Where can we turn for help with the challenge of confronting our adolescent son’s problem with substance abuse? It might even be fair to say his abuse has escalated into a full-blown addiction. We’re devastated and don’t know what to do. Any suggestions?
Perhaps it will encourage you to know that you’re not alone. Even in families that are closely knit and hold strong values there are no guarantees that substance abuse won’t affect one or more of the children. Decades of research by Search Institute shows that the more of the 40 Developmental Assets that are present in a child’s life, the less likely they are to engage in high-risk behaviors. However, even when children possess the majority of these imperative Assets, some may still form bad habits that can lead to addiction.
In dealing with this difficult situation it’s important to keep the following principles in mind. First, don’t deny or ignore the problem – if you do, it’s likely to get worse. Second, don’t allow yourself to become burdened by false guilt – most parents assume a great deal of self-blame when an addiction surfaces in their home. Third, don’t look for or expect quick-fix solutions. Remember that there will be no complete healing until your child or adolescent learns to accept and take responsibility for his or her own actions. This could be a long process requiring a great deal of faith and patience on your part.
The good news is that effective help is available. We suggest that you seek professional counseling for your teenager, and we strongly recommend that you do this together as a family. The most successful treatment programs take a family systems approach that involves intensive evaluation and a series of counseling sessions offered in an environment of community and accountability.
If the situation continues to intensify and escalate, you may need to present your teen with a number of options. These might include entering an inpatient drug-treatment center, a halfway house, a boot-camp program or youth home, or staying with a relative or another family who is willing to accept him for a defined period of time. More extreme possibilities may need to be discussed as well, such as making your child a ward of the court or even turning him over to the police if he has been involved in criminal activity. If you continue to shield him from the consequences of his behavior or bail him out when his drug abuse gets him into trouble, he will not be motivated to change, and you will be left with deep-seated anger and frustration.
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