Young men struggling with addiction require some extra attention

Youth struggling with addiction face a unique challenge when it comes to getting clean.

Addiction is a disease that can change the way someone thinks and behaves.

These changes run deep, and are fueled by both chemical dependency and bad habits that are hard to break.

Adults who are struggling with addiction are often able to look back at a time when addiction did not rule their lives.

This can give them motivation to get back to that place, or at the very least, it reminds them that it was possible to live sober.

Teens and young adults, on the other hand, don’t have that benefit. Really, they have not yet had any adult habits or routine free from the effects of addiction.

What are the root causes of addiction in teens and young people?

Much of the dialogue around youth and addiction is flat-out wrong.

Discussions tend to focus on aspects like peer pressure or teens going through a rebellious “phase.”

The ugly truth is, teens start doing drugs for the same reasons adults do.

Kids, just like adults, are seeking a reprieve from crushing anxiety or numbing depression or a strong desire to fit in.

Youth are not armored against the stresses of life, like painful relationships, loss, and fear of rejection.

In 2015, the New York Times wrote an article exploring reasons that teens began doing drugs, and what these addicted youths say might have convinced them to stop early or not try drugs in the first place.

David Sheff, who authored “Beautiful Boy,” the story of his son’s addiction, and “Clean,” about treating and preventing drug addiction, noticed that a common factor in youth drug abuse was self-medication.

Sheff told the times:

“It’s pointless to tell our children to ‘make good choices’ about drugs if those drugs offer a reprieve from the darkness they feel, or a connection they so badly crave to other kids. We must work to mitigate rather than add to the stress they experience before drugs present as a solution.”

In many ways, this phenomenon hits young men the hardest, as men are less likely to seek treatment for mental health issues that are the root cause of their drug abuse, and also men in general are more likely than women to use illegal drugs.

There ARE solutions for teens and young adults who have stumbled down this path though.

Young men who struggle with addiction need special attention

When drug abuse is all a young person has ever known, it can seem impossible to get sober, especially since it seems like “everyone is doing it.”

Detox and a support group may not be enough to get them out of the hole that is drug dependency, as their habits under the influence are the only habits they’ve had so far in their adult life.

This is one reason why Alternative Peer Groups, or APGs, can be so beneficial.

Comprehensive rehabilitation facilities recommend CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy, as a primary treatment method for many of patients, especially those who are young.

CBT has a strong focus on coping mechanisms to work into your day-to-day routine.

Coping methods can include:

  • Dealing with your problems as they come along. Ignoring them or “stuffing” your feelings is unhealthy, and can often result in depression and relapse.
  • Keeping stress levels low by incorporating hobbies, recreation, physical fitness, and positive people into your life.
  • Planning ahead for difficult and unavoidable situations.
  • Building and maintaining a core group of positive, supportive people who will help you stay sober.

This therapy method also works to identify unhealthy thoughts as they come up, what triggers them, and how to ease them in a positive way, rather than turning to drugs.

CBT is a good resource for anyone with an addiction, but it is especially useful for those who need help learning better mood regulation.

Teens and youngs adults fit squarely into that category of need.

Mood swings and hormonal issues can compound other problems like anxiety and depression that impair a young person’s judgment and drive them to drug abuse.

Youth relapse prevention also poses unique challenges

Drug use relapse is common, almost expected, and usually happens within the first 6 months of recovery.

Returning to “normal life” after detoxing or inpatient treatment is always fraught with triggers, be they old influences, or just a return to the stressful environment that originally motivated the drug use.

Many adults do their best to make a fresh start by changing their environment as much as possible. They move if they can, they try a new job, or at least avoid places they’d been hanging out before.

Teens and young adults usually have less power to make these changes in their lives.

Even if moving is an option (which is out of the question for most teens), young men are less likely to have the savings required to make major life changes.

Parents also often have to re-evaluate their relationships with their children after they come home.

Some may feel the need to clamp down on their kids’ whereabouts and activities in ways they never did before, or conversely, other parents will worry that they were putting too much pressure on their teens before.

Parents have an even closer role than usual in supporting sobriety and preventing relapse for youth in recovery.

For anyone on the lookout for relapse, some common warning signs and triggers are:

  • Emotional or mental health issues that may tempt you to self-medicate
  • Conflict
  • Peer or social pressure, either overt or implied
  • Positive celebrations where alcohol or drugs are present
  • Making unattainable goals that set you up for failure and eventual relapse
  • Illness or pain

What can we do to help young men avoid relapse?

General relapse prevention tips, of course, still apply to young men.

Continued cognitive behavioral therapy, keeping busy, and avoiding previous triggers can help.

Young men however, can overdo it when they try to stay away from previous “bad influences.”

Avoiding the crowd  that a young man did drugs with is important, but it can sometimes lead to near-total social isolation.

Social isolation can be a huge relapse trigger. Finding a support group of sober people is of paramount importance.

This is another reason to try to find an APG in your area.

Parents and family can also play a pivotal role by helping the young man in their life plan ahead for difficult situations.

For example, if a teen used to buy their drugs on the school bus, relatives can step in and drive him to school.

Young people have only just begun to figure out their routine, and logistical help from adults with resources and experience might make or break a recovery.

As you can see, there is no simple solution.

Finding recovery as a teen is fraught with a host of challenges.

A variety of support strategies tailored to an individual teen’s needs, plus integrated care from important people and professionals in the teen’s life are the key to not just obtaining, but also maintaining successful recovery.

It CAN be done.

Derek Wilksen is the Vice President of Serenity Lodge – Lake Arrowhead, a men’s addiction treatment and rehabilitation center in California. He has applied his passion to excellent clinical care for over two decades.

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

©2019 Our Young Addicts All Rights Reserved.

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3 Signs Your Child May be Struggling with Addiction

Adults aren’t the only ones who suffer from substance addiction; many children suffer as well. Are you a parent concerned about your child’s sudden change in behavior? Our guest blogger below offers insight on ways to communicate, help and signs to watch out for with your child.

Drug addiction is a serious problem in the United States. It’s not limited to adults; many children have a substance addiction. Sometimes, the signs that a child is struggling with substance abuse mimic the symptoms of mental disorders, such as depression or anxiety, or even the signs of puberty. It can be easy to overlook the symptoms, because it’s very difficult to admit that your child may have a problem. The best step you can take is to get professional help if you notice changes in your child’s behavior for which there isn’t another reason.

Watch for these signs:

  1. Problems in school, missing classes, a decline in academic performance or a loss of interest in school
  2. Trouble with the law
  3. Changes in relationships with friends and family, acting withdrawn or hostile

Your child may also have changes in grooming habits, eating and sleeping. When the patterns change for more than a week, you may need to look at the underlying causes. Grief can mimic the signs of substance abuse. You don’t want to rush to judgment, but you do need to take control of the situation.

3 Ways You Can Help

When someone is struggling with addiction, he or she may become deceitful and react negatively to any suggestions of help. You have to be assertive, but not confrontational. What can parents do?

  1.  Strengthen your relationship with your child. Ask open-ended questions about what’s going on in your child’s life. Open-ended questions cannot be answered with a yes or no answer. You want more communication with your child. Ask questions that let him or her express their concerns and struggles. Focus on what’s good and be understanding.
  2. Create and reinforce guidelines. Setting boundaries with a teenager is difficult when there is no addiction problem, but when you have the added pressure of substance abuse, you will have to be strong. Work with your child to create consistent rules that are enforceable. If a certain behavior occurs, then this will be the response. You may not be able to cover every contingency, but you can certainly establish rules and consequences for the most common issues. This lowers the emotionally-fueled reaction that isn’t productive.
  3. Encourage positive behaviors. You will need to help your child learn new healthy coping skills and build better relationships through the healing process. You have to be a cheerleader that encourages your child to change. You cannot solve each of the problems created by drug abuse, but you can focus on positive messages.

You can do it.
You can be successful.
You are important in my life.
What can I do to help?

Many substance abusing teens will be reluctant to enter treatment unless compelled by the court system or their family. An intervention is not always the best method to get a child struggling with substance abuse into a program. Instead, you should encourage your child to talk to a professional about the problem to address their concerns and to find the best solution. Take care of yourself as you care your child’s needs. You don’t need to deal with burnout, stress and depression when your child needs you at your best.

Author Byline

Daniel Gellman

Dan Gellman is the Director for High Focus Centers, a provider of outpatient substance abuse and psychiatric treatment programs in New Jersey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.
©2017 Our Young Addicts All Rights Reserved.

#TBT – Addiction … Truth for 24 Hours

Three years ago, Midwestern Mama contemplated what it would be like if her son could tell the truth for 24 hours. Here’s a column that ran in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. #TrustFeelsGood #OYACommunity

Real_Mom__What_if_we_had_the_truth__for_24_hours_

You know the saying … we’ve come a long way, baby. And thank goodness for that!

From Addiction to #OYACommunity

Sunday night reflection.  Our Young Addicts all started with a single word: Addiction. It has grown into a word that means many, together: #OYACommunity

In what seems like eons, but in reality spans 2009 – 2015, I’ve penned at least IMG_54751,000,000 words;  as of today, nearly 7,000 tweets;  well over 1,000 pages of draft copy, 100-plus blog posts. Additionally, for a few years, I wrote a bi-weekly newspaper column that ran in the St. Paul Pioneer Press and I continue to write for a feature article here and there for magazines.

How did it all start? It started with concerns about my teen-age son. Thing were happening so quickly that it was hard to keep track of everything, so I began taking notes in simple, black-and-white composition books. From there, I would type up the notes to maintain a chronology of professionals we consulted, of my son’s behavior, words and actions, and of the maze of solutions we pursued.  Later, the notebooks became my journal that I took to Ala-non meetings and to sessions with a therapist to work through feelings, concerns and hopes.

All together, these hand-written pages were the foundation for Our Young Addicts, a concept that is evolving from addiction to community, and I could not be prouder or more excited about the future.

Midwestern Mama

From Addiction to Recovery: The Shortest Distance Between Two Points Is …What?

Midwestern Mama updates us on her son’s recovery from opiate addiction and his return to college.

Even if you’re not an expert on Einstein and his many brilliant ideas, chances are you have heard that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. It makes sense. It sounds simple.

You might think that my math-whiz son who considers himself logical and prefers a fast pace to a slow one could embrace the idea and apply it to his life. But life is not a formula and by no means is addiction or recovery.

At best, these are a process, an equation to work at to which we apply knowledge, wisdom and experience – almost never in a straight line, but often as a series of zigs and zags, with plenty of scratch outs and eraser marks.

Subtract Addiction. Add Recovery.

Let’s start by subtracting addiction. That’s my favorite part of this. My son is six months sober. This is the longest period of sobriety he has ever known since starting with marijuana and progressing to heroin not to mention trying just about everything else including meth, ecstasy and more.

Now let’s add in recovery. My other favorite part of the equation. Since wrapping up a high-intensity outpatient program, he continues to take daily doses of Suboxone and to attend bi-weekly counseling appointments. He also sees a mental-health therapist and recently completed an extensive psychiatric evaluation.

He’s living at home and is re-establishing trust with the family. He paid off several tickets, so his driver’s license is no longer suspended, and we diligently found auto insurance (albeit, expensive) that would take him on our policy. He drives with care because he doesn’t want even a tiny mark on his record to jeopardize this privilege.

He is paying off debt that he racked up from some scams he got involved in while desperate for money a few years back. As much as he wants to be financially independent and have freedom to spend on things he wants, he’s putting hard-earned hourly wages and tips from a part-time job toward debt.

Last week, he started back to college, taking eight credits – the maximum allowed while he works his way off of academic probation from the last go around at school. He had to petition the school to let him come back by writing an essay and getting letters of support. He wrote an honest account of the past five or six years, explaining that he’d attended class high, if he attended at all and that now he’s completed treatment – once and for all, he says – and is committed to recovery.

Show Your Work

If there is one thing I do remember about math class: it’s not enough to come up with the answer, you have to show your work. He’s repeating a high-level, complex mathematics course this term – Linear Algebra and Differential Equations, to be exact.

Some of the problems are taking more than a page of writing to work through. He uses a scientific calculator to go out many, many decimals for the answers. (It’s beyond me, but it resonates for him.)

This reminds me of his recovery work. It’s not easy. It’s not neat. It takes time. It’s not making him immediately happy or confident. It’s a struggle. But it’s his choice and his commitment, and it’s what he feels he can do.  I wish he had chosen an easier class or even opted to repeat something from earlier in the math sequence, but he wanted to start back where he left off.

I can witness it. I can sympathize. I can worry, and I do sometimes, because I’m a mom. I can offer resources. But, I can’t help him and I absolutely can’t do it for him. No matter what, he’s the one who has to figure out the shortest (or longest!) distance between the two points in his life, and I have no doubt he will do it. Why? Because he is doing it. Problem by problem. Answer by answer. And it shows!

Midwestern Mama