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Is an Intervention Necessary for Your Teen?

If you are watching your child struggle with substance abuse, don’t fool yourself by believing that the problem will resolve on its own. Addiction has serious, life-threatening consequences. Now is the time to intervene.

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8 min read

What Is An Intervention?

A drug Intervention

An intervention means pulling out all the stops. Between the time you notice a problem and its resolution, you may attempt to confront your troubled teen in a number of ways. Once you’ve exhausted all other options — or they’ve developed a dependence on drugs or alcohol that consumes their lives — it’s likely time for an intervention.

It’s natural to avoid an intervention at all costs. The truth is that teens have access to alcohol and drugs, and the expectation is that it’s just a case of “kids being kids” and that they’ll overcome these habits with relative ease. You may drop hints that you’re concerned, you may punish them, or you may find other ways to nudge them towards kicking the habit. But if their habit has evolved into a full-blown addiction, each day it continues is endangering their life. These gentle suggestions may not do the trick. In the cases of some of the more serious drug habits — heroin, for instance — they must be resolved swiftly.

Drug Use Among Teens

Drug using teens

Around 10% of teens say it would be easy to obtain heroin, and nearly half of teens say they could easily obtain marijuana. Highly addictive prescription pills, such as oxycodone and Adderall, have been a rapidly-growing presence among teenagers — 8% of 12–17 year-olds use prescription drugs for non-medical reasons — and they’re the most heavily abused drugs among 12- and 13-year-olds. And though you may not want to believe it, these substances are in or around your child’s school, and your son or daughter is just as likely to experiment as anyone else is. Approximately 13% of 8th graders and 30% of 10th graders say they’ve used an illicit drug in the past year, and 28% of kids who start using any addictive substance before they turn 15 will develop an addiction at some point — 9 out of 10 adults with a substance use disorder began drinking or doing drugs before they turned 18.

Even if they know deep down they need help or are doing something wrong, their substance problem — if and when it starts — is likely calling the shots. An addiction to certain drugs can develop even after just a single use. If it comes to this point, a proper intervention can help you set the stage for confronting your teen’s addiction. In many ways, an intervention is the cold splash of water teens often need. If it’s successful, a young addict and family may decide it’s time to seek out treatment options for their addiction. In the case of unwilling teenagers, parents have the choice to force them into rehab.

What Might Happen If I Don’t Intervene?

Intervention may be necessary

It’s impossible to foresee where an addiction will lead. If your own child is involved, it’s not something you should leave to chance. Substance issues in adolescence typically pave the way for problems long into adulthood, away from the safety net of school and family supervision. And teens are not exempt from the major risks inherent with substance abuse.

Thousands of teens succumb to overdoses or serious alcohol-related accidents related to intoxication each year — in 2010, there were more than 900,000 drug-related ER visits among people 20 or younger. Thousands more wind up in handcuffs and in juvenile detention, or at the very least kicked out of school, when they become careless in their ways due to their addiction. In 2014, 3% of kids aged 10–17 were arrested — 4 out of 5 of adolescents in state juveniles justice systems tested positive for drugs or alcohol at the time of their arrest and/or test positive for substance abuse or addiction problems.

Of course, many young people see the light before it comes to this. Experimentation is practically expected of teenagers, and some consider a phase along these lines important to get it “out of their system.” By educating your children on the dangers of substance use, and staying active in their lives over the years, you provide them the tools to face these challenges on their own. With all that being said, it’s your responsibility as a parent to spot a legitimate problem if it arises, and take the necessary steps to address it. Left unaddressed, your teen’s run-ins with substances can spell serious trouble. If you determine that a full-on intervention is necessary, stop playing nice and set a plan in action.

What Does An Intervention Entail?

A drug intervention group

An intervention is designed to pull an addict out of their hypnosis. They need to see the harm in their continuing problem, and be reminded of the person they were before substances took over. Immersed in an addiction, a teen can lose sight of their self-worth and the future that’s at risk. This event can wake them up to the real world, and help them re-invest in a sober existence.

Interventions have been depicted in numerous movies and shows, and real-life incidents are documented on the A&E’s Intervention. You may have an idea what they entail: loved ones gather together with an addict and explain the impact of their addiction. This may involve pre-written letters that these friends and family will read aloud, detailing their personal experience in the matter. These events can be powerful and emotional — they can’t be done alone. If you decide an intervention is necessary, you’ll need to recruit the people closest to your teen. Having a supportive team of loved ones around can help make the meeting as effective and meaningful to the teenager as possible.

You should track down an intervention specialist to help organize and execute the proceedings. These trained counselors and therapists can be the glue that holds an unpredictable intervention together. They can also recommend the best recovery plan, and help direct your family to the necessary resources moving forward. If you enlist an intervention specialist, you can also have them sit in on the event and act as a mediator. Leave no stone unturned — a specialist can make all the difference in pulling off a successful intervention and beginning the healing process.

Can An Intervention Make Things Worse?

A drug intervention

It’s possible. Substance addiction can create a volatile mental condition in your teen. The hope is that such an outpouring of love will open their eyes. Be aware that it may backfire, and be prepared for what to do if it does. Have your phone handy and people to call if your teen reacts violently to their intervention.

If nothing changes after an attempted intervention, or your teen’s behavior worsens, it may require some additional action on your part: take away privileges, tighten their curfews, and increase your monitoring of their activities until your teen decides to get better. Not every intervention goes as smoothly as planned, but though it may ruffle their feathers, you mustn’t lose sight of what’s at stake. Take a deep breath and stay focused. Also remember that as long as they’re under your roof, you have the option for mandatory treatment. If you and your family determine your teen won’t make the decision for themselves, forcing them into rehab might be the only way to face their addiction head-on.

What Happens After Intervention?

A drug therapy group

If it comes down to an intervention, your teen’s substance problem is likely in need of treatment from a professional. Once you make them realize this, the next step is the treatment itself. Even if an addicted teen says they can get better on their own, it’s not worth the risk to find out. Reach out to local rehab clinics, substance abuse counselors and support groups, and work with your son or daughter to lay out the best path to recovery. Rehab success rates and lengths of treatment vary from patient to patient. Studies show that success rates are better among teens who commit to rehab for 3 months or longer. The more intensive their treatment and aftercare is, the less risk of a relapse into their destructive substance use.

Treating Co-Occurring Disorders

While substance-related issues may hog the spotlight, there may be underlying mental health conditions that need addressing. It’s important to consider the possibility of a dual diagnosis — a mental health disorder (e.g. anxiety, depression, ADHD, bipolar disorder) that overlaps with your teen’s substance use disorder. More than half of drug abusers in the U.S., including adolescents, report experiencing a mental illness. These illnesses can both result from or be a partial cause of teen substance problems, and if your son or daughter is struggling with co-occurring disorders, they demand special attention and a great deal of understanding. They may require an integrated treatment that addresses both problems at once, something that may be available depending on the rehab facility you choose.

Does My Child Need an Intervention?

If you’ve tried to talk to your child about their addiction, but the behavior hasn’t stopped, it is time to take steps toward rehab, beginning with an intervention. We know it’s not easy to come to grips with this fact, but the sooner you do, the easier it will be for your child to recover.

We at TeenRehabCenter.org can help you organize an effective intervention for your child, and it doesn’t cost a thing — just get in touch. Also, if you’ve tried an intervention in the past and it has not changed anything, we can still help you — we’re able to meet you wherever you are in your family’s journey. Your teenager’s health cannot wait — call TeenRehabCenter.org today for free, confidential guidance towards recovery.

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