How to Survive Teen Addiction (Alcohol and Drugs)
[Episode 34 of the Intentional Clinician Podcast]
Paul Krauss, MA LPC interviews author Andrew Tennison, a mental health professional and author. Andrew talks about addiction and how to prevent this disease in adolescents. Andrew’s own son faced addiction, so he understands how lost and guilty parents can feel when helping their addicted teens.
Andrew and his wife thought they were raising their son well–he went to a good school and had loving parents, but he still battled addiction. Andrew stresses that parents cannot blame themselves for this, because even if a child has the best upbringing with involved parents, they can still become an addict. One reason for this is backed by recent neuroscience research: the adolescent brain is particularly susceptible to addiction.
Signs of addiction can look like ADHD, depression, social isolation, or family dysfunction, so it is important to determine what is actually going on. Andrew took his son to a counselor who specialized in ADHD, but the underlying problem turned out to be chronic marijuana use. This is why it is important for families to be involved in counseling together. Andrew also stresses the importance of boundaries, because even though they may be hard to enforce, they can save lives.
Giving teens some choices in their addiction treatment have better rates of success. Addiction programs used to use scare tactics, but these are not effective. Part of effective treatment is helping teens fill the void that drugs have been filling. Discovering their interests can be a turning point in treatment. As teens are gaining independence and setting career goals, adults should be there to support them. Instead of a past that they want to recover, teens have a future which they want to make for themselves. Mental health providers and parents can help shape teens’ goals while giving them autonomy.
Andrew ends the podcast with this message: give teens hope that they can recover and that you are recovering along with them. For more information, read Andrew Tennison’s book, Killing the Bear.
On Killing the Bear: “Over the past fifty years, the face of addiction has changed in America–it has become much younger. It is estimated that 90% of serious problems with alcohol and drugs in our country begin between the ages of 12 and 20. Unfortunately, our efforts toward the prevention and treatment of alcohol and drug use by youth have not kept pace with this new reality. For parents who have found themselves dealing day to day with a teen caught in the grips of addiction, the gap between this new reality and the inadequate remedies is often overwhelming. Despite a successful career in the field of mental health, Andrew Tennison was one such parent. While he knew how to help children and teens who had suffered from abuse and neglect, he knew nothing about how to help his own son, Ian, as he slipped into the nether world of aggressive alcohol and drug use. Killing The Bear is his story about what it was like to be a parent of a teen struggling with addiction and what he did about it. Written for parents who are traveling a similar path or those who want to help such families, Killing The Bear provides both a personal account of living with teen addiction and practical ways of surviving it.”