If you are wondering where your sweet, affectionate, happy pre-teen or teen went and who this resentful, moody, withdrawn person is in your house; you are not alone. Even having the best parents in the world does not always stop a teen from becoming lost in substance abuse. You have seen enough of the indicators: noticeable and extended changes in appearance and overall health, alcohol and drug paraphernalia in their room, new friends, as well as secretive and withdrawn behavior. Now you know you have to do something. But where do you start?


We understand how trite it may should to tell you to stay calm. We know that helping a teen through substance abuse issues is one of the hardest things parents and families go through. We really do get that when we say you need to remain calm. Take some time to sort through the emotions you are feeling.

  • Don’t blame yourself
  • Figure out a plan
  • Don’t go it alone
  • Respond to your teen with love, love, love

Start off by asking questions and starting a conversation. You can often get a lot further by talking about an issue like substance abuse instead of coming head on and confronting it. Ask your teen about their friends. See if you can get them to open up about friends that are struggling with addiction, you can tell a lot about where your teen is at by how they talk about their peers who are struggling.

As you are engaging with your child, look for hints about what is going on that is deeper than the outward drug induced signs you see. Look for telltale indicators like not fitting in, emotional pain, boredom, attention-seeking, etc. These can give you tremendous insight into what drew your teen to use in the first place.

Research the Options

Know what option you and your teen have in the community. Places like our Intake & Assessment Center are available to answer any questions you might have about your options both at Juneau Youth Services and in the community. If you want to get your teen evaluated, but don’t know where to start, can schedule an appointment for your teen with our Assessment Center and our master’s level clinician.  We will provide recommendations specific to your child’s needs based on what is going to help them the most (even if that doesn’t include our programs).

With a quick call to your family doctor or teen’s doctor, you can determine if they are comfortable providing a medical evaluation and recommendation. Some family physicians are very comfortable with this and have experience in the areas of substance abuse; others are not. A psychiatrist, familiar with drug addiction, can also do an evaluation.

Bring In Back-Up

You don’t have to walk this road alone. Reach out to family, school counselors, coaches, and professionals. People your son or daughter respects can come along side you and have a very powerful impact on the dialogue and outcome of the treatment.

Also, make sure you have a support system. This is hard, and this is heartbreaking. You need to have friends and family that will help you keep your sanity and your heart intake while you walk through treatment with your child.

Respond to Your Teen with Love

Responding with love does not mean enabling their addiction by not bringing up the elephant in the room. It does mean letting them know at every step of the way that you love them. Tell them you are fighting for them not against them because they are and always will be your child and you love them unconditionally.

Most of all, don’t let fear or embarrassment dissuade you from reaching out. You are not the first parent who has had to walk through this, and we are here for you. There is no judgment from us. We understand, and we are here to help you, your family, and your son or daughter.