One of the most common symptoms of addiction is denial that a problem exists. This is true of drug addiction as well as alcohol dependency and compulsive unhealthy behaviors like gambling. Teenagers who are suffering from addiction are just as likely as adults to deny that they need drug treatment. Parents and other family members often feel they are causing more harm than good when their pleas and arguments seem to fuel the teen’s destructive behavior.
Teens who are abusing alcohol or drugs often have trouble in school, including failing grades, truancy and discipline problems. They may lose interest in sports and hobbies that they previously enjoyed. They may be associating with an undesirable peer group. When questioned about their behavior, they often become defiant and verbally abusive. This defense mechanism leaves parents walking on egg shells when in the teen’s presence.
Rather than feeling helpless in the face of teen addiction, family members should seek the help of an interventionist who specializes in teen intervention and recovery. The intervention process begins with an evaluation of the situation by the interventionist, followed by the formulation of a plan of action. A teen interventionist will help the family plan and carry out a meeting where the facts about the teen’s unhealthy behavior are honestly and respectfully presented.
In families with a history of drug or alcohol dependence, it is usually difficult for parents to talk to their teenage child about his or her addiction. The teen may try to change the focus of the conversation to the parents’ behavior or, if the parents have also abused alcohol or drugs, may call the parents hypocrites. An interventionist can work with the parents to prepare for these accusations and to convince the child that the parents’ mistakes should not be repeated. Although the goal of the intervention is to confront the teen, it must be done in a non-threatening manner. By carefully explaining how the teen’s actions are harming both the family and the teen, it is possible to break through his or her shell of defensiveness. Once the teen’s defenses are dropped, it will be easier to discuss treatment options.
There is a common myth that an addict must hit “rock bottom” before recovery can begin. This is a dangerous assumption when it comes to teenagers, for whom bottoming out may mean a lifetime of addiction or an early death. An intervention can help a teen avoid the negative consequences of hitting rock bottom. An experienced teen interventionist can provide insight and guidance at each stage of the intervention process, helping the teen gain freedom from addiction and a new chance at life.