April 27, 2018


Teen Substance Abuse: Catching it Early by Rick McGuckin

You notice that a few twenty dollar bills are missing from your purse and suspect your teen is stealing your money. As you check your teen’s grade online, they are a huge disappointment. You ask, “Where are you going tonight?” Your teen rolls his eyes at you and says “I’m just going to the mall to hang out with my friends” You worry that some of those new friends he is making are getting together to smoke weed and drink beer… or worse.

You remember being 14 years old. You were confrontational, loving, frustrating, hopeful, emotional, and very confusing to your parents. Our parents survived, and so did we.  In today’s world, what we hoped for is not always what we end up getting. Depression, anxiety, mood swings and drugs are what some parents and teens encounter.  And, as parents, sometimes our own story is upset with divorce, abuse, depression, panic attacks and change. 

I am the clinical director of three treatment programs; one inpatient, one out patient, and one detox program.  These programs are male and female.  What I know is that 85% of the client’s interviewed started to experiment with drugs at 13.  Almost always, teens start with alcohol or marijuana.  Usually, by 15 the move onto harder substances…cocaine, Ecstasy, LSD, and crack cocaine.  By the end of high school they are true addicts and will move on to meth and heroin. 

6 Signs to Look for in Teen Substance Abuse:

  1. Money or items missing.
  2. Liquor cabinet is missing alcohol
  3. Drop in grades and truancy
  4. Fights in school
  5. Changes in friends
  6. Very low energy, up all night, excess sleep


Wisdom in Catching the Problem Early

One of the biggest consequences of substance abuse is that the lifestyle and the choices made deprive the individual from maturing and developing the skills to survive and succeed in life.

We have worked with middle-aged men and women who still have the coping skills of a 16 year old in many areas of their lives. Why does this happen? This happens because when life gets tough, people tend to go to old coping skills. If you learn to numb down pain by using substances, then you never learn the skills to deal with anger, heart break, disappointment, loss and all the other difficult problems life will throw at you. 

For example, let’s say your adolescent gets dumped by a girl and uses substances to “get over it”. Instead of dealing with the pain of rejection, they begin smoking pot. Instead of talking it out with friends, they ignore it and go to a party and get drunk. Teens tend to look for immediate relief from life’s problems.  Since many teens don’t consider long term consequences, they begin a destructive habit forming process. We help your teenager break this pattern by helping them realize there is a better way out.

Many of the therapists here at ReVISION Counseling have their own personal stories on how they overcame drugs. They know first-hand, the difficulties and strategies to break the addiction. Our therapists don’t talk at your teenager, but can relate to their problems in a very personal way. (Read more about our counselors)

The coping skills we teach at ReVISION Counseling are founded off of many years of research and experience. We teach your teen how to handle life’s problems with healthy coping skills.

We give them the confidence and the tools required to handle life’s difficult problems. We teach them to be disciplined when life hurts and how to be faithful in times of distress. They learn how to share their problems with trustworthy people building relationships founded off of genuine concern rather than on temporary fixes.


How serious is Substance Abuse Problems with Teens:

A common thing that happens in children with substance problems is “failure to launch”. In other words, your child can be 30 years old and still not have the skills to make a living or be independent. So they will still be living at home with very little responsibilities.

On a more serious side, the culmination of a serious long-term drug or alcohol problem can ultimately lead to imprisonment or death. This is a common phrase you hear when dealing with serious addictions.


What to do?

Call us!  As parents, we are often in the dark about how to think about what is going on. You think you’re going crazy.  One plus one is not two.  Sometimes your fears are well-founded.  Either way, everyone wins when we are moving in the same direction of developing coping skills that get you through life and help you accomplish your goals.