Helping a Teen Caught Up in the Opioid Epidemic

There are things a parent can do to help teens cope with prescription painkillers. If you’re looking for advice, here are some actions you can take…TODAY!

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ARTICLE OVERVIEW: This article reviews parenting tips for moms and dads of teenagers who are addicted to painkiller drugs. Written from the point-of-view of a young person who’s been in their shoes.



Advice for Parents

Parents with children facing opioid addiction tend to feel as though they’re walking on thin ice. Treatment is necessary, but where do you begin. While adolescent substance use has be treated successfully for decades, there are no official guidelines for managing a child who’s fallen victim to this American epidemic.

You may wonder how you can handle a loved one’s addiction. How do you offer love and support to someone who seems not to care? Should you lay down strict discipline in order to ensure progress is made towards sobriety?

You aren’t alone in your concern.

Teenage addiction rates, while experiencing some downturn, are holding steady as annual opioid overdoses rise. And as you’re already aware, substance abuse has the tendency to take on a behavior of its own. One of which seems entirely uncontrollable. However, there are measurements a parent can take in order to prevent the worst.

If you’re looking for advice, here are some actions to take when handling an addicted youth. We invite you to read the entire article and then ask your questions at the end. We love to hear from our readers! And we’ll try to provide you with a personal and prompt reply.

Take All Precautions to Avert Illegal Use

The unfortunate truth behind the opioid epidemic is much of it is caused by doctors. This has prompted action from the CDC to create a new Rx guideline for prescription painkillers. An overabundance of prescription medication is being handed out daily to kids who are vulnerable to getting hooked. When the medicine runs out or when it’s ceases to be strong enough, teenagers turn to the streets to get their fix.

If your child is already prescribed an opioid medication, you’ll want to educate them as much as possible on the dangers of these street drugs and the addictive qualities of the substances they’re already taking. Most teenagers don’t consider these risks being it’s a doctor’s recommendation.

Furthermore, if you notice your child taking more than the proper dosage, you’ll need to step in and inform his/her doctor.

What Are Your Intentions?

If an opioid addiction is already prominent within your child, then consider your intentions when seeking out treatment options. Naturally, parents might give into angry or upset feelings. However, as you’ll read about below, you’re going to want to avoid all negative emotions.

The truth of the matter is, an addict is likely to manipulate loved ones for the sake of fueling their drug dependence. They will say what you want to hear. Your teens might make promises about self-change. But be clear about where you draw the line.

When considering your intentions, the most important is getting your child off opioids. Through this, you’re aiming to rebuild the relationship you once shared with them. In order to successfully do this, you’re going to need to be a motivating force in their life.

Avoid the Tough Route

Though not every parent feels this way, there are plenty out there who will assume that strong discipline is the way to go. Sometimes, if two parents are involved, there will be one who wants to take the tough route while the other leans more towards a nurturing compassion.

As already mentioned, an addiction may have caused your child to behave in ways that have genuinely upset you. These include, stealing, lying cheating, failing in school, etc. It’s understandable that such actions have caused you pain or intolerance. But in order to assure progress is made towards sobriety, you can’t let these emotions control the way you discipline your child.

It’s important to avoid the tough route because you’ll be putting your teenager at greater risk of continuing his/her addiction. More often than not, strict enforcement causes a young person to feel isolated in their problem. It pushes them away from their parent’s desires and, inevitably, creates the concept that they’re alone in their battle with dependency.

Your first goal as a guiding force towards sobriety should be to show your child that he/she isn’t alone. That you’re willing to offer all the support you can.

The following are some disciplinary tactics to avoid:

1. Criticism

Keep in mind that addiction is a disease. It has the ability to spread pain and turmoil to family and friends through lying, stealing and other immoral acts. It’s natural you might want to criticize.

No matter how angry or upset this behavior makes you feel, it’s important to remain calm when situations come about. Remember, your teenager is sick and in desperate need of understanding. He/she won’t benefit from being yelled at or retaliated against.

2. Diabolize

You might think your son or daughter is a bad person for their behavior and their “decision” to give into opiates. However, there’s a likely chance it wasn’t a decision of their own. Again, we’re speaking of a disease.

The best way to avoid this is by learning more about the addiction and ways in which to treat it. The web offers plenty of information and it’s knowledge could be the key to understanding why your child has fallen into this opioid epidemic.

3. Enablement

It might not be considered a part of the tough route, but often parents are willing to give into their children’s needs. Whether this be a car, money, or even a home to live in, you could be risking their chances of falling further into addiction.

Understandably, you have a desire to help your child as much as possible. But by offering these necessities, you could be enabling them to continue their addiction. Detaching from these offerings isn’t necessarily a part of the tough route.

In some respects, it’s a decision made out of love for your child’s betterment.

Get Your Child Into Treatment

To cure the disease of addiction, a reputable treatment program is absolutely necessary. Yet, you can’t just simply tell a teenager to get into a facility and quit for good.

It’s great if you’re willing to (or already have been) expressing your concerns. This at least shows your genuine care when it comes to your child’s opioid addiction. Still, it’s going to be necessary you take some steps in order to influence treatment.

Addiction can be a complicated process and it leaves many parents at a loss as to where to turn when trying to find a quitting mechanism. The following steps are a guide for actions to be taken while your child continues to abuse.

1. Learn About the Addiction.

The better you understand what your child is experiencing, the more likely you’ll comprehend how to offer love and affection. You’re already aware they’re going through a tough struggle. Now’s the time to make yourself familiar with how opioids work within the user’s head.

2. Stick to Your Rules.

It’s already been mentioned that you shouldn’t be tough with your methods of punishment. Yet, at the same time, you want to set rules and regulations that are followed. In an example, you may ask your son or daughter to come home at a certain time of night. If they break this rule, you instruct consequence.

You never want to be too harsh with your punishments, but you want to remain consistent. It’ll show that you are serious about their addiction and are only looking out for their behalf. For example, you might want to consider restricting money to avoid enablement. In more extreme examples, you may need to have your teen willing agree to random drug testing.

You can learn more about house rules talking with an addictions counselor or family therapist who specializes in adolescent addiction treatment.

3. Arrange an Intervention.

Even if you’ve been expressing your concern here or there, an intervention is a great method of getting that concern across. It can also be a succeeding method to getting your child into treatment.

By getting multiple loved ones involved, you can show your addicted teenager how his/her disease has been hurting more people than they might be aware of. If you need help planning an intervention, you can always contact an interventionist.

As you get your child into a treatment program, your number one goal should be showing him/her your support. Within an addiction, people tend to feel isolated and on their own in their struggle. You want assure your child that he/she isn’t alone.

With your encouragement, you can achieve the final step in caring for an opioid addicted teenager.

Work Towards Relationship Restoration

As already mentioned, drug abuse causes a lot of damage to parent-child relationships. In order to show your support, you’re going to need to help your child through everything from the beginning stages of treatment to the months after sobriety.

There are a number of ways in which to go about this. It’s granted that each parent will have their own methods as they know their children best. But there are some universal factors to keep in mind when rebuilding your relationship with your child.

1. Set Realistic Expectations.

Once an addict is in the recovery stage, they’re going to need people in their lives who can keep their minds off of the substance. Showing that you want to restore a relationship is a great way to keep your child occupied.

You’ll need to understand that this is going to take a lot of time and effort. The amount of damage an addiction causes can never be made up for instantly. Furthermore, your child will most likely be feeling positive right when he/she reaches recovery. Therefore, they won’t be desiring to look back at all the negativity they caused prior.

With the right kind of patience and actions taken in small steps, you’ll be able to rebuild your relationship. Eventually, conversations will open up and there will be the proper to time to bring up past incidences that continue to affect you.

While you go through this process, don’t be afraid to celebrate even when minor achievements are made.

2. Establish Trust.

Before your now sober teenager can trust anyone, he/she needs to learn how to trust themselves. Unfortunately, relapse is always a potential and he/she is going to have to make their effort not to fall into it. Just as with your expectations, understand that your child’s self-discipline is going to take time.

The best way to work towards building trust is through healthy communication. This is a skill not everyone is capable of upon nature. Some people forget that a conversation is a two-way street; listening and talking.

Many people will hear what the other person has to say only to wait for their turn to talk. Listening is vital in terms of trust. And when it comes to a recovering teenager, they are most likely in need of someone to listen to them.

Clear communication will allow you to resolve issues from the past. Just make sure a harsh discussion doesn’t persist as the recoverer will have guilt over their previous experiences.

3. Rid Away Unhealthy Relationships.

One of the leading causes of relapse is an addict hanging out with his/her friends who’re still addicted. Though it’s not the most pleasant circumstance, it’s necessary your child cuts these people out of their life.

There’s a lot you can do as a parent in order to assure your child gets into treatment and stays sober afterwards. The information above are only suggested methods for a successful recovery. At the end of the day, you know your child best and will know which routes to take.

If you’ve already been through the process of caring for a teenage victim of the opioid epidemic, do you have any suggestions for parents currently struggling with the problem? Is there anything you would do differently from the information above? Please, let us know.

Reference Sources: The Department of Health and Human Services: Opioids
NIDA: What to do if your teen or young adult has a problem with drugs?
Advanced Recovery Systems: Parents’ Guide
About the author
Paul James is a mental health and addiction writer. He's spent the last year and a half spreading awareness and knowledge in hopes of ending the stigmas attached to these topics. You can read more on his blog .
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