There was a time when parents had few resources to help them address a child’s substance abuse problems. Previous generations often dealt with these concerns in secret, fearful of the public scorn that could arise were others to learn about their “family secret.” Thankfully, things are different now, as teen drug abuse and addiction are better understood by a society that once tried to downplay their existence. Today, there are treatment centers, support groups, and hotlines people can call to get the help they need. But how do you know when to call the drug abuse hotline for your teen? These tips can help you recognize when that call needs to be made.
What is a Drug Abuse Hotline?
It’s important to understand the nature of these hotlines, and why they exist. A drug abuse hotline is a designated phone number that you can call when you need help dealing with your teen’s addiction. As much as parents want to shelter and protect their children, there are times when outside forces overwhelm our efforts to shield them from life’s ugly side. Substance abuse is one of those issues that sometimes seems to appear out of nowhere – and many parents simply don’t know how to deal with the problem.
A hotline offers quick and easy access to rehab counselors who can help to guide you toward the help you need. These counselors are trained and knowledgeable about substance abuse issues. More than that, however, they are trained to field calls from families like yours, and help you find answers to your questions about substance abuse, addiction, and recovery options. Many of these hotlines also provide extended services for those who need additional assistance in understanding the right approach to deal with these drug problems.
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Recognizing the Need for Assistance
Of course, before you’re likely to make that call to the drug abuse hotline, you’ll need to recognize that you need help dealing with your teen’s problem. That requires you to recognize that there is a problem. According to the NIH National Institute on Drug Abuse website, there are a number of clear signs that could indicate that your child has a substance abuse problem that needs to be addressed. They include:
• Withdrawal from normal social interaction. While many teens take on certain “antisocial” traits during their teen years, most do not go to extremes to isolate themselves from friends and family.
• Unexplained depression or loss of energy. Yes, many teens seem sluggish at times – and there are few parents who haven’t at one time or another thought that their teen was the laziest person on the planet. If that loss of energy or listlessness seems outside of normal parameters, however, it could be a sign of drug abuse.
• Inattention to appearance. While many teens act as though they’re perfectly content to live in rooms that look like pig pens, most do begin to pay more attention to their own personal grooming. If your well-groomed daughter suddenly seems to have lost interest in caring for her appearance, that could be a sign of substance abuse.
• Missed classes or other forms of truancy. Kids who do drugs also seem to look for places and times to do them. If your school calls to let you know that Johnny hasn’t been showing up, drugs could be the reason.
• Altered sleep or eating habits. Again, changes in dining and sleeping patters are normal to a certain extent. If you notice something truly out of the norm, however, it’s a good idea to find out whether drugs or alcohol are behind the changes.
• Secretive behavior. Teens may be more introverted than they were when they were young, but teenagers who engage in excessively secretive behavior probably have something to hide. As a parent, it is expected that you know what your child is doing throughout the day and who he or she is with. If your child is sneaking out, failing to report in as instructed, refusing to make eye contact, or otherwise failing to be accountable, chances are that there’s a problem beyond normal teenage rebellion.
• Physical changes. You know most of these: bloodshot eyes, strange smells in your child’s room or on her clothes, lip-licking, physical shaking, and other symptoms of drug use. Be alert to any strange changes in your child’s appearance, as any of them could be a sign that he or she is actively using illicit drugs.
Could Those Changes be Normal Signs of a Child Growing Up?
Naturally, many children experience many of these changes as they grow and mature. That can make it difficult for parents to know when they’re witnessing ordinary teen behavior and when they’re seeing evidence of drug abuse. As a parent, it’s up to you to make that determination. Unfortunately, many parents are reluctant to do anything that might indicate that they don’t trust their children. That can be a fatal mistake.
The best course of action when you suspect that your child is using drugs is to simply ask the teen. You should avoid an accusatory tone, and instead ask easier-to-answer questions like, “have you ever tried alcohol?” You can ask similar questions to see their response when asked about their use of various substances. Before you begin, however, make sure that you’re committed to having an open and frank dialogue about the issue. That can help to avoid any chance of the conversation devolving into a flurry of angry retorts and accusations.
If you don’t believe your child’s answers to those simple questions, you have another option. Schedule a drug screening with the child’s doctor. That can provide you with peace of mind or confirm that your child needs help via substance abuse treatment.
Don’t Hesitate to Call for Help
If you’ve determined that your child is abusing drugs or alcohol, or strongly suspect that to be the case, calling a drug abuse hotline can be a great way to get assistance for that teen. The counselor on the other end of the line can provide additional insight into ways that you can confirm the drug use, or offer guidance to help you get the treatment your teen needs when you’re already sure that drugs are a problem.
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Remember, teen addiction is rarely a problem that they can manage on their own. Without adult assistance, teens who are abusing drugs and alcohol may be creating lifestyle patterns that will negatively affect their lives for decades to come. Fortunately, you can get the help you need to protect your teen’s life and future by calling a drug abuse hotline.