Substance abuse in adolescents and substance abuse in young adults are two of the most frequently discussed issues that bring families to me for help. Both of these issues are troublesome, however, the way to address substance abuse in adolescents is often very different from how you address substance abuse in young adults.
When an adolescent is struggling with substance abuse, a determination needs to be made as to how much of the problem is experimentation and how much of it is a daily reliance possibly leading to an addiction. Parents are always telling me that they doubt that the problem is substance abuse in their adolescent as they test their son/daughter frequently. Anyone familiar with substance abuse in adolescents knows that the internet is a wealth of information on how to come up with a negative drug test. And trust me, your son/daughter, knows all the ways. So if you, as a parent feels that your child is acting strangely in any way, if his/her friends are changing, his/her grades are dropping and he/she is isolating for long periods of time, even though the drug test comes up negative, there is a good chance substance abuse is present. With the newer drugs, spice and bath salts, which are legal in many states, there aren’t even any tests that can reveal the substances on a tox screen. Your kids know way more about this than you do.
With substance abuse in young adults, it is more critical to establish how much of their life has been derailed by the substances, because, usually, although not always, the substance abuse in young adults has been going on for a longer period of time and the chances of addiction are greater. Throw in the problem of non-willingness to go to a program when a young adult is over the age of 18 and you have an even more complicated problem on your hands.
Once an adolescent starts using substances, his brain stops functioning as it should and he/she stays trapped in a state of adolescence. So if you suspect substance abuse in your adolescent, even with clean drug tests, act now so that you don’t have worry about substance abuse in your young adult, where it becomes a greater problem to address and control.