Monthly Archives: December 2013

Taking action once signs of teen addiction are confirmed

Finding drugs or alcohol in a child’s room can be cause for alarm – but not counterproductive overreaction – for parents. Previously, we looked at factors a parent can use to determine whether to seek outside help for a child’s potential addiction. This week we’ll consider what parents should do once they have decided to address the child’s potential addiction.

First and foremost, says Mary Egan, director of outreach at Rosecrance Health Network, parents should stand firm against pressure from their child or other family members or friends to avoid taking action. “The most dangerous course of action is to do nothing and chalk it up as a teenage rite of passage,” says Egan, adding that the initial conversation with the teen about the seriousness and consequences of drug use is an important first step — but only a first step. After that initial conversation, parents need to create a course of action to communicate consequences for alcohol and drug use.

“In a firm but caring manner, parents need to explain that alcohol and drug use are illegal and unhealthy and can result in problems at home, school and with the law, and can potentially result in substance abuse and addiction,” says Egan. She emphasizes that parents should always seek out a professional consultation about what is going on in their child’s life, especially when drugs, alcohol or paraphernalia are found in the home.

Still, teens may work extra hard to convince their parents that they don’t have a problem, often playing one parent against the other or trying to make their parents feel guilty about  their concern and plan of action. “A substance abuser will use emotional manipulation to hijack a parent’s normal response to evaluate the seriousness of the substance use,” says Egan. “For example, a teen might say they promise to quit but then just get sneakier.” Egan says teens often say they have just “experimented” without divulging the full extent of use to avoid parents’ disappointment.

Sending the right message

It’s important that a child has a clear understanding of his or her parents’ position on drug and alcohol use, says Mary Roufa, manager of community services and support for Rosecrance, which is why it’s especially important for parents to take action if they feel that a teen’s drug or alcohol use is a cause for concern.

“Not addressing the issue will be interpreted by the adolescent that it is OK. Explain to your child that this is a serious health issue and that you care about the child too much to let it slide,” says Roufa. “Overreacting by yelling and name calling, and then not taking any course of action or grounding them forever can produce the opposite reaction from what the parent intended. It can cause your child to rebel against your authority or to retreat further into substance abuse.”

For many family members, the very idea of asking a third party to get involved in a loved one’s potential drug addiction can be difficult, especially when a child promises to quit. “Many parents want to believe that their child is just experimenting because the alternative is a very scary thought,” Egan says. “Seeking outside help is important to evaluate the extent of the problem. However, uncertainty about what steps to take, shame about what people will think, or guilt that ‘I somehow caused this behavior in my child’ or fear that it might really be a problem are common roadblocks.”

Parents should work with the resources available to them, including school counselors, family doctors and other appropriate individuals. Also, the addiction counselor plays an important role. In addition to providing some possible guidance, an addiction counselor can reinforce to your child that you’re serious about dealing with his or her potential addiction.

New Rosecrance IOP to serve teens in Northbrook

Behavioral Healthcare posted an article about Rosecrance’s new Intensive Outpatient Program for teens in Northbrook.

To read the article, click here.

Let compassion guide us so lives can be saved

Rockford Register Star published Father Jim Swarthout’s opinion article on showing compassion to those who deal with major depression.

To view the letter, click here.

Rosecrance Chief Medical Officer quoted in national article on alcohol ads and underage drinking posted Dr. Wright’s interview surrounding the findings of the Johns Hopkins University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that focused on the tie between teen alcohol use and alcohol advertising.

To view the article, click here.

Determining whether signs of addiction require attention

Whether you’re doing an intentional search for marijuana in your daughter’s room or just happen to come across a bottle of Jack Daniel’s while gathering up your son’s laundry, you’re probably more than a little concerned about what to do next.

Do you confront the issue head on, demand answers and issue punishments, or do you take a more measured approach and ease into a conversation with your child about personal responsibility? Or should you consider it just another aspect of teen life and treat it with little concern?

Mary Egan, director of outreach at Rosecrance Health Network, says finding alcohol, drugs or paraphernalia in a child’s room is a serious warning sign, one that addiction counselors see as an indication that drug or alcohol use has progressed beyond experimentation. Therefore, it should be treated as a serious matter by parents.

“When a teen brings a drug into their home, it can signify that drug use is becoming more normalized and habitual,” says Egan. “Teens who are experimenting usually don’t carry the drug or paraphernalia around in their personal effects.”

Still, parents should be cautious about rushing to conclusions until they’ve had a chance to speak with their child to get a full picture of what’s going on, especially since many teens will try to pass off the situation by saying that the drug or paraphernalia belongs to a friend.

Keeping track of patterns, habits

Egan recommends being proactive when dealing with a child’s potential addiction, suggesting that parents keep an eye out for changes in grades, friends and other aspects of their child’s life.

When Egan and her team at Rosecrance assess a teen for addiction, they pay special attention to the following issues:

  • changes in mood
  • changes in interaction with family members
  • whether the child follows home rules and curfew
  • changes in school grades, attendance and discipline
  • changes in previously enjoyed sports and activities
  • shifting friendships from one group of teens to another
  • increased overnight sleepovers at a friend’s house
  • signs of the child coming home under the influence, smelling of unusual odors or engaging in unusual behavior

If parents notice changes in these areas, they need to follow up with more questions to determine whether substance abuse is an issue.

Parents are often frustrated by the casual attitude their children have toward the use of drugs. Indeed, many teenagers think it’s OK to experiment with drugs and alcohol because they see adults using substances and hear messages in popular culture that condone overuse.

“Normal teenage development involves an ebb and flow between adult and childlike behaviors throughout adolescence as they progress toward full adulthood and try out adult-type behaviors and choose who they want to be,” Egan says. “We know, however, that (young brains are) not fully developed until the mid-20s — especially the areas involving judgment and critical thinking — so making a decision about substance use is flawed by a brain that doesn’t fully understand what the consequences can be for experimentation.”

Experimentation may rapidly become abuse

The casual light in which teens may view drugs makes early action even more important. Egan says the adolescent brain is also very susceptible to the effects of drugs and alcohol, which can result in addiction much more quickly than an adult. “A teen can progress from experimentation to abuse and addiction in a very short time span, especially with the potency of drugs available to them today like marijuana, prescription pills and heroin,” she says.

As difficult as it may be to have a conversation with your teen about drug use, it’s essential.

“This is the time for you to be the parent and not the friend,” Egan says. “Holding your child accountable is one of the most important things a parent can do.”

This article will soon be followed up with important and helpful information on this difficult issue. Up next: How to discuss your child’s potential addiction

If you suspect your teen is abusing substances, it’s time to seek a professional evaluation. Rosecrance will answer your questions and walk you through each step to get the help your family needs. Call Rosecrance at 888-928-5278 or go to Life’s waiting.


Relying on circadian rhythms to help teens

Parents and children are known to share terms of endearment before calling it a night, but for moms and dads with teens in the house, those bedtime declarations of affection are often accompanied by the frustrated and futile command: “Go to sleep!”

As maddening as it is, it’s normal.

“According to research, the natural circadian rhythm of teens makes them mentally unready for sleep when the rest of the family is yawning,” says Dr. Thomas E. Wright, chief medical officer and senior vice president for medical affairs with Rosecrance Health Network. “By the time a typical teen naturally drifts off, parents are halfway through their time of rest.”

According to the National Institute of General Medical Science, the circadian rhythm is present in most living things, and includes the physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a 24-hour cycle with an emphasis on responses to light and darkness.

Wright, a board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrist, says the sleep cycle of an adolescent can change dramatically in ways that mirror changes in their physical, social, psychological and biologic makeup.

A significant change is the gradual shift in the timing of sleep, which begins around the age of 13. At that point, adolescents show signs of being more awake and aware during evening activities. They also require more sleep. In fact, their need for sleep peaks at 13 and begins to decrease about 14 minutes per year until they reach the age of 20. In other words, your 17-year-old son may not be engaging in an act of defiance when he’s up at all hours of the night. Instead, he simply may be responding to physiological makeup. Night-time stimulations like cell phones, computers, TVs and video games can only add to a teen’s late-night shift in sleeping patterns.

Still, getting adequate sleep each night clearly is important. Even limited sleep deprivation can result in cognitive challenges, psychological problems, hallucinations and delusions.

As a result of this shift in the timeliness of sleep, several studies have indicated that schools could delay their morning start times to more align with the natural sleep rhythms of their student population. This delayed start could help students who may have trouble falling asleep before the early a.m. hours, and could result in improved school performance and better behavior.

Many school systems across the nation have shifted to later start times for middle and high school students to bend to teenagers’ circadian rhythm.

Adjusting hours results in improvements

In the fall of 2010, Rosecrance officials decided to review the daily schedule and make modifications to allow teens in substance-abuse programs to get more sleep at Rosecrance Griffin Williamson campus, our 78-bed facility in Rockford. This change affected more than just patients. In fact, the work schedules of nearly every staff member and volunteer had to be revised in an effort to modify the schedule for therapy, school, recreation, meals and medication.

After the schedule changed, Rosecrance officials noticed improvements in patients’ mood, alertness, and motivation. Patients were satisfied with the new schedule and liked the changes, with several reporting that they felt better rested and less stressed. Counselors and other staff members indicated that patients seemed to be more motivated in the morning and had generally improved attitudes.

While admitting that it is difficult to officially measure if the schedule change has actually impacted patients and staff in one way or another, Jason Gorham, administrator of adolescent services at the Rosecrance Griffin Williamson Campus, says the overall feeling is that the longer sleep and later bed times have helped teens be more engaged in the various aspects of their care.

“It has re-established the importance of self-care, speaks to the needs of adolescents, and allows for meditation and journal time at night to take place in the manner in which it is designed,” he says.