9. How do kids get involved and develop problems with alcohol and other drugs? Does this mean that we somehow failed as parents?
Some youth may have a higher biological risk for such problems based on a family history of alcohol and other drug problems. Youth with family histories of alcohol and drug addiction are 4-5 times more likely to develop substance use problems than youth without such family histories. Some young people develop dependencies on alcohol and other drugs as a byproduct of their effort to relieve the distress of personal or family problems. Adolescents can also develop substance problems through involvement with a peer group in which substance use is a normal way to have fun. In this pattern, substance use serves as a ticket of social membership and personal identity that can bring unintended consequences. Other youth begin using drugs or alcohol as a form of juvenile protest—a misguided declaration of independence.
Parents of youth in treatment sometimes say that they feel they have somehow failed as parents. What parents have done or failed to do may or may not have anything to do with their son or daughter’s substance use.No treatment professional will blame you or want you to blame yourself if your child has developed a problem. There are many pathways that can lead to adolescent problems with alcohol and other drugs, and these problems unfold in different patterns that require different types of treatment. The important thing is to move forward. The assessment of an adolescent’s substance use by a trained professional can help identify the most appropriate treatment approach and offer parents guidance on how best to respond to such problems.