Massachusetts is susceptible to drug and alcohol problems like the rest of the country. Families of teens who are living with a drug or alcohol abuse problem are struggling. This is even worse when in conjunction with emotional or behavioral disorders. It is painful to watch a child go through the difficulties. It is more difficult still to feel powerless to stop it.
The good news is there are a wide range of intervention choices when it comes to helping a teenager. First of all, we must help them understand the damage they are doing to themselves by continuing to use drugs at such a young age.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), reports that 5 percent of teens in Massachusetts who needed treatment did not get it. This number is higher than the national average and indicates a significant issue.
Why are families in Massachusetts avoiding enrolling their teens in need in the programs that will help them heal? Any number of reasons:
- Denial that the teen’s drug use requires treatment
- No knowledge of where to seek help
- Unsure of which treatment services will best meet their teen’s needs
- Perceived lack of funds to pay for care
If any of the above issues are stopping you from getting your teen into a treatment program, contact us at Newport Academy today. We can share more about how we can help your family begin the healing process.
Drug Use Among Teens in Massachusetts
The US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Adolescent Health says that teens in Massachusetts are using drugs of all kinds. This includes alcohol, and in large numbers as compared to state averages in the rest of the United States. They found that:
- About 15 percent of teens in Massachusetts had their first drink of alcohol before their 13th birthday.
- About 40 percent of teenagers in MA said they drank at least one alcoholic beverage in the past 30 days. And 22 percent reported that they drank more than five drinks in a session in the same time period.
- Approximately 7 percent of high school kids in Massachusetts said they drove a car after drinking alcohol. And 23 percent said they rode in the car with a driver who was under the influence.
- About 43 percent of teens in Massachusetts said they had tried marijuana. This is higher than the national average.
- Six percent of MA high schoolers said they had used a prescription painkiller (e.g., oxycodone, hydrocodone) in the past year.
This rate of chronic drug use imparts two important pieces of information to parents of teens who are among these statistics. One, you are not alone. Two, it’s a problem that is serious, growing, and cannot be ignored.
The most important thing a parent can do in this situation is to react. Don’t rationalize. Take action. Expose kids to positive influences, new coping skills, and a better understanding of the damage caused by drugs. They can be empowered to make better choices in the future.
According to the chief of police of Foxborough, teen drinking is a significant issue in Massachusetts. Part of the problem is a rationalization of alcohol use among teens. He reports that teens:
- See more liquor ads in their magazines than adults do
- See 45 percent more TV ads for beer and alcoholic beverages than adults do
- Believe that their alcohol use is “under control” because they feel they drink less than their peers
- Are under heavy pressure on a social level, academically, and at home, and they may believe they are entitled to a drink to decompress
But teens aren’t the only ones who rationalize alcohol use by teens. Adults, including parents, often view teen alcohol use as something of a rite of passage. Therefore it is not a cause for concern. Unfortunately, the research says the opposite.
Reports suggest that the earlier a child takes a drink recreationally, the more likely it is that alcohol abuse will be a lifetime issue. Therefore dependence can one day develop.
Marijuana use among teens has been proven to have a detrimental effect on the developing brain of the teenager, causing issues with:
- Overall cognitive function
- Decision-making abilities
- Reaction time
The Risks Associated With Teen Drug and Alcohol Abuse
There is no rationale for teen use of any drugs or alcohol for any purpose. Consider just a few of the possibilities:
- Acute or chronic health problems
- Exacerbation of mental health issues
- Accidents under the influence
- Harm done to self, friends, or innocent passersby due to choices made under the influence
- Lost academic standing
- Lost opportunities for college, jobs, extracurricular activities, internships, and trips
- Brain damage
Signs That Your Teen Needs Substance Abuse Treatment
It’s not easy to tell when a teenager is abusing drugs. Half the signs can, in some cases, be chalked up to nothing more than normal hormonal changes that come with puberty. However, when those signs coexist with signs that are clearly specific to drug use, it can indicate that it’s time to intervene and get help.
According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Bureau of Substance Abuse Services, signs that a teen may be struggling include:
- Academic decline. Lower grades, missing classes, suspension, expulsion
- Personality changes. Mood swings, irritability, hostility, depression
- Changes in sleeping schedule. Often, sleeping for long periods of time after not sleeping for an extended period
- Stealing. Money, pills, or objects to sell to buy drugs or alcohol may be missing
- Disinterest in old hobbies. Former activities and friendships may fall to the wayside
- New friends. Older-aged friends or friends that you don’t know – especially if your child is uninterested in making introductions
- Isolation. Avoiding interactions with everyone in the family and most friends
- Missing medications
- Paraphernalia-like possessions.
Talking Treatment With Your Teen
What do you do when you recognize the signs of drug use in your teen? You take a stand and speak up. It’s not an easy conversation to have. Nine times out of 10, your teen may respond defensive, angry, and/or denying. They may focus on your perceived lack of trust and intrusion into their privacy rather than the fact that he or she needs help. If anything, this reaction is only a further indication that it’s time to seek professional treatment. But you may have an easier time reaching your child and helping them to understand rehabilitation is necessary if you:
- Avoid judgment. This means not using language like “loser” or “stupid.” Substance use disorder can impact the brain, changing one’s personality. Explain this. It can make it impossible for them to stop getting high or drinking without treatment.
- Choose a moment of clarity. When your teen comes home drunk or you walk in on your teen getting high, it is not the time to address the situation through conversation. Instead, wait for them to sober up and then sit them down for a thoughtful discussion.
- No comparisons. Resist the urge to compare your child to his or her siblings, cousins, friends (new or old), or anyone who is doing well and avoiding drug use. Also, avoid comparing your child to those who have destroyed their lives due to drug use.
- Don’t blame. Often there are problems in the family – issues between parents or struggles with other siblings – when one child is abusing drugs. Don’t blame your teen for these issues. The sole focus of the conversation should be the needs of your substance-abusing teen.
- Listen. If your teen decides to share with you the problems they are facing, listen. They could be experiencing painful emotions. Don’t interrupt and don’t negate or belittle them. Instead, listen carefully and let them know that you support them and want to help them feel better – and get better.
Be Proactive: Call Now
If you would like to find out more about our teen rehab program here at Newport Academy, call us. Our counselors are standing by to assist you and provide you with the information you need to help your teen get on the right track starting today.