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Drugs and alcohol: Top tips every parent of a teen should know
Dawn Brazell | News Center | May 13, 2013
|Dr. Viktoriya Magid who works with teens at MUSC's Center for Drug and Alcohol Programs wants parents to be proactive in dealing with troubling new drug and alcohol trends.|
Parents often mean well, but do the wrong thing when it comes to teenage abuse of alcohol and drugs.
Viktoriya Magid, Ph.D., assistant professor in MUSC’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, works with the Center for Drug and Alcohol Programs’ Adolescent Substance Use Skills Education Training groups known as ASSET in the Institute of Psychiatry. Derick Hammond, 17, who is recovering from addiction issues that started when he was 13, hopes to volunteer with the program to help other teens. (See his story here.)
Magid said his mother, Amy Bailey, did everything right. “Amy is a wonderful example of how to handle having a child with addiction problems. She’s not enabling her son. She’s doing everything possible to put him into treatment.”
What she often sees, though, are parents who err on one extreme or the other. They either protect their children too much, even to the point of saving them from the law, or they threaten to withdraw all support from them, making them even more vulnerable to addiction problems. Most parents also tend to deny their child has a problem until the problems have advanced.
“Parents want to believe so desperately that there’s not a problem that they overlook the signs. And the signs can be difficult to pinpoint,” she said. They also don’t start looking early enough, assuming drug and alcohol experimentation happens in the late teen years. “Eighty percent of people start using around 13 or 14.”
MUSC offers two levels of ASSET. There is a four-week prevention track program for teenagers age 13 – 17 struggling with substance abuse, and an eight-week treatment track, which is more intensive for adolescents with addiction issues. The prevention program’s goal is to equip teens with the coping skills needed to stop using drugs and alcohol before before the substances can cause the physiological changes in the brain that make addiction so hard to break for many people.
Magid said signs to watch for with teenage use of alcohol and drugs include:
Often parents aren’t aware of the new trends in teen drug use. Here are four that she’d like parents to have on their radar.
If parents suspect their teen may be using, then they can bring them in for an assessment. It also allows therapists to see if there are underlying issues. “Kids don’t get high to get high always. Sometimes they’re trying to alleviate social anxiety or depression.”
Talking to teens about substance abuse can be a difficult conversation to have. It’s critical parents educate them about the trends and dangers and if teens already are using, give them the tools to stop. Education is crucial given the amount of misinformation and drug marketing materials online. ““Don’t assume they aren’t doing it. Assume they are. They are teenagers,” she said. “They pretend they don’t hear you, but parents play a bigger role than they think.”
Magid always encourages parents to err on the conservative side. “I give credit to parents who are proactive. The sooner we can intervene, the better. Addiction results in physiological brain changes. It’s hard to go back to the pre-addicted brain.”
For more information about ASSET, visit http://www.muschealth.com/psychiatry/services/child/ASSET.htm or call 843-792-5200. For infographics to use as a discussion starter with your teenager, visit the National Institute on Drug Abuse's inforgraphic site. It features the Montoring the Future 2012 Survey Results.