Helping Your Child Through Difficult Times

By Richard Capriola 12/02/20

All too often when we look beyond a child’s drinking or drug use we discover their struggle to manage intolerable thoughts, feelings or memories is a core issue that needs treatment.

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A child sitting on the floor with knees up and resting arms on knees, head bowed into arms.
There is no “one size fits all” treatment approach to addiction.

I have been a mental health and addictions counselor for over two decades. I’ve treated adults and adolescents diagnosed with serious psychiatric and substance abuse issues at one of the nation’s premier psychiatric hospitals. After informing parents of their child’s substance abuse history the most frequent response I heard from them was “I had no idea this was going on.” Or if they suspected their child was using a substance, they were shocked at how extensive it was.

Adolescent substance abuse continues to invade too many of our families, leaving parents confused and without a roadmap to guide them in finding help for their child. Today, more than 40 percent of seniors and one-third of tenth graders are vaping a substance like marijuana. Twenty percent of teens report abusing prescription drugs like Xanax, Ritalin and Adderall.

As the parent of an addicted child, feelings of helplessness, blame and fear can drown out any sense of hope. But in the pages of my book The Addicted Child: A Parent’s Guide to Adolescent Substance Abuse they receive the information and resources needed to help their child through assessment, treatment and recovery.

Alcohol and drugs have the power to change a child’s brain and influence behaviors so I include a chapter on the neuroscience of substance abuse. In non-technical language parents learn how substances work in the adolescent brain.

Because the best treatment starts with a comprehensive assessment there’s a chapter explaining which assessments are critical for a proper diagnosis. These assessments go beyond looking just at a child’s history of using substances. All too often when we look beyond a child’s drinking or drug use we discover their struggle to manage intolerable thoughts, feelings or memories is a core issue that needs treatment. While not every child using alcohol or drugs has an underlying psychological issue, for those that do, treating the alcohol or drug problem without treating the mental health issue can be a treatment plan doomed to fail.

Other chapters in The Addicted Child address issues such as eating disorders, self-injury, gaming and cell phone use which often accompany a child’s use of substances. Parents learn the warning signs for these disorders and the warning signs that often accompany alcohol and drug use. Parents also learn which drugs are invading today’s adolescent population and how to recognize them.

Parents often need guidance when looking for treatment options. There is no “one size fits all” treatment approach to addiction. For this reason, I have included chapters explaining the important principles of adolescent substance abuse treatment and various treatment options available for families. There is also a chapter listing helpful resources for parents.

Very few things are more destructive to a family than having someone, especially a child, addicted to alcohol or drugs. While working on an adolescent treatment unit I met parents struggling to understand and accept their child’s psychiatric and substance use issues. For most of these families it was a heart-breaking experience. Sadly, many families do not have the financial resources to send their child to a nationally acclaimed hospital like the Menninger Clinic in Houston. Their desperate search for help often leaves them feeling alone and without a roadmap to guide them through the process of their child’s assessment and treatment. It’s for these families that I wrote my book, The Addicted Child: A Parent’s Guide to Adolescent Substance Abuse. You can find The Addicted Child on Amazon and at the following website: https://www.helptheaddictedchild.com

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Richard Capriola has been a mental health and addictions counselor for over two decades. He has been a licensed addictions counselor in Illinois and Texas. He recently retired from Menninger Clinic in Houston where he worked as an addictions counselor for adolescents and adults diagnosed with psychiatric and substance abuse disorders. He is the author of a new book for parents, The Addicted Child: A Parent’s Guide to Adolescent Substance Abuse. The book is available at http://www.helptheaddictedchild.com.