Many teens battle difficult situations on a regular basis. It’s estimated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that 7.1% of children, or about 4.4 million, have a diagnosis of anxiety. Teenagers may feel anxious about everything from trying to fit in to figuring out who they are and what they want to do with their lives.
Battling anxiety can be difficult on its own, but when teenagers turn to drugs or alcohol for help, further complications arise.
Why Do Teens Develop Drug Addiction?
Teens misuse drugs for many reasons. This can be difficult for parents to understand. Parents may see their teen as having everything they need and ample support from family and friends. But substance use and addiction can develop for reasons that are less tangible–issues like anxiety and stress. A high stress level may be brought on by:
- Pressure from friends or peers
- The need to perform well academically
- Pressure at home
- Dealing with social concerns and limitations
- Managing stress at work
If you factor in traumatic events in their past, difficulties within the family environment, world events, pandemics, and more, it can be easy to see why a teen may carry more stress than you imagine.
Unfortunately, many teens have no real understanding of how to properly manage stress. Instead, they shove it to the side and find a way to cope with it, often self-medicating with drugs or alcohol because these substances are so effective at reducing anxious feelings.
Your Teenager Wants Your Help
Some teenagers want to engage in drug and alcohol use to fit in or to enjoy the high that it creates. Yet many of those who start using substances struggle to stop. They want help, and they may even recognize they need it. However, they don’t know how to get that help without facing negative consequences.
As a parent or caregiver, what can you do to help?
First, listen without judgment.
That’s hard to do for any parent, but it’s critical if you want your teen to overcome their substance use. Opening up is a big part of the recovery process. For parents, that may mean hearing what your child has to say about their experiences and feelings. It may mean listening to harsh statements about their life and pressures. Yet if you listen, you’ll hear what they need to overcome this challenge.
Second, get professional counseling.
When addiction forms, it is very hard for a person to simply stop using. Their bodies and minds feel compelled to use because they have developed a dependence on the substance. In this case, professional detox may be necessary to get your teen started on the path to recovery. In less intense cases, outpatient counseling and addiction education alone may be enough. In counseling, your teen can work on:
- Learning to manage symptoms of anxiety
- Coping with stress in a more effective manner
- Learning how to communicate their needs more effectively
- Developing strategies for creating better decisions
- Creating new relationships that reduce the pressure they feel
As a parent, you may also benefit from family counseling with your teen. A therapist can help you understand how to communicate with each other and support each other while also establishing boundaries.
Third, learn to manage your own stress.
Teenagers learn from their parents. If they see that you’re constantly under stress and facing turmoil, especially if you have an anxiety disorder, that’s only encouraging them to continue this behavior. Find a way to get help for yourself as well. That may mean seeking counseling for anxiety or depression.
Conquering Teen Drug & Alcohol Use & Managing Anxiety
There’s no way to remove all of the stress or anxiety from a person’s life, including your child’s. Yet, there are tools you can use, including professional counseling and therapy, to create a better response to these situations. At DK Solutions, we can help you determine the best course of action for your teenager and your family.