Your Teen Drug Addict on the Fringe

Your Teen Drug Addict on the Fringe

When a teen becomes an addict, that person you once knew and planned a future for has effectively checked out.  What you experience is an addict who will play you better than you can play them. After a period of time, your teen’s brain becomes progressively “hard-wired” to his or her drug of choice, to use a colloquial term.  Re-setting and adjusting their brains requires a period of abstinence, which is near impossible for young restless addicts without early intervention. 

Public detoxification is often available but short-term.  It is rarely enough without serious follow-up. As your teen’s addiction progresses, it is a matter of time before he or she ends up on the streets or in jail. Given the stress of having an addict in your house, either you or the addict will initiate a new chapter in your child’s addiction:  homelessness. Fathers tend to be hard-nosed and quiet about it, mothers often the opposite.

Early intervention and keeping them off the streets is the best scenario for young addicts. Teen drug users are a tough population to win over.  They will exhaust their family. Most parents will attempt intervention or substance abuse treatment but readily defer to their teen’s half-hearted contrition, wasting your time and your kid’s hope for early recovery.  A recurring catch-22! 

Ultimately, it is up to your teen addict to want this.  Just know that by the time they feel that sense of urgency or “bottom”, their addiction may have progressed too far for you to handle alone. In that sense, if professional intervention is not financially feasible it may be wise to hold your teen legally accountable for any criminality that arises, including legal accountability from a parent.  That is tough to ask of parents who would do anything to keep their kids out of jail. Unfortunately, if that lesson can’t be learned early enough, the advent of a more progressive addiction and criminality is a far bigger problem down the road. I once had admirable visions for my child. I let that go. Achieving sobriety is a remarkable objective. 

Our jail systems are a heavy consequence for a young addict.  Few addicts have funded diversion applies to their offenses. Their criminality trumps their addiction.  Reform is emerging that will engage screening and address addiction as causal where appropriate and deal with the disease. The trend we are seeing is addiction becoming a public health issue.  It is a chronic liability to a public that wants accountability for the impact of addiction.

Consider this one single instance: I witnessed my own addicted family member imposing a cost to Los Angeles County treatment centers, jails, and ER facilities of over $25,000 while living on the streets for less than a year.  What’s the overall impact when you factor in estimates of opiate, cocaine, methamphetamine, and other types of drug addicts numbering roughly 4 to 7 million individuals nationwide and growing, depending on who you include in the classification of a drug addict? That’s worth getting a handle on, not only for our immediate well-being but for the nation as a whole.


The Partnership is excited to welcome a new blogger, Dr. Libby Cataldi!  She is an educator and mother of two sons. Dr. Cataldi is the author of Stay Close: A Mother’s Story of Her Son’s Addiction.

A mother wrote to me: I’m giving up on prayer, I’m afraid.  Recovery was going well, I thought. He was attending meetings, had a new job he likes, a nice girlfriend…I was beginning to trust and hope again. In the last week, money was taken from my purse, he relapsed and violated his probation. Now it’s back to court and maybe prison this time. I can’t do this again.

My Reflection:  Hope is fragile and fear is powerful. I wonder why fear seems to be stronger than hope? I don’t know, but I do know that there are times when I felt like giving up on prayer. Sometimes it’s easier to lose hope and faith than to try to keep feeling them and being crushed. When the drug addiction rises up again and again, and smacks us, knocking us to the ground, we hurt and don’t know what to do. It is then that we are in danger of giving up hope. But if we lose faith and hope, all is lost. We need to stay close to our children, but our children need to fight their own battles.

Today’s Promise: I am only human and sometimes I feel as though I can’t go on. But I will. I will go on in hope.

“We can’t be armor for our children. We can only be supporting troops.” Irwin Shaw

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