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Seeing your teenage or young adult child struggling with addiction is a heartbreaking, demoralizing experience. All parents want to protect their children and give them the best start in their adult life. But there’s often no easy answer to drug addiction. Just as every person is unique, every pattern of addiction is influenced by different social, psychological, and even physical factors. There’s no easy answer for any parent who has to cope with this situation, but there are several steps to take to help get teens and young adults back on the road to wellness.

Ask For Help From A Professional

While many people associate drug abuse with “bad” or “underprivileged” kids, nothing could be further from the truth. A study by Arizona State University found that, compared to their peers in regular schools, teens in elite schools serving affluent communities were roughly two to three times more likely to have substance abuse problems as young adults. A parent’s first ally in their fight against teen drug addiction is their child’s doctor or pediatrician. They have the tools to screen for signs of drug abuse, and can write referrals to addiction treatment centers. If your child’s doctor cannot, they can refer you to one who will.

It’s important to ask for professional help for a couple of reasons. It can be very dangerous to attempt to quit using a drug “cold turkey.” Some withdrawal symptoms may even be deadly. Another reason is that drug abuse is often comorbid with other conditions, like anxiety, depression, or chronic pain. People suffering from addiction are twice as likely to also suffer from mood disorders when compared to the general population. Make sure that any substance abuse screening involves a thorough mental health evaluation. No matter how the addiction itself is treated, the underlying conditions must also receive treatment to ensure a successful outcome.

Consider A Range Of Treatment Options

Not every person coping with addiction responds to the same treatment. Therefore, it’s important to look at everything available to you and your child. Rehabilitation programs are not standardized—there are many treatment options available to suit a variety of patients, situations, and addictions. For example, wilderness therapy offers patients access to licensed treatment professionals, opportunities to build life skills, and an atmosphere without substance abuse triggers, provided in an outdoor environment. Even among programs of the same type, treatment approaches may vary. Consult with your child’s doctor or psychologist to choose the best fit for your child’s particular situation and behavioral patterns.

Follow Up With After Care

One reason some drug addiction treatment programs fail is fairly simple: they end. After a person coping with addiction is forced to return to their regular daily life, it can be hard for them to resist the temptation to fall back into old patterns. Familiar places, situations, and even people can all serve as substance abuse triggers that cause a relapse. Rehabilitation programs that continue to provide support after the program itself is over are more likely to yield successful results. Since addiction is a lifelong illness, relapse doesn’t mean treatment has failed — but it does mean that more help is needed.

Developing an addiction does not mean that someone is weak. Like other major illnesses, it has biological and behavioral aspects that need treatment in order to keep the condition under control. By recognizing the signs of addiction, getting professional help, and not giving up, it is possible for your teen to overcome substance abuse and develop the coping skills they need for a healthy, sober life.


Carol Evenson is an entrepreneur and professional consultant specializing in C-level training and business growth. She currently works with organizations across the globe assisting CEOs with their expansion strategies. Carol also works as a real estate agent when she has the time.

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