Tweens & Teens Using
Drugs & Alcohol:
WHY is Vital
Guiding teenagers who gravitate to their drug or alcohol of choice
In this blog:
In this blog:
Raising teens today and maneuvering through drug & alcohol abuse
Top 13 reasons WHY tweens & teens use or abuse long after experimentation
Suppose we can understand the reasons why our tweens and teens have the desire to get high, drunk, or anything else. If we can do that, we can begin to pull back the veil and peer into their mindset and what is causing them to be rebellious in doing what we've most likely preached against for their entire life. When and if we can accomplish this, we can nip the problem in the bud and potentially additional related issues. It's necessary to recognize, though, that every teen is different and unique in their own right, so there are no two identical situations as to why each tween or teen does drugs. This means you must really focus and pay attention to the littlest details to understand the why.
Written By Daniel Currie
Published: November 27, 2023
Drugs are bad*. I am pretty sure if you are a parent, grandparent, guardian, or simply a sensible, caring human being with a tween or teenager in your life, you know this. There are thousands of blogs and websites out there that will tell you this, with hundreds of ways to prevent drug abuse and misuse while encouraging healthy decision-making. Although the CurlyStache stance is that we strongly agree with those statements, this article will not dwell on it. Instead, let's try to understand why tweens and teens make those decisions. How come they choose to continue down the rabbit hole even when (and especially when) they know it is wrong, unhealthy, and usually carries the potential of life-threatening risks.
Remember, this article talks less about trying something for the first time. I have tailored this entry toward those who use drugs recreationally or worse. Nevertheless, understanding why tweens and teens begin down this road is half the battle and, critically, often gets overlooked. Suppose we can intimately understand their attraction to the drug or drugs and its appeal. In that case, we can empathize and understand their position, allowing us to custom-fit a regimen to help them. Additionally, it will enable us to see through to them on a deeper level, encouraging them to engage and reach out. Furthermore, by doing this, they become more comfortable confiding in you when asking for help and guidance in these tricky times.
It is imperative to remember there are hundreds of reasons, even multiple reasons, why our teens do what they do, using or abusing drugs. Furthermore, each reasoning is usually just as complex as the tween or teen. Regardless, I have included the top 13 reasons why our tweens and teens continue to use or abuse drugs long after the experimentation phase:
There is a history of substance abuse within the biological family, causing a much stronger dependence on that particular drug and its effects physically and psychologically.
Remember, most of the time, there are multiple reasons. For example, little Peter, 13 years old, has been caught stealing his parent's beer and drinking it in the past. Since then, Mom and Dad started counting the cans and watching them closely to ensure Peter doesn't continue. A year later, Mom and Dad catch him again, realizing he is still stealing their beer, but only waiting until they are drunk and not paying close attention to the count anymore. He is clearly consuming by choice now, with the only reason he couldn't use is "out of curiosity."
This is when it becomes necessary to start understanding his mindset, "this" being the second time getting caught, presuming the first time was for experimental or curiosity reasons. Nevertheless, since he was caught red-handed for the second time, his Mom and Dad must take a unique stance with distinctive action when talking with him. They must discipline Peter for breaking the rules and doing something illegal.
Mom and Dad's attitude and demeanor become paramount at this point. How they come off will directly impact his reaction, how he responds, and potentially their relationship after the fact. Despite their disappointment and anger in Peter, Mom and Dad should remain as calm, relaxed, and collected as possible—even if they need to take a break and talk later. They mustn't fly off the handle, much like an authoritarian would. Conversely, completely blowing it off, becoming permissive or neglectful, is irresponsible and not good parenting either.
Instead, Mom and Dad must be firm yet compassionate, remembering he is doing what makes him feel good too (parents are the same way—they just have the wisdom and "big-picture" understanding!). They must respect, listen without interruption, and be patient with their teen. The goal is to become more authoritative while being sensitive toward Peter's feelings and ensuring openness and presence for the teen.
During their talk about drinking, they gave Peter the floor, allowing him to explain his actions with his own reasonings, without interruption or interjection. Although his parents disagreed with his explanation, and there was no excuse, it improved the chances of Peter returning the same respect after they attentively listened, allowing Peter to explain himself.
Once Peter laid it all out for them and was given ample opportunity to say what he needed without anyone intervening, it was Mom and Dad's turn. Knowing they were getting the best version of Peter in a bad situation now, they began asking questions in hopes of understanding why he was still drinking. In this thought experiment, some of the questions (and answers) during their sit-down were:
But why alcohol and not something else? I'm thankful it wasn't drugs, though; I'm just curious.
At your age, drinking is just as bad as drugs. Where did you see that drinking was cool?
How long has this been going on for?
Do you honestly plan on stopping?
Do you feel this 'urge' to NEED to drink even if you want to do something else?
—"It makes me feel weird. But good."
—"Drugs scare me, and both of you drink, so I thought it can't be as bad as weed or something like that."
—"Well, none of my friends drink, I don't think, but stuff like that shows up on Insta and Twitter sometimes, sometimes Snapchat stories. But I promise, really, I don't have that stuff set as my interests/favorites or following or anything like that. It just shows up occasionally."
—"I dunno. Let's just say it isn't the first time... Sorry."
—"Yes and no. I would like to because it kind of seems stupid since I've drunk a few times, but I like the feeling, too."
—"No, I only stole a few beers when you stopped paying attention.
Otherwise, I wouldn't have cared and just figured out a way
to get them if I felt like I NEEDED it- like I do ice cream!"
After asking the proper questions and trying to figure out why Peter was doing it, they found it was most likely 3-parts "boredom and instant gratification," 2-parts "social media," and 1-part "family history," with the father's side having a history of abuse. With this information, Mom and Dad, after talking about it and not rushing to judgment, found the best form of punishment was giving him 1 hour of Internet per day. The thought process was that they would allow Peter one chance to clean up his actions on his own before seeking professional help, with family history being put into question. Limited Internet would force him to budget his time for online homework and other "essential" online needs, leaving little time for social media since that was a key factor.
While that example was pretty detailed and in-depth, knowing there is more to it is important, too. For instance, your tween or teen's body language plays a role, knowing when a lie is being told and knowing that perhaps only half the truth is being told. In addition, it is essential to keep a vigilant eye out afterward for changes—good or bad.
A misnomer that you will often hear when it comes to drug or alcohol abuse is "watch for attitude or behavior issues." Why is that a misnomer? Isn't it true? Sure, 95% of the time, your tween or teen's attitude or behavior will have issues and worsen. However, in the case of an undiagnosed health condition, it could become the opposite, where the adverse or negative happens. For example, if your tween or teen started showing symptoms of what would become OCD if left untreated and then began smoking marijuana around the same time. While under the influence, their behavior or mindset may improve via, in essence, self-medicating. In contrast, if they abruptly stop, the symptoms of OCD would become far more prevalent, causing them to appear to be under the influence or dependent on a drug.
An involved, caring parent who wants nothing but the best for their tween or teen must constantly, without rest, keep a sharp eye out on their teen's surroundings. Half the battle in most cases when raising teens today is understanding the why, not just how to deal with it. Your tween or teen will continue to grow, making their own decisions. Our primary job as parents, grandparents, guardians, or whatever the relationship is is to ensure we do the best we can for them and guide them down the straight and narrow so that they become successful in life one day.
More CurlyStache Blog Posts!
The Big UNcubed - Parenting Series: PART II
* While this article is designed with illegal drugs (for all ages) and alcohol for those under the legal age in mind, many aspects of this blog can pertain to issues regarding 18+ or 21+ age "drugs," such as smoking or vaping and prescription/OTC drugs.
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