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When Your Teen Is an Addict

According to Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), half of all high school students have tried drugs by the time they graduate from high school. Most teens try drugs and alcohol to fit in and have a good time with friends. They look at drugs as a casual way to relieve stress. However, recreational use can quickly become an addiction, and choosing to do drugs becomes a physical and psychological need.

Living with an addict can tear a family apart. The sweet little boy or girl you used to know may have seemingly disappeared, replaced by someone you don't even recognize. He may start stealing from you, or disappear for days at a time, leaving you wondering and worried sick. And sadly, it doesn't just affect your addicted child--it affects everyone in his life. Although it might feel like you're the only one who is dealing with an addicted teen, you're not alone.

The first step in coping with an addicted teen is knowing what signs to look for. Teen Drug Abuse, an organization that provides information and treatment resources for addictions of any kind, lists the following warning signs, such as:

  • Declining interest in activities your teen once enjoyed.
  • Changes in grades and school performance.
  • Unpredictable mood swings or depression that seems more than just average teenage hormones.
  • Loss of friendships, or a sudden new group of friends that your teen seems secretive about.
  • If your teen is exhibiting these symptoms, it's time to get him help. The first step is getting your teen to realize he has a problem. Although you can't help him until he wants to help himself, you can talk to him about your concerns. Be prepared for excuses and denials about his behavior. This process can be incredibly frustrating. Helpguide.org, a non-profit resource, offers some additional advice:

  • Don't let your teen hit rock bottom. The earlier addiction treatment begins, the better, so talk to him as soon as you start noticing the signs.
  • Make sure you have a support system, such as family and friends, you can talk to and rely on. It is important not to neglect your own emotional needs.
  • Do not make excuses for your teen, or try to cover up his problem. As much as you want him to be safe, trying to protect him from the negative consequences of his addiction will only hinder his road to recovery.
  • Remember, you can provide support and encouragement, but you can't force an addict to change. Do not blame yourself.

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