Drug Abuse

Bad Teen Behavior

Disrespect Toward Authority

Anger and frustration lie at the heart of a teenager's disrespect for authority, according to teen counseling professionals at Wolf Creek Therapeutic Boarding School in North Carolina. Furthermore, as teenagers struggle to figure out who they are in their social circles and the world at large, some teens demonstrate disrespect as a way to appear impervious to emotions or to engage in a power struggle with authority figures to assert their independence. While a certain level of oppositional behavior is to be expected during adolescence, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry suggests that parents seek professional help when disrespectful behavior interferes with normal, day-to-day functioning.

Drug and Alcohol Use

Drug and alcohol use is a common behavior for 71 percent of teens by the time they reach the 12th grade, according to research gathered by Colorado State University Extension office. According to researchers, possible causes of adolescent alcohol and drug use include an underdevelopment of executive functions in the pre-frontal cortex that govern areas such as decision-making and judgment, as well as peer pressure. Alcohol and drug use can also lead to chemical dependency later in life.

Sexual Promiscuity

Adolescent sexual promiscuity is often fueled by low self-esteem and depression, according to mental health professionals at Sequel Youth and Family Services. Depictions of sexual behavior in the media, peer pressure and a history of sexual abuse are also recognized as contributing factors to teen sexual promiscuity. Alcohol and drug abuse often exacerbate sexual promiscuity in teens, inhibiting their ability to make good decisions about sexual behavior, according to the Utah Department of Public Safety. Sexual promiscuity in teens and a lack of information regarding sexually responsible behavior can lead to public health concerns, such as teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.


Apart from truancy often being against the law in some states, truancy also has a negative and long-lasting effect on a teenager. Teens who repeatedly miss classes risk having exposure to the development of essential intellectual and social skills that will prepare them for success in adulthood. Students who also fail to obtain at least a high school diploma create difficulties in obtaining sufficient employment, which threatens their ability to support themselves in later in life.

Can Having an Alcoholic Parent Affect How You Do in Relationships?

Parent-Child Dynamic

Alcoholism fundamentally changes the dynamic between the alcoholic parent and the child, as well as other dynamics within the family structure. Many children of alcoholics reverse the roles entirely, becoming caregivers for their parents, especially if both parents have drinking problems. In addition, many people become angry or violent when drunk. If you were raised in an alcoholic home, your parents might have made you feel fearful and guilty that you were not able to fix the problems. These unhealthy dynamics often carry over into adult relationships.

Children of Alcoholics

Alcoholic parents often pressure their children to keep the dysfunction secret. Children learn to suppress their own needs and desires in favor of taking care of their parents, to preserve a sense of home life. Consequently, you might suffer from depression, social isolation, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and a tendency to overreact to stimuli that remind you of your childhood.

Codependency and Control Issues

Alcoholic homes are frequently out of control. Children of alcoholics learn that home and family are frightening and that they cannot trust home and family. As an adult, you might feel a strong compulsion toward over-control your immediate environment, including the people who mean the most to you. Codependency, or the willingness to sacrifice your own needs for someone else, is a key to survival in an alcoholic home. You will likely seek out similarly codependent adult relationships because they feel familiar.

Getting Help

The key to moving past your childhood is learning to separate today’s reality from yesterday’s pain. Your current problems may be rooted in your past, but you can learn to face them as an adult. However, it is nearly impossible to do this alone. Consider joining a group such as Al-Anon or Co-Dependents Anonymous. Both groups provide peer support from others who have been through similar situations. In addition, seek individual therapy from a licensed mental health professional. Your therapist can help you resolve lingering feelings, forgive yourself and your family, and learn healthier ways of coping with your current life situations.

How Does Drug Abuse Affect Families & Friends?


One of the largest ways in which drug abuse affects families is the creation of an unstable environment. Children especially are influenced and affected by their parents behaviours. As such, a sibling can also be affected by the actions of another sibling who is abusing drugs. Drugs can affect the way family members talk, act and care for their families. For example, the drug can often come before basic needs such as food, clothing or even the love and attention a child needs to have a stable environment. All of these actions can have long-lasting effects on others in the household, especially young children who grow up with drug abusers as role models. These effects can include the child following in the abuser's footsteps, especially if they have never seen what a functional family should look like.


Drug abuse can affect both family and friends financially. This can come both from enabling and from theft. Enabling is the action of helping a user with his habit because you feel bad for him, or feel it is keeping him around long enough for you to be able to change them. One of the main ways that enabling occurs is through directly or indirectly financing the drug habit through loaning or giving money to the addict. Drug abuse can also lead addicts to steal from friends and family members to support their habit.


Drug abuse can also affect family and friends by inviting violence into the relationship. There are two main times where violence can quickly escalate for an addict: during extreme highs and during withdrawal. Alcohol is an especially guilty substance for causing violence when users are well over the legal limit of blood alcohol content. This can cause violence both through direct actions, such as getting in a fight, as well as indirect actions, such as driving a car while intoxicated. Violence can also affect the friends and family of a drug abuser during withdrawal. One of the most common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal is irritability and anxiousness. The desire to use can quickly cause users to become violent to even close family members in order to get help or money for their next high.


One of the most heartbreaking effects of drug abuse on families especially is abandonment. Once drugs have altered the nerve pathways in the brain, the desire to use quickly becomes more important to anything else in the drug addict's life. Friends and family members quickly get replaced by the next score of the drug of choice. This can often lead to divorce or the loss of children to state custody due to a lack of ability to be a loving and providing parent. There is also an increased risk of parents or spouses being locked up in prison for extended periods of time, leaving their children to grow up without a mother or father. The effects of this abandonment may stick with kids all the way through adulthood.

Setting Boundaries When Living With a Drug-Dependent Adolescent

Treatment Plans

Participate in whatever treatment plan professionals devise for your teenager. One treatment option that might be appropriate for a teenager who has only been using for a short time includes outpatient care with classes, individual therapy, group therapy and family therapy. For teenagers with a significant addiction, inpatient care is probably necessary, advises associate professor J.L. Matheson with the Colorado State University Extension. Your teen will spend a specific number of days in inpatient care, then treatment will transfer to outpatient care with the teenager likely to be back in your home again. Speak with the therapists and counselors to receive guidance for setting boundaries with your adolescent.

Setting Boundaries

Communicate the boundaries you insist that your teenager follow clearly with your child, advises the Focus Adolescent Services website. Your boundaries might include a zero-tolerance policy for any and all drug or alcohol use by your teenager. You might also insist that your teenager participate with all treatment-plan guidelines, follow house rules, behave respectfully and communicate honestly with you. It’s likely that your adolescent will lie to you to hide drug use. Hiding the truth out of fear and shame will be so important to the teenager that he will probably lie to conceal any mistakes he makes.

Communicating Boundaries

So no misunderstandings exist, tell your teenager what will happen if she breaks your boundaries, recommends the Newport Academy Teen Treatment Center. Possible consequences include informing therapists or treatment personnel of the breach and allowing logical consequences connected with the treatment program to occur. You might also warn your child that she cannot live under your roof if she continues to make negative decisions about her conduct and to violate your boundaries.


Keep your word with your teenager to ensure your boundaries remain intact. It’s common for families of addicts to have trouble setting and maintaining boundaries -- a hallmark of codependent behavior, according to Scripps Drug and Alcohol Treatment Program. If you don’t keep your boundaries, the result is continued enabling of the adolescent, which will not promote recovery and could lead to continued escalation of the addiction.

Moving a Teen From His Environment to Change Behavior

Abuse and Neglect

Child abuse and neglect can be a major cause of negative behavior in teens. In particular, sexual abuse can lead to behaviors such as promiscuity and drug use. If a teenager is being abused or neglected, removing her from the home environment can be a good first step toward helping her heal and to modifying her negative behaviors. Likewise, children who suffer from physical abuse might act aggressively or have difficulty maintaining appropriate behaviors in school. Changing her environment might curb those behaviors, according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway.

In-patient Facilities

For children with serious mental illnesses, residential treatment facilities can provide the intensive help and structure that parents or guardians might not be equipped to provide, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Additionally, the structure and safety precautions in these facilities can help children with behaviors such as cutting, kicking or hitting. In such a setting, teens can develop healthier coping skills while being removed from stressors caused by family, school or social pressures.

Changes in Custody

When parents divorce or separate, moving a teen from one parent’s home to the other parent's home might have a positive effect on his behavior. For example, a teen boy might rebel against his mother’s directives, but be more responsive to discipline under his father’s care. Likewise, if a child is not responding well to a parent's care, moving him to the home or a trusted relative, such as a grandparent, aunt or uncle might use different disciplinary strategies to which the teen might be more responsive.

Voluntary Moves

Growing up in neighborhoods where violence, drug activity or other acts of criminality are common can affect the behavior and mental health of teens. In particular, when parents are busy working and the adolescent does not have a positive adult role model who is present, he might be vulnerable to negative peer pressure. Although it is not always possible for families to change neighborhoods to escape the unhealthful environment, in cases where it is financially and logistically feasible, it might be a good step to helping teens avoid negative peer and social influences.

How Do the Poor Choices of Teens Affect Their Academics?

Friend Choices

Positive, mutually beneficial friendships can alter academic adjustment in the early teenage years, according to 2004 research published in the Journal of Educational Psychology. Researchers followed 242 students from sixth to eighth, grade looking for links between pro-social behaviors, academic achievement and emotional distress. They found that adolescents without reciprocal friendships -- where each person gets a similar amount of support -- had lower levels of academic achievement and pro-social behavior and had higher rates of emotional disturbance. Teenagers who choose to associate with friends who provide little positive support may be risking academic success.


It can be difficult to convince a teenager that getting a good night's sleep is more important than watching one more movie or shooting hoops with friends. However, poor choices regarding sleep can alter school achievement, according to Italian research published in Sleep Medicine Reviews in 2006. This study found that sub-par sleeping patterns were associated with decreased ability to learn, decreased memory capacity and lower levels of academic performance. Adolescents striving for the honor roll should make sure to get good quality sleep for at least eight hours nightly in order to live up to their academic potential.

Drug Use and Deteriorating Grades

Researchers from Colorado State University note that drug use and poor academic achievement enjoy a reciprocal relationship. Published in the Journal of School Health in 2010, this study reported that as drug use increased, grades deteriorated. Likewise, as academics became strained, drug use increased in response. Authors conclude by noting that because of the symbiotic relationship between the two, academic engagement may prove to be preventative for substance abuse. Teenagers who choose to use drugs or other substances may require intervention in order to salvage academics, along with addressing other physical and mental health issues.

Nutritional Choices

Poor nutritional choices can affect the way adolescents perform in school, according to 2008 research out of Dalhousie University in Canada. This study, published in the Journal of School Health, found that in a sample of 5,200 students, those with better diets enjoyed improved academic performance. These differences remained even after adjusting for socioeconomic issues and gender, suggesting that dietary quality can greatly impact scholastic endeavors. Adolescents who make poor food choices may not be giving themselves every advantage in the academic arena.

Adolescent Confidentiality Laws

Reproductive Rights

One of the most hotly debated teen privacy laws surrounding teens is the right to confidentiality in the area of reproductive rights. The Public Health Service Act gives teens the right to seek treatment and medical care for reproductive issues, whether it be for contraceptives, the treatment of STDs and pregnancy. Title X of this act was initially used to ensure that parents had some knowledge regarding the reproductive care of their children. Over time, it has been amended to grant more privacy to the teen.

Education Privacy

Another protected area regarding teens is the right to confidentiality in the area of education. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 established the right to keep a child's school records from being disclosed to anyone other than the teen and his parents. The law was amended again in 1994 to strengthen that privacy. Today, no school can release any information about a student without both the student's and the parent's permission. The law further states that all rights to confidentiality transfer to the student when he reaches the age of 18.

Drug Treatment Info

The federal government wanted teens to have access to drug treatment facilities. The Public Health Services Act of 1970 has provisions in it that cover drug and alcohol treatment. Under this law, adolescents can enter rehab, seek counseling and medical attention for drug and alcohol-related conditions without fear of their medical information leaking out beyond the clinic or hospital walls. The teens can consent to treatment without their parent's permission. The details of the treatment cannot be disclosed to the parents unless the teen consents.

State Laws Vary

The federal laws do offer a general confidentiality for teens, but state laws cover the details. For example, some states specifically offer confidentiality for teens who seek or who have undergone abortions, while other states require parental consent. The details vary from one state to another, so teens and parents should learn and understand the adolescent confidentiality laws in their state.

Common Assessment Tools for Drug Abuse in Teens

Adolescent Drinking Index

The Adolescent Drinking Index is used by schools, clinics, substance abuse programs and programs for teens with psychological problems. A prerequisite for the person delivering the assessment is a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field and the ability to be able to interpret the results. The ADI uses 24 questions to determine whether a drinking problem exists in your teen. It takes approximately five minutes to take and 10 minutes to score.

Drug Use Screening Inventory – Revised

A common assessment used by drug counselors is the revised edition of the Drug Use Screening Inventory (DUSI-R). The assessment tool takes approximately 20 minutes to deliver and consists of 159 true or false questions. At the end of the screening, the counselor has enough information about the teenager to identify the type of treatment needed and how to monitor the plan's progress. It is commonly used with teens who have behavioral and emotional issues.

Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory - Adolescent Version

The Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory Adolescent Version (SASSI-A), is designed for adolescents who may be unwilling to admit substance abuse. The 100 questions are subtle and are aimed at exposing abuse and dependency. It is commonly used in schools, mental health and criminal facilities, and medical and vocational settings. The assessment tool requires no formal training on the part of the person administering the questionnaire and can be self-administered by the teen under supervision.

Teen Addiction Severity Index

This assessment tool is primarily administered in substance abuse facilities and clinical settings. The Teen Addiction Severity Index (T-ASI) is often used with teenagers who have a drug dependency and a psychiatric or other similar disorder. The assessment is given by a medical professional or trained technician. It takes approximately 45 minutes to deliver and approximately 10 minutes to score.