How Parents Feel When Their Teen is Addicted

A parent with an addicted teenage sonOne of the most devastatingly challenging moments for any parent is to watch their son or daughter struggle with addiction. We want the best for our children, and when we start recognizing some of the signs – our teen comes home high, they begin changing in appearance and behavior, we find small clues at home, they start experiencing issues at school or they get into legal trouble – it can feel like the entire world is imploding on us. Everything we thought we knew about our teen changes – and suddenly we’re left in a state of confusion, or even anger or guilt – as we try to make sense of this entire experience. If you’ve recently discovered that your teen has been struggling with addiction, you’re not alone.

Teen Prevalence of Addiction

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services notes that by the 12th grade, about half of adolescents have misused an illicit drug at least once; marijuana is one of the most commonly abused substances, but there are others, such as: prescription medications, aerols, glues and so much more can suddenly become part of a teen’s world, especially if they’re surrounded by friends who are also using them. Adolescents make up about 12-13% of the population, which totals to over 42 million – and the earlier an adolescent starts drinking, the greater they are at risk for developing addiction.

Adolescents who abuse substances are at risk in so many ways, not just addiction:

  • The likelihood of them getting into a car accident increases
  • Both brain structure and function can be significantly and negatively altered at this stage of development
  • Impaired judgment from being “high” can lead to risky sexual behaviors or even physical or sexual assault
  • In 2016, one in seven drivers aged 16-20 who got into a car accident had alcohol in their system
  • Academic and behavioral problems at school can arise
  • And so much more

As a parent, there are a number of thoughts and feelings that are running through you right now. Let’s take a look at what you’re likely going through.

How Parents Feel About Their Adolescent’s Addiction

The Pain, Pressure and Anxiety of Discovering This Issue

A 2015 study published in the journal Behavioral Sciences dove into the experiences of parents who had an adolescent struggling with addiction. They found many implications for how parents were feeling and what they tended to think about; two of the most prominent experiences described by participants were finding out about the adolescent’s substance abuse and experiencing the problems that began increasing as a result of their adolescent’s addiction. One mother explained,

“He never got physically angry with me but he very often got like really screaming at me and then he would get so, you could see the rage in him and he would just get up and slam something and walk…”

How to React

Parents explained trying to find ways to respond to these “new” behaviors of their adolescent, in addition to discovering that some of the families their teen had been spending time with were actually condoning substance use. In addition to trying to navigate this new world they’ve found, many parents explained that they began trying to find explanations for why this was happening – in a sense, many parents wished that if they addressed a potential underlying cause, their teen would no longer struggle with substances. One parent explained that they thought their son was just “really depressed” and upset at the outcome of their divorce – but merely talking with her teen about his feelings didn’t seem to resolve the situation.

A Reminder of Their Own Teen Substance Abuse Histories

Several parents described that their teen’s substance abuse reminded them of their own substance abuse when they were their age. It concerned some parents to consider the reckless behavior they exerted at that age, and to explore the potential that their son or daughter could be going down a similar path. Parents who were part of the study described how challenging it was for them to cope, and these were some of the only ways they knew how to respond to the situation:

  • Extreme stress trying to figure out how to handle the situation
  • Anger and relationship strains developed
  • Withdrawing and finding ways to not be at home

Some parents even reported feeling as though they acted in “crazy” ways, such as giving their adolescent money to pay off their drug debt or confiscating their teen’s drugs and then offering to help with any obligations their teen may have to drugs. Lastly, some parents exerted more control over their teens – by reading their diaries, Facebook, phone messages and more and trying to keep a close track on what their adolescent was doing – but it did come at a cost to them.

Seeking Help

Many parents don’t know where to seek help; the ARCH Academy provides everything an adolescent boy needs to work through the challenges associated with addiction. Speak with a professional today to learn more and to get your teen the help they need.

Adolescent Recovery of Cumberland Heights (ARCH) originally began in 1985 when there were few other adolescent programs like it in the country. In 2019, we’re expanding our continuum of services with ARCH Academy, a unique program located in Kingston Springs that offers 60 days to 6 months of residential care to adolescent boys ages 14-18 who are struggling with alcohol and/or drug addiction. This new program stems from Cumberland Heights, which has been around since 1966, and is located in Nashville, Tennessee. The adolescent age is a critical time for development, making this a crucial time of positive influence. For more information, call us today at 1-800-646-9998.