Are you worried your teen could be addicted to prescription drugs? Are you unsure as to what steps you should take to help your teen overcome their addiction to prescription drugs? To help understand how teens can become addicted to prescription drugs and what a parent can do to help their teen, I have interviewed Dr. Sally Broder.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“I am a Licensed Psychologist. My areas of specialization are Trauma and Addictive Disorders. I have been working with adults and adolescents struggling with addictions for over 20 years. I currently provide individual and family therapy in my offices in San Francisco and Los Altos. I am also a Treating Clinician for the National Football League Substance Abuse Program. Additionally, I practice Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy through my company, HorseSensing. I have also been training law enforcement of every type in issues surrounding addiction, trauma and severe mental illness through my company, Chiron Concepts, for 10 years.”
How do teens become addicted to prescription drugs?
“The two main ways teens get exposed to prescription drugs is first at home in their own medicine cabinet or the medicine cabinet of a relative such as grandparents. The second location is at school where kids are distributing the drugs they have found at home or selling/giving away their own prescriptions. There are a large number of kids and teens on prescribed medication now for ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), Bipolar, Depression and other diagnoses. The ubiquitousness of teen psychiatric diagnosing adds to the already considerable challenge of drug use.”
“Being exposed and becoming addicted are two separate yet related issues.
Using more than once can cause a teen to be addicted, like any other individual that uses drugs illicitly. Depending on the drug, there can be a primarily psychological “addiction” as with stimulant prescription medications like Adderall and Ritalin. When a teen begins using an opiate medication such as Oxycontin or Vicodin, the physiological addiction (Tolerance and Withdrawal effects) can occur in a fairly short period of time and the tolerance for the drug (need to take larger amounts to feel the same effect) increases exponentially.”
“The “Why” of how teens become addicted is an individual story depending on the teen. Home environment often plays a huge role. The family may seem healthy from an outsiders perspective, but there may be deficits in the parenting somehow, a family trauma that has been suffered, or outright child abuse (this regularly leads to drug and alcohol abuse in teens) or other problem.”
“There are also correlations between ADHD and drug abuse. These correlations have to do with the low self-esteem that often accompanies ADHD if it is not properly addressed. Negative peer influences stemming from gravitating towards lower achieving peers can result in drug use and other self-destructive behavior.”
“There are other environmental possibilities such as neighborhood, the school itself, lack of structure in general and others.”
What type of impact does prescription drugs have on a teen’s overall life?
“When a teen gets caught in a cycle of using drugs, prescription or otherwise, they are affected on many levels.”
“The most obvious first effect is usually school performance, which almost always declines as the teen’s energy becomes focused on using the drugs, spending time with other kids who are also using, etc.”
“Socially, they are stunted. As stated above, the life of a using teen becomes limited to other teens that are “on the same page.” Additionally, their moral compass becomes radically skewed, as their motivations change towards obtaining and using prescription drugs. These teens are highly likely to engage in more risky behaviors including sexual promiscuity, and even criminal behavior. Because they are placing themselves in risky situations with others also using, the likelihood of suffering a violent trauma is exponentially increased. Sexual assault is not uncommon for girls and for boys, untended violent situations can occur.”
“Another facet of the problem of teens and addiction is age of first use. The earlier an adolescent begins using drugs the more entrenched and hard to treat this habit can be. This has to do with the developing brain and the neural pathways that can become “hardwired” into negative actions and thinking. This does not mean that they cannot change, but it does make it harder for them to change.”
“Obviously, the relationship with their parents will suffer as the teen aims to protect their secret. Kids are supposed to be separating from parents at this stage in their development but using drugs prevents the natural, healthy separation cycle. You will often see teens that do not mature, and actually regress to a state of dependency on the parents that does not evolve. The drive toward work and higher education is often absent from these teens as well so that continues the dependency on the parents well into their 20’s and beyond.”
What type of help is available for a teen that is addicted to prescription drugs?
“There are lots of resources on the web. Almost all teens these days are internet savvy and have a facebook account etc. The National Institute on Drug Abuse has a site for teens. It is http://teens.drugabuse.gov/. Another good web resource is http://kidshealth.org/teen/drug_alcohol/drugs/know_about_drugs.html.
If a teen needs a rehabilitation facility you can find them tailored to the area and situation at http://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/.”
“There are also 12-step programs everywhere. There are teen meetings of both Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. They are free and it is an excellent way to meet other teens that have been through addiction problems and don’t want to use drugs anymore.”
What last advice would you like to leave for a parent who wants to help her addicted teen to recover from prescription drugs?
“Be consistent, don’t give up, and try not to lose your composure. You will need your wits about you. Ask for help. Call a professional that deals specifically with addiction in teens.”
“There are also good stories out there written by other parents to give you advice and perspective.”
“To meet other parents struggling with their own teenagers, I suggest Naranon.
Getting through to the other side of addiction as a family can strengthen the family bonds. Each family member will grow from the experience, although it is extremely trying in the beginning.”
Thank you Dr. Broder for the interview on teens and prescription drugs. If you would like to contact Dr. Broder you can reach her at 415-789-7691 or check out her website on www.drsallybroder.com.
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