In this episode, I interview Richard Capriola, author of The Addicted Child: A Parent’s Guide to Adolescent Substance Abuse. Richard has over two decades of experience working with adults and adolescents diagnosed with substance abuse disorders. The book includes an explanation of how drugs work in the teen brain, warning signs every parent should know about, what assessments and tests are important for a diagnosis, and much more. This interview is a great primer for substance use and abuse!

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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 The Addicted Child: A Parent’s Guide to Adolescent Substance Abuse you can receive the information and resources needed to help your child through the difficult times of assessment, treatment, and recovery.

Alcohol and drugs have the power to change your child’s brain and influence behaviors you may find objectionable. These substances work within the brain to minimize the negative consequences of their use and give your child a pleasurable experience. You can begin to help your child by first understanding how drugs work within the brain to influence drug-seeking behaviors.

Because the best treatment starts with a comprehensive assessment you should insist upon a variety of tests. These assessments go beyond looking only at your child’s history of using substances. Helping our child through the difficult time of substance use starts with a comprehensive assessment, including a complete physical exam, psychological and neuropsychological assessments and a detailed addictions assessment. Your child will likely oppose these assessments but you should insist they be completed.

When you look beyond your child’s alcohol or drug use you may find their struggle to manage intolerable thoughts, feelings, or memories is a core issue that drives their substance use and needs treatment. While not every child using alcohol or drugs has an underlying psychological issue like anxiety or depression, for those that do, treating the alcohol or drug problem without treating the mental health issue can be a treatment plan doomed to fail.

Issues such as eating disorders and self-injury can accompany a child’s use of alcohol or drugs. You should be familiar with the many warning signs for these disorders. If your child has an eating disorder or is self-injuring and also using alcohol or drugs it’s important that both issues be assessed and treated.

Parents often need guidance when looking for treatment options. There is no “one size fits all” treatment approach to helping your child through substance abuse treatment. You should become familiar with the different treatment programs and options available to help your child. You should also become familiar with the principles of effective adolescent treatment for substance abuse.

Very few things are more destructive to a family than having someone, especially a child, addicted to alcohol or drugs. For most of these families, it’s a heart-breaking experience. Their desperate search for help often leaves them feeling alone and without a roadmap to guide them through the process of helping their child through 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 information on the book and a companion parent workbook on Amazon and the following website:

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Podscast Transcript

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