The other way, besides getting caught, for teens to raise the red flag of concern is through simultaneous changes in other areas of their life -- all for the worse. So if suddenly their grades drop, they have new friends, they quit playing on the soccer team, and they seem spaced out and overly defensisve at home it is a good sign that something else is going on -- sometimes involving drugs or alcohol.
If your son or daughter is in trouble with alcohol or drugs you must understand, that when you speak to them about your concerns, you will not actually be talking to your son or daughter. By that time the voice of the growing addiction is taking them over. You need to go more on behavior than what they say at this point. But the growing addiction will not like this, so expect lots of resistance and some extreme behavior, possibly even running away.
This is when you need some outside observations. As mentioned earlier, if something serious is going on it usuaully effects more than just one aspect of your teenager s life. Start with school. Call the adults at school that know your son -- teachers, coaches, and others. Ask them if they have noticed anything unusual lately, but do not put words in their mouth. If something is going on a pattern will quickly emerge in how the various adults respond to your inquries--usually along the lines of having noticed a change (for the worse) in behaviors and attitudes.
Now you have two choices, depending on your sense of how serious things are: 1. Outline a process of escalating intervention for your teen, or, 2. Get a professional assessment.
- Outline a process of escalating intervention for your teen.
Through a conversation or a note express your concerns and observations to your teen. Then tell them the next step if things continue on the same path. For instance, if we catch you using again we will take you in for a professional assessment, no qeustions asked. Whatever process you outline, you must believe in it and be willing to drop everything to enforce it.
- Get a professional assessment.
Arrange for an assessement by a professional in drug and alcohol counseling. (Check the Yellow Pages for referrals in your area or call the Shool Counselor for the names of recommendations.) At this point you are acknowledging that the problem is bigger than any of you, so listen carefully to what the assessor concludes. Finally, think seriously about more than one opinion if you have any doubts or questions about the conclusions of the first assessment.
Finally, if there is a history of addiction in your family make sure you arm your kids with this information. They need to know that addiction is not fair. Depending on family genetics some people can get addicted after one or two uses, while for others it will take years of steady use.