Teenage substance abuse can happen in any family. It may involve abusing alcohol, illegal substances or prescription drugs, taking a toll on your teen's psychological and physical well-being. Its effects can also extend to other family members and disrupt the family unity. Understanding the possible effects of teen substance abuse on your family can prepare you to face the problem as a family.
Conflict and Dysfunction
Some indicators of substance abuse include drastic mood changes, increased argumentativeness and being secretive or withdrawing from the family. These factors can disrupt normal functioning between you and your teen and can lead to increased disagreements or fighting, says University of Miami family psychologist, Howard Liddle, in his article, “Adolescent Substance Abuse," on the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy website. Conflicts with you over money, school and friends, for example, can be side effects of substance abuse.
Dealing with a teen who drinks or uses drugs can limit the time and attention you give to your other children. Feeling ignored, they may act out as a means of getting noticed, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration's book, “Substance Abuse Treatment and Family Therapy." An older sibling may also serve as a negative role model for younger children. The younger child may engage in alcohol or drug use in order to be like the older sibling, according to research by Sabina Low, Joann Wu Shortt and James Snyder, published in the Journal of Developmental Psychopathology.
Several issues associated with your teen's substance abuse can play a major role in draining your financial resources. This could include rehab, therapeutic intervention, and in some cases, fines or other legal fees stemming from your teen engaging in delinquent acts associated with substance abuse. Missing money or other items of worth in the household can indicate that your teen is stealing to support alcohol or drug use. Their own home is often the first option for finding resources for these purposes, says "Growing up Drug Free: A Parent's Guide to Prevention," a publication of the United States Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration and the Department of Education.
Social Ties and Stress
Socializing with friends and extended family can help relieve stress, giving you a support system and providing you with someone to talk to during difficult times. Dealing with teen substance abuse can damage these contacts or make them difficult, as you try to hide the issue or spend all your time in treatment with your child or dealing with their school and legal problems. Other people in your life may not understand or know about what you are going through when your teenager abuses alcohol or drugs and avoid you because they don't know what to say or how to help. You may avoid others because you are embarrassed about the situation.
- American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: Teens: Alcohol and Other Drugs
- American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy: Adolescent Substance Abuse
- Substance Abuse Treatment and Family Therapy: Impact of Substance Abuse on Families
- The Journal of Developmental Psychopathology: Sibling Influences on Adolescent Substance Use: The Roles of Modeling, Collusion, and Conflict
- U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration: Growing Up Drug Free -- A Parent's Guide to Prevention
- Families and Change: Families Coping with Alcohol and Substance Abuse
- Substance Abuse Treatment and Family Therapy: Specific Populations