Adolescent Substance Abuse

By Annette Pinder

Being a teenager these days isn’t easy — nor is it easy being the parent of a teenager. And with illicit substance use becoming more prevalent, the challenge has become even greater. Fortunately, according to the American Association for Family Therapy, most adolescents who experiment with drugs do not progress to become adult drug abusers or addicts. However, substance use (alcohol, marijuana, opiates, and inhalants), even in small quantities, can have extremely negative consequences.

Adolescence can be a time of experimentation and risk-taking. As parents and caregivers, it can be difficult to discern what normal adolescent behavior is and what is becoming problematic.

What signs should call a parent’s attention to the fact that there is a problem?

Common signs pointing to a problem include:

  • Evidence of drugs and drug paraphernalia in your teen’s possession
  • Behavioral problems and poor grades
  • Emotional distancing and lying
  • Isolation and depression
  • Changes in their circle of friendships
  • Hostile, irritable behavior
  • Lack of interest in personal appearance
  • Changes in eating and sleeping patterns
  • Dizziness and memory problems.

Frequent use of alcohol or drugs such as cocaine, amphetamines, prescription opiates or heroin also requires immediate attention and intervention.

When should a parent seek help? The simple answer is — the earlier the better, because the good news is that treatment works, especially when parents and guardians are involved.

One place that parents can seek outpatient treatment is BryLin’s Outpatient Substance Use Disorder Clinic in Williamsville. The clinic offers specialized adolescent programming that is designed to meet the ever-changing needs of the adolescent client and their family. As part of the Adolescent Treatment team, BryLin employs masters level-qualified health professionals who are dedicated to adolescent addiction treatment.

BryLin’s Adolescent Recovery Treatment Track has been specifically developed for the adolescent who presents with a substance use disorder. This program provides support, intense treatment, education, and awareness for the adolescent client and their family.

The clinic’s comprehensive group programming for adolescents and adults include:

  • Recovery from opiates
  • Introduction to recovery
  • Early recovery
  • Relapse prevention
  • Specialized adolescent groups
  • Young adult groups (18-25 year olds)
  • Men’s and women’s groups
  • Meditation and relaxation in recovery
  • Co-occurring and professionals groups
  • DWI Assessments
  • and more

Unique to BryLin’s Substance Use Disorder Clinic are free family group sessions. The setting for these groups is designed to be educational and supportive for adult family members and concerned others (ages 18+) who have a loved one dealing with addiction. The group is run by a licensed professional every Monday from 6-7 p.m., and is tailored to the needs of those in attendance.

To learn more about BryLin’s Outpatient Substance Use Disorder treatment or the free family group, please call 716-633-1927, or visit