By Tim LaGro, LMHC
Teenage Drinking and How to Talk to Your Teen About It
I have been treating folks with substance use disorders from 13 to 70 years old for the past five years in a community mental health setting. What I can tell you and the statistics back up, is that substance use disorders are an epidemic. Age old programs like “Drug-Free” and “Just Say No” for the most part have not worked. Nine out of ten addictions begin in adolescence!
Recently I was invited into a high school to observe a “Remedy Live” convocation sponsored by The Lutheran Foundation. I learned that 1,500 kids a day are contacting Remedy Live because they have a struggle they are keeping secret. Four months later, that number still cuts me to my core. In my practice, almost daily I would talk with a teen who would say every other teen is using something.
So what can families do? What teens are saying is that their families are not providing a format for them to share and just listen without judging. Everyone, including the parents, is on their phones. In restaurants, at the dinner table (if they are eating together), in the living room, families are on their phones and not really listening.
The technology culture we all live in today has good benefits but also many that are not so good. Teens are learning that the answer to their pain is right at the end of their fingertips with social media, not real relationships. They are not learning emotional hygiene or how to cope with emotions. The concept of delayed gratification is gone. This causes teens to want to numb their painful emotions and today that means reaching for families’ pills or using marijuana and alcohol. Parents must have good boundaries on how much time their teens are on technology and monitor content! Parents have to be able to talk about tough topics.
Anxiety and substance abuse go hand in hand with teens today. For reasons listed above and pressures like school, gender identity, divorce and lack of social skills because of technology, anxiety is rampant in teens. Anxiety for teens comes from traumas, fears, and obsessions. We are seeing a big rise in social anxiety. Teens not getting the skills needed to start conversations, make friends, deal with conflict and the exposure to real relationships leaves them unable to cope with middle and high school when friends become more important than family. So they reach to drugs and alcohol to help and the result is these make anxiety worse!
If you believe your teen has an alcohol or substance abuse problem, we can help. Contact Crosswinds today to learn how we can guide your family with counseling and addiction help.