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Substance Use And Teens: When Is It Time To Get Help?

Parenting a teen is a balancing act. Encouraging independence while remaining vigilant about their safety and well-being is no easy task. It is made even more difficult as the teenage years are a minefield of emotions, milestones, challenges, and pressures. This is also the time when your child will likely be confronted with situations that can put them at risk. Getting help for teen addiction may seem daunting. However, turning to Destinations for Teens, families can find the therapeutic services and addiction treatment programs needed to help adolescents and young adults heal and recover from substance use disorder.

When Has Drug Experimentation Crossed the Line?

If you ask any parent of a teenager what their fears are for their child, drug and alcohol use and the consequences that go with them will be high on the list. Most parents realize that kids will often experiment with alcohol or drugs at some point and that this is normal, although certainly not required. But how do you know when it has crossed the line from experimenting to becoming a problem? At what point do you ask for help?

Broach the Topic

It can be surprisingly difficult to broach this topic. Your teen may shut you out when you try to talk to them. When you seek out advice from family members or friends, you may get conflicting information. Some will tell you that you are overreacting, and you shouldn’t worry so much. Some may overreact themselves and try to convince you that your child is already a lost cause. The reality is this: When it comes to substance abuse and your kids, no, you can’t be too careful. Just as important is the fact that if your child does have a problem, there is effective help available. But how do you know when it’s time to get that help?

Ask the Right Questions

Asking the right questions can help you get clarity on the problem. Keeping the lines of communication open with your teen is essential. They may not be forthcoming with information on their drug or alcohol use, but if you listen closely and observe, you will find that there are other ways to determine if there is a problem. Some things to pay attention to:

  • Do you have a family history of drug or alcohol abuse? This is a red flag.
  • Has your child recently lost a great deal of weight, or gained weight?
  • Is he or she sleeping enough? Too much?
  • Has your teen suddenly “switched” friend groups? Have they stopped hanging out with their normal crowd in favor of another?
  • Has he/she recently stopped participating in activities that they have always enjoyed, such as sports or other hobbies?
  • Is he or she displaying erratic behavior?
  • Have you found drugs or paraphernalia?
  • Has your child’s school performance dropped off?

There Can Be Many False Positives

One thing that can make identifying a problem difficult is that many of the above occurrences are somewhat normal for teens. Erratic behavior, changing interests, and friends, odd sleep patterns, all can be attributed to the normal changes that go along with this stage of adolescence. However, if you notice uncharacteristic behavior or problems, especially in conjunction with finding or hearing about drug use, then it warrants a closer look.

Listen to Yourself and Seeking Out Help

In many cases, you must go with your gut. You know your child better than anyone. If you feel that there is a problem, then it is important to listen to yourself and seek out the help of a professional in the field. Destinations for Teens offer a wide range of treatment programs addressing substance use disorder in adolescents and young adults. We offer treatment for nearly any substance a teen may abuse and form a dependency upon. For example, we treat:

Addiction is a progressive disease, and if left unchecked, it can only get worse. The good news is that the earlier help is sought, the higher the chances of a good outcome. It is never too early to seek help. You don’t have to wait until more serious consequences arise to address substance abuse. To learn more about the dangers of teen substance abuse, give us a call at 877.466.0620. We can help provide the support you need.


  1. What To Do If Your Teen Or Young Adult Has A Problem With Drugs, National Institute On Drug Abuse, June 2014,
  2. Lawrence Robinson, Melinda Smith, M.A., and Joanna Saisan, M.S.W., Drug Abuse And Addiction, February 2015,,