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The Accidental Addict

June 13, 2017

No, trauma isn’t lurking under every addict.

While many clinicians and social science researchers point to trauma as an underlying cause or risk factor for addictions, there are still a good many persons whose lives are not marked by horrible experiences yet who do succumb to drugs.

Particularly in adolescence, experimentation, seeking individuation or separation from one’s parents, at times boredom and at other times just getting caught up with the moment leads teens to imbibe.

The issue though is that drugs do make people feel good. At times, real good. So good in fact that without thinking, people, particularly teens are then enticed to repeat the experience. To add, because of the very addictive nature of some of today’s drugs, a single use can set the stage for actual addiction.

In repeating the experience and with naivety, some teens do come to find themselves imbibing regularly. With repetition, drug use then becomes habitual and depending on the drug, an addiction.

If there is trauma associated with teen drug use in this context, the trauma is finding oneself having habituated to drug use and seeking to manage the secret from their parents.

Given the conflict that may arise when drug use is discovered, how it is managed by the parents can then increase the risk of associated trauma, particularly if the parents resort to very authoritarian or even draconian strategies to manage their upset with their teen’s drug use.

As social workers we have always advised parents to talk with their teens about drugs.

That talk needs to be more than about the inherent dangers of any particular drug, but also the context in which drug use may occur.

We need to talk to our kids and discuss strategies for resisting enticement, particularly if they find themselves in a group of peers where imbibing is the norm and where drugs are being shared in the moment. We need to provide our teens with strategies to resist temptation and exit situations while saving face. In other words, we need to offer excuses to help extricate themselves from challenging to coercive situations.

Strategies we can share with our teens include letting them blame us the parent:

  • Teens can tell their peers we would kill them if detected;
  • That they have an appointment with us;
  • That they have to be up early the following day for an activity; etc.

Sure these are lies, but they are safety lies that enable the teen to more easily exit a situation they would seek to avoid. These are life saving lies appreciating that at times the truth may not be accepted. These are the times we let our teen stand on our shoulders to be bigger than the situation they encounter.

If you have detected drug use, it is then important to maintain your composure as the parent. Often more powerful that any consequence or loss of privilege is a sit-down with your teen.  Therein you discuss your concern for their well-being and upset for their choice. The trick in this is to leave the teen thinking about their behavior and choices, not yours.

Bad things do happen to good people. While it is true that trauma lurks under many an addict, it is not this way in all cases. One can become an accidental addict. The goal is to mitigate such an outcome from happening.

A heartfelt talk; discussion as to how to extricate oneself from temptation or the influence of others; and ways to chat with your teen even after the fact can help mitigate or lower the risk of inadvertent drug problems.

No one wants their son or daughter to become an accidental addict.

Chat now.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue. I am available in person and by Skype.

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.

  1. What if it’s not the child

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