Essay on Drug and Alcohol Abuse Mitigation Measures Among Teenagers

Published: 2021/11/09
Number of words: 1971

First of all, teenagers start to experiment with drugs to cater to the natural curiosity associated with that stage of life and usually to inject some fun into their lives. Eventually, they graduate and start abusing drugs to dissipate their bad feelings. Drugs and alcohol usage more often than not contribute in halting dopamine production in the brain. The dopamine is the happiness chemical in a human’s brain that makes one feel good. So, when a teenager uses drugs or alcohol, the dopamine levels become drastically altered. In many cases, the only way teenagers can get dopamine to be produced in the brain is through drug and alcohol use. Many teenage addicts would say things like, “I cannot imagine having fun without drugs.” This statement is true since the natural pleasures in their lives are sometimes no longer enjoyable, and when that happens, it moves to the next phase. The next phase is that adolescents use drugs simply to feel normal. This is all about brain chemistry; the teenager needs the drugs just to return to levels of normalcy. This is how drug addiction occurs neurologically (Hawkins et al., 2004).

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Observable signs and symptoms characterize substance abuse. It should be noted that the signs and symptoms may be indicative of a problem if they represent a significant change in the adolescent’s behavior. Signs are not conclusive evidence that a substance abuse problem is present. However, collectively, they indicate that further assessment is warranted. Behavioral characteristics associated with substance abuse, applying both at home and in school, include:

  • Preoccupation with alcohol and drugs.
  • Mood changes.
  • Loss of ambition.
  • Deteriorating physical health and appearance.
  • No longer obeying curfews or other house rules.
  • Parents become unfamiliar with their son’s or daughter’s friends.
  • Increased isolation and withdrawal from family and family activities.
  • Change in values that the teenager once believed in.
  • Abrupt changes in school attendance, grades, and discipline.
  • Unusual flare-ups or outbreaks of temper.
  • Shirking responsibility.
  • General changes in attitude.
  • Association with known substance-abuse users.
  • Change in friends and/or hangouts.
  • Stealing of money or objects from friends, relatives or parents.
  • Secretive and defensive behavior.
  • Loss of interest in goals, activities or hobbies.
  • Long periods spent in room or bathroom.
  • Sudden unexplained amounts of money.

With regard to the emotional characteristics of a substance abuser, the following should be noted and which serve as stumbling blocks to dealing with drug and alcohol abuse. Beneath the outward hostile and defensive appearance, is an overwhelming myriad of feelings and frustrations, such as hopelessness, confusion, conflict, guilt, loss of self-esteem, fear, anger, denial, inability to accept the reality of drug use, exaggerated concerns about psycho-social development and dishonesty with parents, teachers, and peers. Typically, teenagers who use drugs and alcohol possess certain traits that can assist them and their kin. Adolescents who highly depend on drugs are ill, and their families more often than not bear the brunt of this illness. Parents cannot control anybody but themselves. The management of homes is the premise of parents and they have a responsibility and a right to do it the way they deem fit. In order to survive, they must set limits in their home. Dwelling on guilt or past failures only serves to take away energy for current positive attitudes and actions. Parents do not choose to have their teenagers use drugs. Protection of teenagers who habitually find themselves in trouble owing to their making is ineffective. Teenagers who abuse drugs typically want to quit drugs only when using springs up frequent harm to them. The behavior of parents of protecting and rescuing teenagers who routinely abuse drugs creates over-reliant, negligent, and indignant adolescents. Drug-related behavior requires parents to exercise and to be skilled and strong-willed. Scolding and reasoning with an abuser of drugs are methods that hardly work. Words have little power over drugs. Excuses and promises of a teenager who abuses drugs only serve to increase denial and abuse. The key is to watch their actions and not their words. Love always demands a toughness that is not delivered by caregivers (Parker & Benson, 2004).

Here is what parents need to do. If their teenager is addicted to drugs or alcohol, things obviously must change. Parents need to change their natural parenting role with the adolescent who is addicted. The parents should no longer see themselves as caregivers, but instead, they need to see themselves as landlords. What is meant by this principle is that when a parent has instincts to care for their teenager, e.g., wash their clothes and wash their room, etc., a teenager who is potentially a drug addict will actually take advantage of this parental instinct and use this “weakness” to get what they want, i.e., to get more money, to get bailed out of trouble, etc. In this shifting role, the parent sees himself as a landlord and not as a caregiver, and this prevents the parent from enabling the teenager to continue their addiction. The landlord approach keeps things more manageable. This is going to include clear written boundaries with non-emotional consequences that are executed matter-of-factly. For instance, taking the scenario of a landlord who has a tenant who has broken an agreement, the landlord simply executes a plan of action to demand change. Here is what a parent should do; they should simply drop a contract as a landlord would. It is essential that a contract is written up in advance, non-emotionally, when things are not spiraling out of control. This should be done when there is a calm, downtime with the parent and the teenager (Terry-McElrath & Patrick, 2018).

Most importantly, parents should know that nothing will work unless there are clear consequences. Parents need to have consequences that are fair, clear, that are pre-determined and that are delivered with compassion. This might seem heartless for a parent to see himself/herself as a landlord instead of a caregiver or as a parent, but it is not. This is tough, it is fair, and most crucially, effective in keeping parents away from enabling. What this does is that it positions parents to truly help teenagers understand the consequences of drug or alcohol use while they are getting the help they desperately need to get “clean” and sober. This is the bottom line of what parents are doing. After all, that is the parent’s ultimate goal i.e., a clean and sober teenager equipped with healthy decision-making skills so that they can make the right decisions for themselves. This is drastically important and critical.

The following focuses on prevention and further action for home and school. Firstly, to prevent substance abuse, parents should ensure the following:

  • Early communication of feelings.
  • Encourage feelings to be shared among children in addition to being open.
  • A parent should ensure their teenagers understand responsibility at an early stage in life.
  • Acknowledge the good things that the teenagers accomplish instead of criticizing the bad but saying nothing about the good can damage their self-image.
  • Research about the present drug situation i.e., drugs constantly abused, drug effects, etc.
  • Reading of literature and attending workshops that involve drug and substance abuse.
  • Have an open dialogue with teenagers on drug while providing candid information, and invite them to share their feelings.
  • Let the teenagers understand that there is no compromise and negotiations in the usage of drugs.
  • Household rules regarding drugs should be formulated.
  • Speak with other parents about teenage substance abuse
  • Try to especially get together with the parents of your adolescent’s friends.
  • Examine your own alcohol and/or drugs and any patterns
  • A parent should ask himself what kind of a role model he is to his teenage children.
  • A parent should be careful to detect signs of early exposure to drug abuse.
  • Give the children a margin for spending money and engaging in partying.

If you suspect drug usage and/or know it exists:

  • Do not panic
  • Confront your child in a firm but caring manner, perhaps in a family meeting
  • Share with other family members behaviors that hurt you.
  • If your child is into early usage, this kind of confrontation may turn the tide.
  • If irresponsible behavior and additional signs of usage persist, ground him or her and cut off visits from friends.
  • Monitor phone calls
  • Search his or her room; snooping is fair here to be certain that nothing is stashed away. This will not make a hit with your children, but it shows them they will pay consequences for irresponsibility
  • Try to involve yourself in life-giving creative ways with your children during the grounding period
  • Parents should allow their teenagers to suffer the consequences of his/her drug behavior
  • Parents should not enable by softening the harsh consequences
  • Parents should also find out if their teenager’s school or the community offers support groups or AA meetings where teenagers talk about their usage and stay drug-free once treated
  • Encourage attendance of the above forums
  • Never giving up on these addicted teenagers
  • If the teenagers move back to old patterns of drug use, he/she may be unable to break out of his usage without help.
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In conclusion, sometimes, parents enable and love their teenagers in situations, and what they do not do is hand the problem back to the adolescent. For parents, your teenagers are making the decision to use drugs. The adolescent has that problem, but the parent takes it upon himself, and he is the one having the problem instead of the teenager. Through the parent-teenager contract that the parent is going to use and implement, this helps the parent hand the problem back to the teenager so that they feel the weight of the decisions that they are making. In this case, they would be naturally motivated to change. This is their responsibility, and you can help them with this, but ultimately this is their life, and therefore, their responsibility. Tough love dictates that parents should detach themselves from shouldering the responsibility of a teenage drug user. However, in practice, it is a toll order and ordinarily involves specialized help and peer groups. Caregivers are required to come up with clear home rules on appropriate conduct. Succumbing to irrational needs of a drug abuser only makes them develop bad mannerisms and develop additional unreasonable wants. Treatment can be availed by parents to their adolescents, but they cannot force the benefits of the program onto them. It is easy to get disillusioned in this process. The illness occasioned by drug use is time-consuming and may take years of treatment to get better. A one-day-at-a-time principle is needed to recover from years of drug use owing to the fact that recovery is seldom instantaneous.


Hawkins, E. H., Cummins, L. H., and Marlatt, G. A. (2004). Preventing substance abuse in American Indian and Alaska native youth: promising strategies for healthier communities. Psychological bulletin130(2), 304.

Parker, J. S., and Benson, M. J. (2004). Parent-adolescent relations and adolescent functioning: self-esteem, substance abuse, and delinquency. Adolescence39(155).

Terry-McElrath, Y. M., and Patrick, M. E. (2018). US adolescent alcohol use by race/ethnicity: Consumption and perceived need to reduce/stop use. Journal of ethnicity in substance abuse.

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