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What Parents Should Know About Opiate Use

opiate useParents can help and support a teen struggling with opiate or other drug use. They first need to know their teen uses opiates. They need to know signs of addiction. They must understand the importance of evidence-based, age-appropriate care. They should know what this care involves and where they can find it. Parents should know there is always hope for health and happiness. When they understand addiction and take action, they can support their teen’s recovery and the health of the family as a whole.

Teens Use Opiates

Even the best students feel pressure to fit in. Even the happiest-seeming teens face challenges coping with new feelings and emotions. Many begin to experience mental health symptoms for the first time. Others struggle to establish an independent, adult identity. Teenage years are challenging for every teen. Many teens turn to alcohol, opiate and other drug use during these years. They do so regardless of personal history, home environment, or family. The National Institute on Drug Abuse[1] (NIDA) shares, “By the time they are seniors, almost 70 percent of high school students will have tried alcohol, half will have taken an illegal drug, nearly 40 percent will have smoked a cigarette, and more than 20 percent will have used a prescription drug for a non-medical purpose.” Parents should know teens use opiates. Any teen can gain access to opiates through friends or through family medicine cabinets. Any teen may use these drugs. Every parent should be aware of the risk of opiate use.

There Are Signs of Opiate Use and Addiction

Parents should know the basic signs of use, dependence and addiction.

Many of these signs mirror those expected during teenage years. Mood swings, changes in personality and behavior and trouble staying motivated or interested in school accompany many individuals’ experiences of young adulthood. Teens are often secretive or withdrawn as they attempt to separate their identities from those of the family. Teens often change friends, hobbies and interests. Although these can be typical teen behaviors, they may also indicate a more serious problem. Talk with your teen. Talk with his or her doctor or call an addiction specialist. Teens use opiates; you teen may be taking drugs. Don’t write off your concerns.

Teens Need Treatment

Parents want to ignore opiate use. They want to pretend it isn’t happening or couldn’t happen to their child. When they learn teens use opiates general and see signs of use in their teen in specific, they may instead pretend it isn’t a big deal. Minimization is a defining feature of addiction. Users aren’t the only ones who practice this form of denial. However any substance use is cause for concern. It isn’t cause for denial, delay, anger or blame. Parents need to act quickly, appropriately and responsibly. Untreated addicted has long-term costs.

NIDA explains, “When substance use disorders occur in adolescence, they affect key developmental and social transitions, and they can interfere with normal brain maturation. These potentially lifelong consequences make addressing adolescent drug use an urgent matter…Impaired memory or thinking ability and other problems caused by drug use can derail a young person’s social and educational development and hold him or her back in life. The serious health risks of drugs compound the need to get an adolescent who is abusing drugs into treatment as quickly as possible.”

Addiction has consequences. Treatment reverses these consequences and prevents any more from occurring.

Teens Need Specific, Age-Appropriate Treatment

Recovery is an individual-specific journey for anyone struggling with drug use. Some treatment methods will work. Others will not. This is even truer for teens. However few parents realize the importance of age-appropriate care. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration[2] shares, “Of the 1.6 million youths who needed treatment in 2012, 157,000 received treatment at a specialty facility (about 10.0 percent of the youths who needed treatment), leaving about 1.4 million who needed treatment for a substance use problem but did not receive it at a specialty facility.” Generic, adult programs do not offer the specific care that best supports recovery. Specialty programs do. Parents need to understand the importance of an initial, professional assessment that determines level and type of care needed. This helps families find direction. It helps treatment providers create a treatment path and plan.

Dual Diagnosis care may be one component of a teen’s age-appropriate treatment plan.

NIDA explains, “Adolescents who are abusing drugs are likely to have other issues such as mental health problems accompanying and possibly contributing to their substance use, and these also need to be addressed. Unfortunately, less than one third of adolescents admitted to substance abuse treatment who have other mental health issues receive any care for their conditions.”

Sending teens to generic or adult treatment programs may mean their specific mental health concerns go ignored. Teen programs understand the challenges individuals face. They can diagnose and address co-occurring mental health issues that can otherwise undermine recovery now and in the future. Dual Diagnosis, teen-specific care offers complete and age-appropriate treatment.

You Can Find Support and Effective Treatment

private alcohol rehabParents should know information, help and support exist. Call The Canyon to talk with addiction specialists about your concerns. We can help you accurately assess the situation. We will guide you through your next steps. We will help you arrange an age-appropriate family intervention or get a teen to treatment if he or she is already willing to come. The Canyon offers some of the nation’s best comprehensive, teen-specific care. We can help you begin a treatment program here or at the location best suited to your teen’s individual recovery needs. You can find support. You can find a healthy future for your teen. Call us today.


[1] https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-adolescent-substance-use-disorder-treatment-research-based-guide/introduction. Principles of Adolescent Substance Use Disorder Treatment: A Research-Based Guide. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Jan 2014. Web. 8 Feb 2017.

[2] https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUHresults2012/NSDUHresults2012.pdf. “Results from the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings.” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Sep 2013. Web. 8 Feb 2017.


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