When your teen’s life is on the line, you’re likely willing to do anything for him or her. Although it’s not as blatant as your child being in imminent danger, an addiction puts your child’s life at serious risk. It might have been clear to see how over time his or her life has gone from good to bad to worse.
When your teen’s thoughts and decision-making abilities are impaired because of drug or severe alcohol use, it’s a time for a parent or caregiver to step in to facilitate healing. In fact, a teen’s ability to make logical decisions and reason are already by nature of being an adolescent. The grey matter of the brain, which contains most of the brain’s neurons and is known as the thinking part of the brain, is still growing in teens. However, for adults, the brain’s grey matter development is complete. Alongside this is the still developing frontal cortex, which completes its growth during ages 23-26. The frontal cortex performs reasoning, planning, judgment, and impulse control, necessities for being an adult. This might explain a teen’s tendency to make poor decisions and an inability to discern whether a situation is safe. Teens tend to experiment with risky behavior and don’t fully recognize the consequences of their choices.
This includes drug use, which can easily develop into an addiction under the right circumstances. Use of drugs and alcohol can hinder the brain’s natural growth. The harm being caused to the brain can lead to irreparable damage if the addiction continues. Of course, an addiction can become an incredibly destructive force in a teen’s life affecting their social, relational, academic, and occupational abilities.
However, that destructive cycle can be stopped. An intervention is an orchestrated attempt by one or many people – usually family and friends – to get someone to seek professional help with an addiction or some other traumatic event or crisis. When a family intervenes, they do so to strongly encourage, if not force, their teen to get treatment for their addiction or damaging life situation.
In his book on Adolescent Depression: A Guide for Parents, Francis Mark Mondimore, Ph.D., clearly outlines the stages teens go through with respect to drug use. It begins with experimentation; moves on to regular use, and can escalate to developing an addiction. These stages are:
Curiosity – Before Experimentation
This stage is ideal for prevention. If your child is beginning to express their curiosity in alcohol, marijuana, or illegal substances, having a very candid discussion with them about the consequences might help prevent drug use.
At this stage, your teen has accepted alcohol and drugs from others. He or she has chosen to experiment for entertainment, putting an end to curiosity, and/or wanting to fit in with a peer group. At this stage, there are no noticeable behavioral changes.
Because the experience of drinking alcohol, ingesting cocaine, or taking narcotics was enjoyable or rewarding in some way, an adolescent might begin to seek out a steadier supply. He or she may begin to use more of the drug more often than planned, and may use substances as a means of escape.
Drug Pre-Occupation Stage
The ability to control use of the drug is severely impaired at this point, and there is very little regard for any consequences.
Drugs are necessary to feel normal. The use of the drug has increased to one or more times per day.
Teen intervention can take place during the last two stages above, or sooner. If a family intervenes before an addiction develops, it can serve as preventative, stopping an addiction before it starts. Yet, when an addiction has developed, the following are types of teen diagnoses that might require intervention:
- Drug Use
- Alcohol Use
- Prescription Drug Use
- Eating Disorders
- Compulsive Internet Use
- Compulsive Gambling
- Sexual Addiction
- Bipolar Disorder
- Panic Disorder
- Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
It goes without saying that it is important to maintain an open and honest conversation about drugs and alcohol with your teen. For that matter, it’s important to have an open channel of communication about most things – as much as possible – with your child. You can see that doing so can lead to prevention and avoiding the tumultuous journey of addiction.