• Understanding Addiction In Teenagers: Risk, Prevention, and Treatment | Richard Capriola | Episode 165

  • Addiction in teensWe hear a lot about drinking and drug usage in teens and twenty somethings but is it something to worry about with your child? And what if I KNOW my child has a problem? What do I do then? Richard Capriola joins Mighty Parenting podcast host Sandy Fowler to discuss drinking, drugs, substance abuse and addiction in teenagers. He helps us understand how to support our kids and prevent substance misuse, shows us what behaviors we need to be concerned about and what to do if that time comes. 


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    A Favorite Quote from the Show: 

    Teenagers believe marijuana will help them with their anxiety. They don’t realize there is a rebound effect. It will actually make their anxiety worse in the long run. 

    High Points From Our Conversation on Understanding Addiction In Teenagers:

    Teens believe marijuana helps their anxiety and this can lead to an addicted teen.Why don’t our kids just stop using drugs or alcohol? For some it’s the attraction of getting high and for others it’s about peer pressure and fitting in. But many kids misuse drugs and alcohol due to underlying emotional pain.

    Richard asked teens why they use marijuana and the number 1 answer was that it helps their anxiety.

    In surveys, most adolescents don’t think marijuana is harmful.

    It’s striking how easy it is for kids to get marijuana if they want it.

    Marijuana is harmful to adolescents’ brains because they are still developing. It can harm the brain and they are more likely to become dependent on the marijuana.

    The teenagers who Richard worked with were tested. Tests showed IQ scores were very high but the precessing speed of their brain was just average. Also their short-term memory was impaired and their motivation was curtailed. 

    Medical marijuana does not get people high. Recreational marijuana contains THC which creates a high.

    Teenagers believe marijuana will help them with their anxiety. They don’t realize there is a rebound effect. It will actually make their anxiety worse in the long run.

    When a teenager is having an intolerable feeling, thought, or emotion, they just want relief. They use marijuana to relieve that thought and, before you know it, they are smoking 4 or 5 times a day.

    If you are concerned about marijuana use or addiction in your teenager, look for changes in them. Be aware of differences such as academic success declining, a lack of enthusiasm for a beloved sport, dishevelment in a teen who used to take care of their appearance.

    Addiction in teenagers causes changes in their attitude, appearance, or behavior. These can be signals there is something going on. It may not be alcohol or drugs but there may be some other emotional issues going. You want to use those changes as a warning sign.

    Parents need to follow through and see what’s going on, perhaps with a professional assessment. Do not ignore or minimize it when you see these behaviors.

    A parent needs to look beyond the alcohol and drugs. You can get an addiction assessment but it’s important to find out what’s driving the addiction. Get a comprehensive physical exam to see if there’s anything wrong medically. Then get a full psychological examination or neural psychological examination. When you put those all together you can arrive at a comprehensive diagnosis.

    If you’ve just discovered for the first time that your child has used alcohol or smoked pot then you want to have a conversation. See if they’re willing to discuss what’s happening. They may shut down and not be willing to discuss it and that’s a warning sign. Your child may be willing to talk and might say they heard marijuana would help with their anxiety. Now you can discuss that. 

    The first step is to have a discussion. Their willingness to talk will depend on your relationship.

    Teenagers say they don’t talk to their family about their substance abuse because they are afraid they will be judged. They are also afraid they may be punished or looked down on.

    It’s important to listen to the feeling behind the words. Richard’s workbook helps with this.

    When parents discover addiction in their teenager they usually say, “I had no idea”.

    We need to work through our own emotions so we can be there for our child. Parents get scared and want to control the situation. The workbook helps parents work through their own emotions and shares tools for working through your anxiety.

    Preventing addiction in teenagers starts with developing open communication and a sense of trust. You want them to feel they can turn to you if they have a question, feel pressured, or feel they want to experiment with a substance.

    It’s dangerous to allow your child to use substances at home, even if you tell them they can only do it at home. Allowing them to use substances makes it seem okay to them anywhere.

    Keep an eye on your alcohol and medications, both subscription and over the counter.

    There is no one-size-fits-all treatment plan. Getting the comprehensive assessments allows you to create a good treatment plan.

    Treatment options vary. Some teens will do well with an outpatient program where they see a therapist or counselor once a week. Others do well with an intensive outpatient program where they receive counseling several times a week. Still others have severe underlying psychological issues in addition to their substance use disorder or addiction so they need a residential treatment program.

    Parents need to get support for themselves too. They go through a range of emotions and put blame on themselves. These emotions can even create dysfunction in the rest of the family.

    The Addicted Child details drugs and other methods of getting high. It explains how processing disorders play into addiction in teenagers. The book lays out treatment options, elements of treatment and planning out the scope of treatment.


    The Addicted Child: A Parent’s Guide to Adolescent Substance Abuse 

    The Addicted Child Workbook

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    Our Guest Richard Capriola:

    Richard Capriola discusses addiction in teenagersRichard Capriola has been in the mental health/addictions field for over two decades. He has been licensed in Illinois and Texas. He recently retired from Menninger Clinic in Houston, one of the nation’s top psychiatric hospitals, where he. was an addictions counselor for adolescents and adults diagnosed with psychiatric and substance use disorders. He received his master’s degree in substance abuse counseling from the University of Illinois.

    To learn more or connect with our guest visit https://helptheaddictedchild.com 

    Our Sponsor:

    Richard Capriola, author of The Addicted Child: A Parent’s Guide to Adolescent Substance Abuse. This book may save your child’s life. Get details and purchase at helptheaddictedchild.com