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An Addiction Counselor's War on Drugs

The war in Afghanistan is now considered the longest war in United States history.

Wrong.

The US government’s "War on Drugs" recently turned 40. The longest war in American history by far has been for the most part under the radar of the general public now for four decades. Flashback: Nixon is president, hot pants are in, and Three Dog Night's "Joy to the World" is the #1 song of the year.

I'm embarrassed to admit that it's been under my radar also until the publicity this summer about the 40th anniversary. Since then I’ve become aware of the work of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) and the grassroots movement Moms United to End the War on Drugs, all of whom advocate for the reduction of the harm associated with drug policies and for policies, as suggested by LEAP, "grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights".

Co-Occurring Disorders in Teens: Bipolar Disorder - The Great Imitator

Angry outbursts, erratic sleep patterns, sudden mood swings, and changes in personality. If you’re a parent of a teenager, these behaviors can be the status quo—actually, we often take these behaviors for granted. When teens are in trouble, when they are struggling to cope with issues that are too difficult for them to handle, drinking or getting high makes these behaviors worse often to the point of frightening us.

Symptoms of substance misuse often mimic other behaviors and make it hard to figure out exactly what’s going on in kids who are getting high. We know that kids (and adults) get high to help manage the difficult emotions associated with life’s challenges. And we know that adolescence presents them (and us!) with unique challenges.

Your parental instinct that something is wrong is often correct, but understanding the difference in the root causes of their erratic behavior will help you decide what course to take with your child.

Sometimes the issues are normal external pressures, like arguments with friends, academic expectations, real or perceived rejections by others.

Substance Misuse Counseling 101 for Parents

Understanding some basic principles of substance misuse counseling will help you as parents develop an approach to intervening with your child.

Substance misuse is a problem that involves the interaction among physical, emotional, social (friends), and environmental (family, school) variables. In the course of our normal daily interaction with our kids, we’re usually aware of any physical, social, and environmental issues. Since children are often not able to articulate their emotional struggles well, we need to look at their behaviors as possible signs of conflict.

People use drugs for reasons. And our behavior, no matter what age, reflects choices we make based on how we think and feel. Also, as humans we tend to move towards rewarding activities and away from uncomfortable activities. Problems with drinking and drug use are associated with the harmful choices we make, often as ways of helping us feel better in the short run. Chemically, alcohol and drugs offer available options ways to self-medicate the uncomfortable feelings of daily life.

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