Addictive behaviour in adolescence

Adolescents are extremely unlikely to admit that they have an addiction problem. If they do admit it to themselves, they seldom ask for help. So how can parents or siblings identify addictive behaviour rather than a teenager simply ‘acting out?’

  1. The first place to look is in their behaviour towards other family members. Has the adolescent become very secretive, very aggressive or very reclusive? Is money going missing? Have you lost some prescription medication you were sure you had?
  2. Then you will probably notice physical signs. Teens may seem excessively happy or excessively sad, very alert or very subdued with no obvious cause. You may be able to smell alcohol or pot from their breath, hair or clothes.
  3. Socially, you may find them hanging out with much older friends, disconnecting from existing peer groups, avoiding school work and sports, and getting involved with the criminal justice system, perhaps at a low level.
  4. If, as a parent or sibling, you are able to get your love one to seek help at this stage, you are fortunate. It may be that your teenager is only experimenting … but you should try to support them to stop because of what is likely to follow.

You may find this checklist helpful.

There is always hope

At AARC, clients come to us after their situation is beyond control. Our clients are typically mixing different drugs and alcohol, and for most, every day. They are frequently involved in illegal activity, often petty theft, sometimes prostitution, occasionally violent crime. Some clients are suicidal, or receiving psychiatric treatment, what we call comorbidity. Many clients have left home and are struggling in school, or no longer attending. Their former relationships are often damaged beyond repair.

By the time many families contact AARC, they have often exhausted many other treatment options. They find themselves in exceptional circumstances, in need of exceptional help. AARC tries to help everyone who comes to us because we understand how devastating adolescent addiction can be; we see the damage every day. And every day we find renewed hope in the community of peer counsellors, parents, alumni and clinical staff who have seen the success of our program.