Published: 10/24/2014 - Updated: 01/06/2018
Author: MSc. Miriam Reyes
Drug addiction is perhaps one of the most complex problems to face, especially when this involves our loved ones of anyone who has some sort of connection to us.
Helping drug-addicted youth could seem to be a difficult task, but it is not impossible. What is needed is basically a lot of patience and determination, and understanding that every human being functions in a very uniquely personal way. You will also need to learn to be creative and intelligently persuasive, keeping in mind the best way to help who it is you want to help.
The primary mission to keep in mind when you try to help a youth that is addicted to drugs, is that you will have to teach them to help themselves, above all else.
Before helping a drug addict, you must consider the following:
- Keep in mind the grade of addiction. In severe cases, professional help is necessary.
- You must avoid succumbing to feelings of guilt or self-compassion. You also should not devalue the addicted individual or see them as a “victim” or “poor guy/girl” as this attitude just aggravates the situation. You need to help them undertake this task in an objective manner, clearly evaluating the problem and considering alternatives like those suggested later on in this article.
Syptoms of a youth drug addiction or beginnings:
- Bad breath or bad odor on the clothes.
- Pipes or rolling papers in their room.
- Their personality could become suddenly angry, rebellious or violent.
- They don’t want to talk or listen.
- Lack of motivation for doing certain activities, or sudden poor scholarly performance.
- Radical changes in increase or loss of appetite.
- Problems in school with aggressive behavior.
All of these symptoms are warnings that you need to take action in the situation. You shouldn’t feel responsible for handling the entire situation. But the sooner you act, the better. We should also point out that a child could be rebellious or have a bad attitude, or have any of the aforementioned symptoms, and it could be that they are not taking drugs. It is always best to be aware, however, and not let the possible warning sign go unnoticed.
Drug addiction in youth
Prevention: prevention is always the best and most advisable. It is absolutely indispensable that you keep the youth well informed. Talk to him/her from age 8 onward about the consequences of drugs, and give them the necessary information, like not accepting sweets or foods from strangers, for example, especially outside of school.
So. When a youth is addicted to drugs and is still under parent or tutor custody, if the addiction has just begun, there are a lot of ways to help him/her:
When you just suspect they are taking drugs
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If you just suspect that they are addicted (when the youth still hasn’t recognized it openly), you must take action as soon as possible, and speak to them openly about the consequences they are exposing themselves to. Give them details about everything that could happen to them if they continue. It is quite possible that the youth will feel offended or rebellious, or won’t want to talk about it. In this case, you need to approach the subject in a friendly tone. Avoid reproaching them, the judgement of “you’re bad”, or threatening or punishing them so they stop. That will only drive the youth to accent their rebellion or addiction even more.
How do I talk to a drug-addicted youth?
You must be firm and clear, but never imposing. Do not talk to them in a desperate or angry tone. For this to happen, the parent or guardian has cooled off first, and understands that the most important thing is that the youth looks at the situation and realizes for him/herself what he/she is doing, through guided self-reflection. Imposing them, reproaching them, or talking to them in a threatening tone will only increase their rejection to listening, and they will rebel.
To begin a constructive dialogue, you need to find the right moment, when the youth is at home or watching TV. Don’t tell them you need to talk to them, as this makes several youth angry beforehand because they know that you might reproach them, or, if you don’t openly know about the addiction, they could feel threatened by being found out and reprimanded, and the dialogue will be closed.
The best thing to do, for example, is to start the topic when you’re finishing eating or when a TV show is over, etc. Then, start by asking in a friendly way what the youth thinks about drugs, and if they know what consequences they cause. If the youth refuses to talk, or resists, talk to them with a patient and sensitive tone, about precisely these consequences. Explain to them with great detail what drugs do, and express your concern for him/her. Avoid feeling sorry for them or for yourself. Be more of a worried friend than a desperate parent that doesn’t know what to do.
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Also, avoid saying “that’s bad to do”, as this only caused a tremendous amount of anxiety in a lot of youth, by feeling that there’s something bad in them. All you should do is express the causes and effects, and how to reflect with clear and direct questions to confront, like: “What do you think will happen to your body if you take drugs?”, “Would you like to be blind?”, “How do you think your body feels when you take drugs?”, “Do you need my help?”.
It’s good to mention that they are responsible for their life, and it is they that will suffer the consequences, and not you. Tell them that you appreciate them, and consider them to be valuable (this is very important). But if they decide to make certain decisions in their life, it will cause certain results. Make them see than you can take care of them to a certain point, but you can’t be with them 24 hours a day, so they will have to learn to take care of themselves, and to weigh the decisions they make.
Keep in mind that:
One of the causes of addictions is that youth don’t feel valued or purpose in their life, which could be due to an excessive amount of authoritarianism at home, or a very permissive (indulgent) education where the youth is allowed to do anything, and is easily forgiven everything. They must learn at home to have limits, and to be consistent with them in regards to the consequences of their actions. If they do something, they need to fix it or solve it. Don’t fix everything for them, let them learn to weigh their actions. Don’t be imposing. It’s better to communicate with them and help them think.
How to raise healthy, intelligent, and creative youth
In addition to the last part, your house must have healthy habits, which will help the youth develop their own character. Eat at a certain time and get together with the youth even if just during meals. A lot of addiction problems in your arise because they have abandoned their education, children are left along, or they spend most of their time sleeping at friends’s houses, or on the internet or playing video games. They neglect their relationship to home.
The speed with which we live today requires adults to be near youth, so as to guide them. Yet, a lot of times, parents are so involved in their own activities that they aren’t available to listen to their child, or they’re just too busy for them to feel a good opportunity to say how they feel.
If an adolescent is an addict, you must keep them on a diet rich in fruit and vegetables while supporting them as previously mentioned. You also should promote fresh water consumption so their bodies can remove more quickly the effects of drugs.
If you feel the problem is out of our hands, do not hesitate to search for professional help.
Revised by: Dra. Loredana Lunadei on 01/06/2018
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