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Teens Who Abuse Drugs/Alcohol
schools of fish, teens who abuse drugs and alcohol tend to hang in the same
crowd. They garner a kind of moral support or legitimacy from like-minded and
behaving peers for their drug and alcohol consumption. Further, when drug and
alcohol consumption reaches the abuse stage, they are seen to have conflict with
persons in authority, be they their parents, teachers or police. Academic
performance is compromised and the teen is at risk of school failure. Vocational
and recreational participation may be non-existent. Energy and activity is drawn
towards the maintenance of the peer group and escaping detection by adult
figures of responsibility. The teen is often a good talker, appearing mature
beyond their years whilst really not demonstrating responsible behaviour. There
is a discrepancy between what they say and how they perform by objective
may be oblivious. The teen may have hid their academic decline. Not until their
world starts to cave in on them by way of falling grades, school suspension or
conflict with the law, are many parents finally alerted to the seriousness of
their childís problems. Even in view of detection, the child will seek to
avoid the gravity of the situation and deflect responsibility. Due to the
upsetting nature of the discovery, parents are at risk of seeking to think the
best of their teen and hence may be easily inducted into the childís web of
deceit, being manipulated to believe matters are either not as serious as first
thought or alternately, the outcome of other influences upon their child, rather
than the direct and knowledgeable action of their child by choice. Further, the
child in order to minimize or escape the situation and/or consequences will
outright deny, lie and blame others. Parents are cautioned, the more strenuous
the defense, the more likely the offence.
will require tenacity on the part of the parent to withstand the pushback from
their drug/alcohol abusing teen. Nary a teen when confronted stands up and
admits their drug abuse. The teen more often stands strong in initial denial.
When held accountable and when the parent is not inducted into dismissing the
problem, the teen next embarks on a campaign of minimization. As the parent next
tries to hold the teen accountable, the teen then goes on to bargain and
manipulate their parents so as to avoid the full weight of responsibility and
necessity of change.
must include random drug testing. While the teen will take offence and claim
they can be trusted, the simple fact of drug abuse is that the teenís judgment
is poor and the teen cannot be relied upon for honesty. Random drug testing is
the only objective measure of abstinence.
addition to random drug testing, the teen will have to be encouraged to swim in
other ponds. To this end, it is useless telling a teen not to hang out with
prior or current friends. Rather, parents must require their teen to obtain a
part-time job, maintain grades appropriate to academic ability and to be
involved in recreational and/or volunteer activity.
objective is to help the teen become engaged in healthy, pro-social and skill
developing activities that are incompatible with drug and alcohol use. The
strategy is to swap the time that was available for drugs and alcohol with these
other activities. Collectively, these are regarded as structural interventions.
terms of counselling, this is aimed first at parents who will likely require
support to implement the structural interventions. Next to that, some degree of
family therapy will be required to help parents and teen restructure their
relationship. Whereas initially parents were likely unaware of their childís
drug abuse, upon detention and intervention, the pendulum may swing in the
opposite direction. Thus parents who may reasonably need to be intrusive to
start, may then require support to recalibrate rules, roles and expectations
when the teen adjusts and responds to treatment. Counselling for the teen on an
individual basis may also be helpful to sort out relationship issues,
self-esteem issues and to address academic and vocational direction.
The measures of success include: no trace amounts of drugs or alcohol on random testing; improved and sustained grades; a regular paycheck; and recreational and/or volunteer involvement.
Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
Call Gary for your next conference and for expert opinion on family matters. Services include counselling, mediation, assessment, assessment critiques and workshops.
For information on Direnfeld's book, Raising Kids Without Raising Cane, click here.
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