Teen Substance Abuse Prevention with Andrea Baskin

Substance misuse and addiction in adulthood often begins earlier in life, with many people admitting to first being introduced to drugs in alcohol during teenhood or earlier. This early exposure to addictive substances can have lasting effects on one’s physical and mental well-being. Prevention and early intervention in teen substance misuse and abuse can help to mitigate these effects and keep your child on the right path to a bright future.

Today, our host Noelle Carmen speaks with Andrea Baskin MS, LMHC about how parents can spot potential signs of substance abuse, what they can do if they suspect their child is drinking or using drugs, and how to find help for their teen. 

About Our Guest

Andrea has over 10 years of experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor working with various populations. She holds a Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling from Nova Southeastern University and offers families direct support and guidance throughout the treatment process. With a primary focus on the family and treating each client as a whole, Andrea emphasizes the importance of support and structure for teens overcoming substance abuse.

About Safe Landing Recovery

Safe Landing Recovery is one of few adolescent substance abuse treatment facilities. With a relationship-focused, individualized approach to care, our clients are fully supported through the entire treatment process. We provide a safe, recovery-focused environment for your teen to address the underlying causes of drug and alcohol abuse and other related behavioral issues. We encourage our clients to practice mindfulness and teach healthy stress and anger management techniques for everyday life situations. Group therapy sessions, family therapy, and individual counseling further open the bridges of communication necessary for moving forward. Educational programs like APEX online learning, SAT/ACT prep, and continued education assistance provide a holistic approach to growth and healing.

How Teen Substance Abuse Goes Undetected

One of the first thoughts parents often have when faced with the reality of their child’s substance use is ‘how could I not have known?’ We begin to rack our minds for potential warning signs we may have missed, sometimes jumping to the wrong conclusions about the sources of the problem. However, in today’s chaotic and busy world, it can be easy to miss the signs.

During the COVID-19 pandemic more parents have reported concerns about teen substance use. This can largely be contributed to families spending more time together during quarantine. More time together means more time to notice concerning behaviors or changes that may be indicative of a drug or alcohol problem. Some common signs parents may see include:

  • Changes in sleep patterns: sleeping more or less than usual
  • Secretiveness, seclusion, and standoffishness when questioned
  • Changes in appetite: eating more or less than usual
  • Sudden irritability or other mood changes
  • Physical signs: red, puffy eyes, discolored fingertips or lips, lack of coordination, smell of alcohol or smoke
  • Flu-like symptoms that go away quickly: a hangover or withdrawal

How to Respond to Teen Substance Use 

Realizing or suspecting your child is experimenting with drugs or abusing substances can be a shock to the system. It’s easy to be reactionary: to be upset, scream, place blame, and point fingers. While this is a normal response many parents may have, Andrea warns that it may cause more harm than good.

“Don’t yell. A lot of parents react this way, it’s normal— but I advise against screaming. I would advise them to seek help before even confronting their children. You need to know what to do. Take care if they are in immediate danger. But if they are not, avoid blaming — don’t blame partners. The blame game helps no one. You have to stay together as a family to find a solution. Screaming, cursing, hitting are not helpful to your teen. It will make them more defensive, yell back, and rebel. Out of feeling desperate and upset may cause them to use heavily. Take a step back and think with your rational head. It’s hard, it’s a very emotional situation.” 

The most important thing to keep in mind is that substance abuse is most often a symptom of underlying issues. We may think our children are using because of external influences or just as a delinquent act of rebellion, but this is rarely the sole reason for teen drug or alcohol use. While it may be easiest to look for some external source to blame, the realities of teen substance abuse are more complicated than that.

“Blaming anyone is not going to help anything. Stay away from staying ‘it’s your fault, it’s your friends.’ When parents go through this, they want to find a reason why,” Baskin says, “the key is to start with them. All of those things might be contributing, and the peer pressure might have something to do with it, but it has to be within them. If you take away everything from the environment it’s not necessarily going to change the behavior. It’s about being able to unite and confront this together as a family.” 

Baskin goes on to say that it is important to understand the core causes of substance abuse to be able to begin the healing process. Whether a teen is attempting to self-medicate because of an unaddressed co-occurring mental health condition or it simply began as recreational use and spiraled from there, approaching the subject from a solution-focused place rather than judgement and anger is always the better option.

Addiction Vs Exploration

Not everyone who experiments as a teenager develops a substance abuse problem. In fact, some parents may not immediately recognize a problem because experimentation is almost expected of teenagers. Andrea warns parents to take any confirmed drug or alcohol use seriously.

“Once you find out that they’re using, now you’re going to have to monitor them all the time. Could they be using once a month for exploration or this is the first time that they’re using it? Maybe, but it could also be that they’ll start to use more and more. So it’s really about being able to be really involved and able to assess.” 

Andrea advises parents to pay attention to potential behavioral and personality changes that may point to a developing substance dependency. For parents considering getting their child drug tested, she points out that while they are good tools for determining exactly what’s going on, it’s important to just spring a test on your child.

“They are a very good way to find out if they’re using or not using. Obviously this should come after a conversation to talk about what’s going on with your teen and your worries. If things are escalating you can bring in a professional to assist with this, but definitely stay on top of  everything is the biggest thing.”

Baskin also emphasizes the importance of compassion when dealing with teen substance abuse. Trying to understand where your child is in their life and what may be pushing them toward drugs and alcohol can help keep the focus on healing and growth.

“Teenage years are a very difficult time. You have your hormones, physical and emotional changes, the environment and peer pressure about what you’re supposed to look like and who you’re supposed to be. They don’t have the cognitive ability to really think about the consequences and how their actions will affect them in the future. In the moment they do it because it feels good. ‘It’s making me feel good right now, so I’m going to continue doing it.’ It’s the same for adults. If you find yourself feeling sad, depressed, or anxious and have a drink and all of a sudden you feel better, that reinforces that behavior.”

Early intervention and access to teen drug and alcohol abuse treatment can help prevent your teen from undue struggle and strife. That’s exactly why Safe Landing Recovery was founded: to provide compassionate, evidence-based care now and prevent a lifetime of substance misuse issues.

To learn more about what Safe Landing Recovery has to offer, visit their website at www.safelandingrecovery.com or call (877) 754-1027.

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