Adolescent chemical dependency – 3 Biblical ways to help your child

What can you do as a parent to address adolescent chemical dependency? Three ideas for parents of teens with drug problems here.

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So you think that your adolescent or teen might be addicted to something. Below are some guidelines for identifying the progress and severity of drug use among young people. And then, three simple Biblical principles for dealing with it.

At least know the signs of chemical dependency

In TV ads, parents are encouraged to make sure they talk to their children about the dangers of engaging in the use of drugs or alcohol. They are told to know where your child is. Most parents simply assume that their children would never use drugs or alcohol, or they just don’t know how to bring up the conversation. Even if you don’t talk to your children about the dangers, it is important to know the signs to watch for in case they are using drugs or alcohol.

Drugs and alcohol use are teenage social activities

When teens and preteens begin using drugs or alcohol, they will most often start in a social setting, although some ill adjusted children may use alone. At first, they will experiment and not use often. One tempting thrill is the idea of not getting caught. For many children there is a huge attraction (almost high) to the concept of getting away with something.

Initially, they will most likely be using drugs or drinking to fit in with their friends. They do not use drugs for the high or to have fun at this point. It is more of a social activity. They will use just enough to please their friends, but are still a bit cautious. They do not get drunk or overly high for fear of getting caught. But what are the early signs of more serious drug problems? And when or how can you intervene?

Early signs of teenage drug problems

The signs will begin to become more obvious to parents as time passes and as the child progresses in use. Likely, they will begin hanging out with a new group of friends. Behavior signs continue to reveal problems in school and often they exhibit signs of rebellion.

Getting in trouble with the law is a warning that shouldn’t be ignored. Interests begin to change as well. Giving up on the things that the child once loved, in favor of getting high or drunk with their friends is a sign that trouble is brewing.

Progressing signs of adolescent trouble with drugs

Fast forward 6 months to 2 years, when problems become obvious and routine, is when parents will have the most difficult time in helping their child overcome drinking or drug use. At this stage, teens lose interest in just about everything, from their friends to the activities they once enjoyed in school.

Some children are suspended or expelled from school. Attitudes of not caring about anything in their life become the new norm, and eventually they change the way they view right and wrong. They will do or say whatever it takes to rationalize their behavior and to steer their parents away from the possibility of chemical abuse.

Drug and Alcohol use increases to more of a daily occurrence is when children begin to exhibit problems sleeping and eating. Physical changes also show up at this point. This is the stage where many children will begin to steal money from their parents or even items from stores to try to pay for their addictives habits.

Adolescent signs of alcohol and drug use

Below is not an exhaustive list, but one that summarizes the progressive growth and signs of alcohol and drug use.

• Always tired in the morning

• Apathy with school and life

• Change friends or add new ones

• Change in interests – no longer participates in school activities

• Curiosity with alcohol or drugs (Asking questions – Internet searches)

• Denies problems – alienates from family

• Family turmoil – perceived as grouchy and defensive

• Legal problems – get caught with friends drugging or stealing

• Limited use – to fit in with peers

• Loss of appetite – weight loss

• Loss of friends – lame reasons given for friends moving on

• Loss of sleep – staying up doing drugs

• Money and items disappear from family members

• Mood changes – anger problems arise

• Parents suspect something

• Problems with School, friends, etc.

• Rationalizes behavior

• Social setting – excitement of getting away with something

Adressing adolescent drug or alcohol dependency

So what do you do as a parent to address your child’s dependency? Here are three simple Biblical principles to follow:

1. Take responsibility to guide, teach and discipline your adolescent.

Decide you child and their safety is their number priority, by doing whatever it takes to successfully intervene. Their future and their life may depend on it. As a parent, you have to stand up and guide, teach, and respond in healthy – loving ways. The Bible tells us that we have been given charge over our children. It is our responsibility to guide them in the way they should go (Ephesians 6:4 Do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord).

2. Be gentle and kind with teens who have drug problems.

Get more involved in the teens life. Don’t judge them as worthless, understand them as someone who needs their behavior redirected. It is never too late to care and nurture your children. Plan family outings that focus on the child. Try endlessly; don’t give up on them. (Galatians 6:1. Approach your child with a spirit of gentleness to help restore those caught in transgressions).

3. Arrange an intervention

Depending on the severity of the problems, their place in denial, and the level of broken relationships with family, it may be time to arrange an intervention. If it is time to get help, go to a professional who handles interventions. Research the topic, talk to experts in the field, and follow through with the thought that you are doing what is best for your child, whether they recognize it or not (Matthew 18:15-17. Confronting those who are doing wrong).

About the author
Dr. Jackson received his Doctorate in Christian Counseling from Omega Bible Institute and Seminary in 2009. He developed the Christian recovery treatment programs for Calvary Rehab Center and the Genesis Center for Recovery. He has trained and practiced Christian Counseling in all areas of drug/alcohol/gambling/sex and relationship addictions. He currently has his own web based online program called 12 Day Rehab Systems, designed for those who can work on recovery while maintaining career and family obligations. Dr. Jackson has been clean and sober since 1984. Learn more about Recovery with Dr. Steve.
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