Teen drug use: Treating adolescent substance abuse

As a parent there is no way to guarantee that your child won’t ever take drugs or try illicit substances. However, there are ways that you can help delay use and reduce potential harms. The teenage years can be a time of experimentation and this may include risk taking behaviour such as using drugs.

There are many reasons that teenagers may take drugs, these can include:

  • Socialising with friends, or peer pressure to feel part of a group
  • For fun or relaxation
  • To feel better, escaping mental or physical pain/circumstances
  • To feel in control
  • To stay awake
  • Boredom

Which drugs are teens using?

According to the 2019 National Drug Strategy Household Survey, the drugs that teenagers are most commonly using are alcohol, cannabis, and tobacco.

The 2017 Australian Secondary Students’ Alcohol and Drug survey found that cannabis was the most commonly used illicit substance with 16% of secondary school students (aged 12 – 17) confirming having ever used cannabis.

The survey also found that 34% of students reported never having consumed alcohol. 33% of students who reported drinking alcohol, also reported risky drinking which is defined as consuming five or more drinks on one occasion. 63% of current teenage drinkers also reported at least one negative outcome after drinking in the past year. Some of the most common negative outcomes included vomiting, trying a cigarette, trying drugs, or having an argument.

How parents can help.

Being a teenager can be tricky, and so too can parenting one. When drugs are thrown into the mix it can cause some unwanted issues so, for parents, understanding the risks involved with drug use is important.

Here are some common risks to familiarise yourself with and share with your teen:

  • Not everyone reacts the same. The effects from drugs can greatly vary person to person.
  • There is no way of knowing what is in an illegal substance.
  • Drug use can trigger mental illness or exacerbate an existing condition
  • Intoxication may impact behaviours and increase risky actions, such as unprotected sex or driving under the influence.

Creating a safe space with your teen to talk about their lives, friends, and substances can be really positive. By engaging in active conversations where your teen is heard and able to ask questions, without being lectured, will help them to feel safe.

Treatment options for teen drug use.

While a teenager experimenting and trying drugs once or twice may not necessitate external interventions, if their substance use becomes a problem help is available if needed.

There are a range of treatment options available for teen substance disorder. A multi-dimensional family approach has proven one of the most effective and is based on the premise that all family members are affected by teen drug use. This approach focuses on allowing the whole family to heal.

Our Family and Adolescent Change Therapy program is the first of its kind and works with both you (the family) and your teen. Our program aims to increase understanding, encourage change, and help strengthen relationships.

If you suspect that your teen may have a substance use disorder and aren’t sure what to do, please call us or send us a message. We are here and ready to help you. Recovery is possible and your family relationships can be restored.