Teenage drug "Substance Abuse Evaluation " (and teenage alcoholism) is a very serious problem. Many families remain in denial about teenage substance abuse including both teenage alcoholism and teenage drug abuse). Often, by the time the parents bring in their troubled youth for a psychiatric evaluation with me, the drug problem is out of control. Here is a recent case from my practice:

R.H. is 17 years old. He has Attention Deficit Disorder and has always had some difficulty in school. His parents report he is impulsive and argumentative. They assume this behavior goes along with his being a teenager. He stays out late with his friends on a regular basis. His parents, looking back on the last year, suspect their son is using drugs, but they are not sure. When they question him about his whereabouts, he is very evasive. They think he is hanging out with the wrong crowd.

If you suspect your teen who is a troubled youth is using drugs, look over these 10 signs of possible teenage drug abuse:

Is your teen skipping classes?
Have his grades dropped recently?
Have there been changes in his personality in the last year?
Is your troubled teen secretive and defensive about his whereabouts if you question him?
Is he hanging out with the wrong crowd?
Has he quit participating in family activities?
Does he have sudden mood changes with irritability?
Is your teen stealing money from you?
Has his appetite diminished?
Has his sleep pattern changed?
When his parents gave him a curfew, R.H. did not honor it. They took his car away, but his friends would pick him up and he would disappear until after midnight. When his parents would call him, he would ignore their calls.

His parents brought him in for an evaluation. As his parents suspected, R.H. does indeed have a teenage substance abuse problem. He admitted he was smoking marijuana frequently, participating in teenage binge drinking, and abusing occasional pain pills. He also reported significant anxiety. I concluded R.H.may also have an Anxiety Disorder made worse by his medication for Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). His teenage drug abuse and potential teenage alcoholism was at least, in part, an attempt to self-medicate his anxiety.

There were 5 parts to his treatment plan. First, I treated R.H. with a non-addicting medication for anxiety and changed his ADD medication dose. Second, I worked with his parents to set much stricter boundaries (for 2 weeks, he was not allowed to go out with his friends, they no longer gave him extra money, and his phone and computer were taken away). Whenever he failed a home drug test or refused a drug test (which they purchased at their local pharmacy), the same consequences would be put in place. Three, his parents clarified their expectations about school attendance and performance as well as showing up for his appointments with me. They explained the consequences if he did not fulfill his obligations. Fourth, he also started participating in a group with other teens with addiction. Fifth, his parents started going to Al-Anon meetings for their own support.

As a psychiatrist that specializes in addiction (including teenage drug abuse and teenage alcoholism), here is my advice: if you suspect your child is using drugs or participating in underage drinking, do not ignore it. It is best to catch things early. If your child has many of the above symptoms, you need to address it. Bring your troubled youth to a psychiatrist or medical professional for an evaluation. Sometimes, other mental health disorders such as depression or anxiety, can present with some of the symptoms I have already mentioned. The only successful treatment for teenage drug abuse or teenage alcohol abuse is multi-factorial. The family must be willing to make significant changes or teenage drug abuse and teenage alcoholism will progress over time.

Author's Bio: 

His parents brought him in for an evaluation. As his parents suspected, R.H. does indeed have a teenage substance abuse problem. He admitted he was smoking marijuana frequently, participating in teenage binge drinking, and abusing occasional pain pills. He also reported significant anxiety. I concluded R.H.may also have an Anxiety Disorder made worse by his medication for Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). His teenage drug abuse and potential teenage alcoholism was at least, in part, an attempt to self-medicate his anxiety.