Substance Abuse Incident, What Next?

i Aug 21st No Comments by

There has been an incident with your loved one involving substance abuse. Quick – what are the first 5 steps you should take immediately?

  1. Make sure the person is out of physical danger
  2. Identify the facts about what exactly happened
  3. Remove any substances or items that could cause additional harm, including an automobile, if necessary
  4. Seek the counsel of an experienced substance abuse counselor
  5. Assess the degree or extent of the problem

The first five steps after a substance abuse incident can save a life and help people think and act more clearly.

If your teen is on your phone plan, then start monitoring their call, text and internet activity. Start a record to track habits and calls. Start exploring the best course of action. Now.

Law enforcement or Student Conduct might dictate the next step, giving you no choice regarding what to do next. Unfortunately, depending on the community or school, some teens will be forced to attend mandatory, often inadequate DUI schools, which in many cases feel so punitive, that they hardly inspire sobriety or improved behaviors. What’s more, law enforcement might also impose community service, which could add fuel to feelings of humiliation, particularly if it is a service that does not necessarily fit the transgression or the behavior.

Intensive out-patient programs (IOP), which combine therapy, group therapy, counseling and medicine dispensation, along with other programs are available. Look for details forthcoming. Here is a start, in the meantime.

  • Weekend outpatient
  • Inpatient recovery programs, which usually involve detox for addicts, alcoholics. Detox needs to be medically supervised, or death could result in severe cases
  • Comprehensive residential addition programs
  • Wilderness programs, 20 to 90 day recovery centers that focus on intensive outdoor forms of therapy, combined with individual/group therapy
  • 12-step programs or communities

Substance Abuse and a DUI or MIP

i Aug 9th No Comments by

If you need to pay bail, then arrange to pay, or get a bail bondsman to pay, so you can get your child home and stabilized. If it’s not the first time, let your child figure it what to do this time. Watching that unfold will enlighten you about the extent of the problem – is this a bump in the road, a chronic habit, or a bigger problemiss?

Call the number on the citation and get a copy of the police report, to see what exactly happened and whether other stuff went on. This could take 2-3 days. You will need to go to the jail to get the report. But get it, because you need to know what really happened.


DUI or MIP for substance abuse can help families identify extent of a problem and accelerate a recovery path. Photo: Library of Congress.

Get an attorney for your child or request a court assigned attorney. Everyone has a right to one. If you hire one, get a specialist, a litigator who has handled this sort of issue before, preferably in the county or court system in which it is assigned. Expertise helps save a lot of time.

Comply with a lawyer’s advice. First time offender statutes work in your favor, if you think your kid will abide by the statutes.

Show up in court, and early. The court system can be punishing to anyone who wastes its time. Tell your child to address the judge yes or no, “your honor” and to look presentable. It matters.

If the incident was reported to your child’s school, schedule a meeting with the school counselor and your child immediately. Make the school your friend. Believe it or not, school administrators are potential advocates for your child, unless he has been a repeat offender – in which case, they might feel your problem is beyond their expertise.

J. Tom Morgan wrote an excellent book called Ignorance Is No Defense, about the laws in Georgia impacting teenagers. It is an excellent overview of what every teen and parent needs to know.


10 Things to Know about Relapse

i Aug 3rd No Comments by

I didn’t write this, but I found it a while back and am searching for the author. It has been helpful to a number of friends, with thanks to countless professionals who care so deeply about our teens.

Teens in early recovery are extremely vulnerable to relapse. It can be hard to understand why a teenager would work so hard to achieve sobriety only to fall back into drug use−but that’s the power of addiction.

Studies suggest that between 50 to 90 percent of addicts relapse at least once in the first four years of sobriety, and most relapse many times. Triggers for relapse can be as mundane as hearing a certain song on the radio or as significant as hanging out with friends from the old drug crowd.

Although relapse is considered normal and predictable, knowing the common triggers for relapse and having an action plan can help teens and their families guard against any slip-ups. Here are a few common relapse triggers to watch out for:

Being in social situations or places where drugs are available

Unless teens remain on guard, their thoughts will likely turn back to old behavior patterns when they are around the people or places associated with their past drug use. Old friends who still use drugs will use peer pressure, teasing and subtle manipulation to get a teen in early recovery to return to their “fun” old self. These friends may not be ready to confront their own drug use and will not respond positively to someone who questions their habit or forces them to take a look at their own behavior.

Each adolescent has their own set of high-risk friends, places and situations that they must sacrifice for the sake of their sobriety. In drug rehab, teens can practice ways to cope with those triggers, make new friends who don’t use drugs and find sober activities they can enjoy.

After maintaining their sobriety for a time, many teens want to “test” their willpower by going back to certain places or social situations. This can be risky and seldom makes teens feel more secure in their recovery.


Reverting to old friendships can be a trigger or warning sign of substance abuse relapse. Photo: Shutterstock

Isolation or Old Friendships

While it’s risky to stay in touch with old friends who use drugs, it’s equally risky to be socially isolated. Teens in early recovery need to closely follow the relapse prevention plan they created during drug rehab. This plan likely includes attending 12-Step meetings and therapy sessions to get support from other people in recovery and to have someone they can go to when the urge to use arises. Without this support system, teens start to feel alone in their struggles, which may make them want to start using again.

Being around drugs or using any mood-altering substance

Being around drugs of any kind can trigger a craving to use.  Even the sight, smell or sounds associated with a drug can bring back memories of the way drugs made the teen feel, as well as an overwhelming desire to use again. Most teens in early recovery will need to get rid of all paraphernalia, photos or any other item related to drugs or alcohol in order to avoid temptation.

A common pitfall for teens is thinking they can use drugs, as long as they avoid what used to be their drug of choice. So if they were hooked on painkillers, they figure it’s safe to drink alcohol. The reality is that addiction to one drug easily transfers to another drug (and even other compulsive behaviors like video game addiction, gambling and spending). If a teen has abused drugs before, they will likely need to abstain from all mood-altering substances for the rest of their life.


Many teens first start using drugs to cope with stress brought on by school, relationships or home life. Although adolescents learn new coping skills in drug rehab, it is common to revert back to old methods when life gets tough.

Before drug rehab, when conflicts arose, drugs or alcohol would allow the teen to escape the situation. Now, the teen must practice new ways of coping, such as taking a walk, calling a friend, journaling or some other form of healthy expression.

Establishing a daily routine, including getting up at a certain time or joining a club that meets regularly, may help teens maintain a sense of control in their lives. While predictability can help, teens will eventually have to learn to accept that they cannot control everything.


Self-confidence and an optimistic outlook are protective factors against relapse, but over-confidence is one of the most common reasons for relapse. The 12-Step principles remind teens that humility and an admission of powerlessness over addiction are essential for lasting recovery. But after staying sober for a period of time, some teens are so proud of their accomplishments that they don’t think they need to follow their relapse prevention plan anymore. They stop attending meetings and become less vigilant in monitoring their emotions and cravings.


A close cousin to over-confidence is complacency. Some teens in early recovery start to take their sobriety for granted. They become complacent, assuming if they’ve been able to maintain their sobriety for a certain amount of time, they no longer need to monitor their mental state, attend meetings or follow their relapse prevention plan with the commitment they started with.

In many cases, teens begin to wonder if they can use only occasionally or have just one drink without returning to their addiction. They want to prove to family and friends that they no longer have a problem. Unfortunately, complacency often leads to relapse.

Mental or physical illness or pain

Addiction frequently goes hand in hand with mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. Something that aggravates an underlying mental illness can also trigger the desire to use drugs or alcohol. Teens with co-occurring disorders require dual diagnosis treatment that addresses both their substance abuse and psychiatric illness. After formal treatment ends, they also need to carefully monitor their state of mind through journaling, therapy and other forms of self-reflection.

Physical illness is also problematic, particularly if a doctor prescribes painkillers or other drugs as a form of pain management. Teens who self-medicate a mental or physical illness may find themselves becoming dependent on drugs of relief. For this reason, self-care is essential. A healthy diet, exercise and adequate sleep will help guard against exhaustion and physical illness.

Though it may seem counter-intuitive, positive life events and emotions can also trigger relapse.  For example, getting straight A’s, falling in love or getting into a good college could be cause for celebration and reignite the desire to use drugs.

Reminiscing about drug use or telling “war stories”

If an adolescent spends time thinking obsessively about how it felt to be high or telling “war stories” to friends about past drug use, this is an indication that relapse is imminent.


Without drugs, many teens in recovery don’t know what to do with their free time. A bored teen is a teen who is asking for trouble. Drugs are exciting; there are other activities and hobbies that are equally thrilling without the high level of risk. Teens can get involved in rock climbing, white water rafting, or some other adventure sport. They can also keep busy with school activities, clubs, sports, exercise or hanging out with sober friends.


We all want life to go out way, but even the most fortunate among us won’t always get what we want.  Many teens fall into the trap of self-pity; feeling impatient that recovery isn’t happening fast enough, wondering why they have to deal with addiction and rehab, and questioning why other people can go out for a drink with friends and they can’t. They begin to feel entitled to have a drink or use drugs because they’ve been sober and worked so hard.

Though it isn’t fair, this is the reality of addiction. It’s better to accept the good and bad life deals rather than feeling like a victim.

6 Questions to Ask your Child about Drug Abuse

i Jul 24th No Comments by

Before you say anything to your child, take a deep breath. Remember that hope and optimism are key components to restoring health. And that 50% of a problem is resolved once we know what the problem is.


Have the conversation with your loved one about drug abuse. And ask about their friendships too. Credit: Shutterstock.

The best way to find out just what is happening is to remain calm and ask what’s going on. A lot of times, kids will tell us. Next step might be an intervention in which the parents address a behavior change, describe what happens when the behavior changes, and ask again for an explanation. The best tools to get you ready for the conversation start here:

Questions to Ask When Confronting Your Child – The CRAFFT Assessment

CRAFFT is a rapid assessment you can ask your teen to take. It is an acronym of first letters of key words in the 6 screening questions. The questions should be asked exactly as written.

  1. Have you ever ridden in a CAR driven by someone (including yourself) who was “high” or had been using alcohol or drugs?
  2. Do you ever you ever use alcohol or drugs to RELAX, feel better about yourself, or fit in?
  3. Do you ever use alcohol or drugs while you are by yourself, or ALONE?
  4. Do you ever FORGET things you did while using alcohol or drugs?
  5. Do your family or FRIENDS ever tell you that you should cut down on your drinking or drug use?
  6. Have you ever gotten into TROUBLE while you were using alcohol or drugs?

CRAFFT is a 2009 MassHealth insurance provider-approved behavioral health screening tool for use with children under the age of 21 from 2009. It was recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Substance Abuse for use with adolescents.

questionstoaskchildblog.young adults in wilderness tent

Start the conversation. Now. Credit: Shutterstock.

There are more questions to ask when confronting your child about drug abuse. Learn different approaches and decide what is right for you.

Immature Brains

Arrested development is behind a lot of teen substance abuse. This will help you understand why the problem is not specific to your teen. And P.S., Hazelden Programs can help you with a phone assessment of your family’s drug problem.

click on this link to get access to more great materials. Click Here.


Assess the Problem – 20 Signs of Substance Abuse

i Jul 14th No Comments by

No one problem drug or alcohol crisis is the same. Some teens and young adults are serious abusers, some are habitual abusers, some are addicts, and some have made stupid choices to try or abuse substances, which could be “one-off events.” First, we need to recover from the crisis of learning that something is going on. Then we need to get educated quickly. You can start with a parent assessment tool – gather a snapshot of evidence before you confront your child. And don’t be focused on judging or labeling anyone just yet it is counter-productive.

This is a list that we have compiled from numerous sources.

20 Signs of Substance Abuse

    1. Sudden mood change or restlessness
    2. Extra talkative or irritable
    3. Poor coordination
    4. Behavioral changes not otherwise explained
    5. Changes in consciousness, including loss of consciousness
    6. Slurred speech
    7. Poor coordination
    8. Moist or flushed skin
    9. Chills
    10. Nausea or vomiting
    11. Dizziness or confusion
    12. Irregular pulse
    13. Abnormal breathing
    14. Unexplained changes in personality or attitude
    15. Anger outburst
    16. Emotional and Mental Withdrawal
    17. Increased inattentiveness
    18. Lack of motivation
    19. Unexplained anxiousness or paranoia
    20. Change in friendships

Keeping a bedside diary to note all the warning signs of substance abuse, no matter how subtle, is important to track a pattern of behaviors and actions that will support a conversation.

What about Parent Medicinal Cabinets?

signssymptomsblogcutegirlcloseupMonitoring your own prescription drugs, if you have them, is important. Nearly one in five teens, 19%, report abusing prescription medications and getting high. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), factors for getting high include lack of information, and a care-free attitude toward risks involved in using prescription meds improperly. They think, “… if this prescription drug is legal, and it’s available or my folks are using it, then it must be safe.”

Often they use them to seek psychological or physical pleasure or to fit in. And let’s face it’s easier to get prescription drugs than illegal drugs.