious health, financial, or legal consequences.
Moreover, sometimes parents know that their son or daughter experiments with alcohol or drugs and misjudge or even deny the severity of the situation. Many parents experimented themselves when they were teens, and believe it is basically a harmless rite of passage. However, marijuana today is ten to twenty times stronger than it was years ago, and alcohol and drug abuse is rampant on high school and college campuses.
Also, research has found more evidence of a hereditary factor in addiction; if there is a history of drug or alcohol addiction in the family, the likelihood is four times greater than average that recreational alcohol or drug use will become a full-blown addiction in adulthood.
Scripps Treatment Program can help
Helping parents understand adolescent alcohol or substance abuse is the goal of the informational adolescent intervention seminars offered by the located on the campus of Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla. These free weekly seminars are open to all parents and others interested in learning more about the widespread problem of adolescent addiction.
Whether a child has a problem or not, all parents can benefit from learning about addiction and understanding what their children are exposed to on a daily basis — because no matter what school your children attend or how “good” your neighborhood is, drugs and alcohol are readily available.
Along with alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and crystal meth, the list of the most popular drugs among adolescents reads like a pharmacy inventory: Oxycontin, Vicodin, Xanax, and Valium, along with over-the-counter cold medicine and household products used as inhalants, which can be deadly the first time they’re used. Kids get drugs at school or on the street, steal alcohol or prescription medications from their parents, take a quick trip across the border, and pay friends or strangers to buy alcohol.
About the substance abuse seminars
In addition to helping parents identify a substance abuse problem, intervention seminars —held every Saturday at 10:30 a.m. — help determine whether a child needs treatment and what kind. For example, Scripps Treatment Program conducts an Intensive Outpatient Program for some teens, while others may need residential treatment.
Many people mistakenly believe that the only way to get a child into treatment is to have a transport company show up in the middle of the night and drag the child out of bed into a treatment program in the middle of nowhere. The intervention program at combines family intervention and professional intervention, recommending transport only if necessary. We offer the adolescent the opportunity to get help or consider the consequences if they don’t. And, we guide parents through the often murky waters of getting the child into a treatment program.
Too often, families let denial, shame or embarrassment hold them back from getting the help they need. The fact is, even parents who do everything “right” when raising their kids cannot always prevent their child from being exposed to drugs or alcohol at school, friends’ homes, parties and so on. Families need to know they did not create this problem, they cannot control it and they cannot cure it. What they can do is facilitate the opportunity for their child to learn the tools to living a substance-free life.
The bottom line: If your gut tells you something is not right with your child’s behavior, trust it. Get the information and assistance you need to take action.
Article by Nancy Knott, Nancy Knott, MA, CADCII, LAADC. The Scripps Treatment Program at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla offers free informational seminars on adolescent interventions every week. For more information, please call 1-800-382-4357.
Media Contact: Lisa Ohmstede