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10 Places Your Teen Can Hide Drugs

If you believe that your teen has been using drugs as of late, chances are that they have some with them at home. Where teens hide drugs are not always immediately obvious – you might not find a quarter ounce of weed stuffed away in a sock at the bottom of the drawer or in the pocket of their least favorite jacket – but there are only so many places you can hide drugs around a house.

While your teen might be more inventive than most, these tend to be the most common places your teen can hide drugs from snooping siblings and parents alike.

1. Scent-proofed Stashes

Not all drugs have a strong scent. Trained dogs can sniff out drugs like cocaine even amid a pile of dirty laundry, but the human nose is not that advanced. That being said, some popular drugs, like marijuana, in particular, have a very strong and distinctive scent. This narrows down a teen’s options.

The first, yet probably most obvious thing to do, is to bury the stash. The problem with doing so is that it’s pretty easy to tell when a hole has been freshly dug, and they’d have to signpost it somehow to avoid losing their weed. It’s still worth checking the backyard, though.

Other scent-proofed possibilities include large jars of coffee (coffee is a natural deodorant and has its own scent), empty roll-on deodorant sticks, inside an unused bag of pet food, or a permanent marker with a strong scent.

2. Video Game Consoles

Some consoles are a bit more infamous than others for providing great hiding opportunities. One disadvantage is that consoles are just like computers but optimized for space and performance. This means they can get quite hot, which isn’t ideal for some drugs. Checking your teen’s console might be tricky, as it can be fairly easy to damage.

There are plenty of tutorials online for removing the front panel of a video game console, whether it’s a Playstation, an Xbox, or an older Wii U. Portable consoles like the Switch or PS Vita are much more difficult to use as potential drug stashes, due to their compact nature. Old, unused, or broken consoles can be retrofitted into potential drug stashes, however, by removing key components. On a similar note, your teen’s PC tower might be another place to look.

3. The Backyard

We’ve mentioned burying drugs, but that isn’t the only option. A backyard is a place full of potential (and great) hiding spots. Hollow garden gnomes? Hollow spaces inside flowerpots? Under a slab in the rock garden? In the tool shed, hidden behind the fertilizer? The possibilities are endless – which makes the backyard one of the better hiding spots, provided it’s large enough to make searching difficult.

4. Personal Hygiene Products

Teens expect a little privacy from their parents, at least when it comes to what they use to get ready for the day. However, old and used containers or empty makeup kits make for a good hiding spot.

5. Their Car

It’s obvious but effective. Don’t just check on the floor or in the glovebox – drugs can be taped under the seat or dashboard or stashed under the hood.

6. Toilet Tank

The toilet tank is an all-time favorite. Simple, marginally gross, and easy to access.

7. Air Vents

Most modern homes no longer have these, but older homes and apartments do. Air vents are a pretty convenient place to stash anything that’s relatively small and doesn’t have a significant odor or can be placed in an odor-safe container. That means you likely won’t find weed in an air vent your teen has access to, but you might find – depending on the size of the vent and the space provided – alcohol, certain prescription pills, or cocaine.

An alternative yet similar hiding space is an unused air conditioning unit. Most older air conditioning units have an easily removable front panel and a little bit of space for hiding things.

8. Cookie and Candy Tins

Altoids have been making a comeback – not so much for the candy itself but for the nostalgic and aesthetic factor of the tin. In addition to cash, teens might also use Altoid tins to stash other valuables. The same goes for cookie tins, old candy tins, etc. 

9. Behind Posters

If the drug is in a powder form or can be easily flattened (such as a small plastic bag with a few pills), another good place to hide it would be behind a poster taped against the wall.

10. Inside Books

It’s not done very often, but people do still hollow out cavities in books they aren’t really a fan of and use that as a discrete hiding spot.

Necessity Is the Mother of Invention

Even if your teen does not typically apply their full faculties to daily tasks and schoolwork, never underestimate a teenager’s capacity for innovation and inventiveness when it comes down to it.

Going Through Great Lengths to Hide Drugs

Teens understand that drugs are dangerous and that they shouldn’t use them frivolously. But oftentimes, they don’t care. Whether it’s because most teens have an immortality complex or because the long-term consequences of drug use are known, but simply don’t register in their minds, teens can and will go through great lengths to hide drugs or their drug use, especially if they live in an area where it’s both harder to get drugs, and where punishment for drug possession is greater.

What if You Don’t Find Anything?

If you don’t find your teen’s drug stash or think they might not be keeping any drugs at hand, after all, that does not necessarily mean they aren’t taking anything. If you catch your teen being high regularly without having any drugs at home, it can only mean one thing: they’re getting and using drugs while out with friends or acquaintances.

Suspicious Behavior Doesn’t Equal a Drug Problem

Last but not least, not all suspicious teen behavior is indicative of a drug problem. If you don’t have any conclusive proof that your teen is regularly using drugs, then their behavior could be explained in other ways. Irritability, pulling away from family, anxious or paranoid behavior, and memory problems can be caused by other conditions, including stress- or trauma-related anxiety. If your teen doesn’t want to talk about their problems and habits, consider speaking with a mental health professional about potential intervention tactics.

For more information, please contact Visions Treatment Centers. If your teen is struggling with substance abuse, reach out to us to learn more about residential treatment program options and much more.


The Many Ways Addiction Affects Families

substance use disorder is diagnosed in individuals – but every diagnosis touches multiple different lives and how addiction affects families. Families, like other systems, rely on a unique balance between individuals working together to keep the peace. Everyone has a role to play, and as those roles evolve – for example, as kids age, or as young parents become parents to adults – so do the personalities, responsibilities, and actions of each individual family member.

Something like an addiction throws a monkey wrench into the family system. It’s an ongoing and severe health condition, an illness that develops and spreads throughout a person’s life, changing their decision-making process, their cognition, their personality. They become secretive or irritable.

When confronted, they can become angry or emotionally compromised. They begin to feel resentment towards themselves and even their loved ones. On some days, they feel cursed and bear great guilt for the burden they feel they are placing on those around them.

These complex mental and emotional changes are harrowing for the person struggling with addiction, but they are also difficult to adjust to for everyone else. An addiction can turn a happy and responsible family member into someone who is dependent and hates it and makes that hate feel involuntary, or with purpose.

Understanding addiction and the road it takes someone on can help family members develop greater patience for the process of recovery and learn to cope with the hardship of caring for a loved one struggling with this problem.

It can also help those affected by addiction learn to embrace the long process of recovery, not just for themselves and their chance at life, but for a better life for everyone around them.

Addiction and the Brain

Long-term substance use affects a person biologically, psychologically, and socially. Yet the most immediate and dramatic effects are typically mental, as the addiction hits the brain.

Central to the mechanism behind addiction is the release of neurotransmitters, chemicals that our neurons use to communicate nearly everything. A key neurotransmitter in motivation and reward is dopamine, which is released upon doing things like satiating an empty stomach, hugging a loved one, and achieving a goal.

Addictive drugs exploit the dopaminergic pathways in the brain to achieve an incredibly potent and unnatural release of the stuff, overshadowing other, conventional methods of achieving a dopamine surge.

Because the brain doesn’t like when things are too effective, it begins to develop a resistance to an addictive drug’s dopamine surge – at the cost of dulling the effects of dopamine when released via other means.

Meanwhile, most addictive substances begin to create other problems for the brain. Drugs like alcohol, for example, are actively toxic and can attack the myelin sheathing of our nerves, leading to alcohol-related nerve pain and brain damage.

Drugs like cocaine can permanently damage the brain and heart, while overuse of other stimulants can lead to an increased risk of stroke and cognitive effects. Depressants like Xanax and barbiturates mimic the effects of alcohol on the brain, while opiate use can lead to an increased risk of accidental overdose, and hypoxia.

Addiction and the Body

Alcohol famously tears through the liver. Cocaine and other stimulants attack the heart. Most drugs affect the kidneys.

Heroin and other street drugs are often laced with dangerous or unsanitary products, or injected through shared needles, leading to skin conditions, hepatitis C, and other transmitted diseases.

Tobacco massively increases the risk of lung cancer and throat cancer, while vaping can cause respiratory distress and vape-related health problems.

While the effects of addiction on a person’s psyche are dramatic, the long-term effects on their body can be just as dangerous. Many drugs affect appetite, causing extreme weight loss or weight gain, and an increased risk for metabolic illnesses.

These health conditions put a massive strain on a family’s finances and wellbeing, in addition to cutting lives short.

Addiction and the Home

On the surface level, addiction can lead to dulled or changed decision making, increased irritability, marked changes in personality, lack of focus, hours or days of lost memory, and other forms of cognitive decline. A family member can become lost to the effects of addiction, turning into someone unrecognizable to their loved ones.

Children who see their parents struggle with a substance use disorder are three times more likely to struggle with addiction as they grow up. They are also more likely to suffer physical or emotional abuse as a result of their parent’s addiction. Addiction can affect a child’s mental and emotional development, causing them to struggle to learn and thrive during the most developmentally important years of their life.

Drug use has severe social consequences. Legal troubles, productivity problems at work or school, job instability, expulsion, and even jail time can affect not only one person’s wellbeing and career, but the entire family’s trajectory.

Losing a parent or a child to addiction can weigh heavily on the rest of the family and make it difficult to cope. This can breed strife, resentment, estrangement or abandonment, poisoning the well and collapsing the critical trust between family members.

This is why tackling addiction as a family is crucial.

Tackling Addiction Together

Family therapy is an undervalued and critically important part of the recovery process. While one person is diagnosed with an illness, it’s the whole family who must work together to treat it – even if it’s an adoptive family of close friends and partners, rather than your parents and siblings.

Family therapy can help individuals better understand addiction, learn how to cope with the stress that comes from caring for a loved one with a destructive disorder, and help everyone readjust to a new and complex dynamic.

Psychoeducation, or a learning program revolving around a loved one’s condition, can help individual family members and the patient themselves anticipate the effects of addiction on family ties, and react preemptively.

Addiction tears into trust, rips into a family’s financial stability, and can lead to codependency. Family therapy and psychoeducation help you and your loved ones stick together in recovery, find alternatives, discover healthier ways to cope, and minimize the effects of addiction on your family’s long-term health.

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Role of Parenting Styles in Teen Drug Abuse

It’s difficult to treat teen drug abuse, especially when a drug has its hooks firmly in a teen’s head. Just like everybody else, they need support – and it’s often the parents, not the peers or the therapists or the doctors, who help their kids stay sober the most. How a parent interacts with their child is important, as is their parenting style

What Are Parenting Styles?

Parenting styles are archetypes of parental philosophies characterized by certain behavior and viewpoints that parents share. For example, an authoritarian parent might overtly control their teen’s behavior and activities, emphasizing obedience above other qualities in their relationship with their child. An authoritarian parent will punish their child for talking back and refuse to engage in a conversation with them when questioned. Children are to take orders and comply unquestioningly until they’re old enough to stand on their own. In other words: kids should be seen, not heard. While psychologists and experts have identified several different parenting styles over the years, most of them can be split between the following four

  • Authoritarian: As explained previously, authoritarian parents command their children. They are restrictive and enforce their rules with punishment. 
  • Authoritative: Authoritarian parents provide limits and rules for their children but take the time to explain those restrictions when asked. They also work hard to foster a positive relationship with their children by taking an interest in what they do and what they like and encouraging their growth. 
  • Permissive: Permissive parents have a “kids will be kids” attitude towards misbehavior and generally do not enforce their rules or may not even provide clear boundaries for their children. 
  • Uninvolved: Uninvolved parents are neglectful and show neither care nor particular disdain for their children. Some are simply severely overworked or don’t really know how to take care of their child’s emotional needs. 

Note that these archetypes describe a general parenting style and are not necessarily rulebooks. An authoritarian parent may be relaxed at times, and an authoritative parent may resort to more punishment than necessary out of frustration. In contrast, a permissive parent may occasionally be adamant about certain rules. Parenting styles help us interpret how certain qualities and relationships between parents and children affect the children’s choices and behaviors both now and later in life and their choice in peers and partners or their choices regarding substance use. 

Why Parenting Styles Matter

Drugs like alcohol, cocaine, and heroin are inherently addictive, so it’s usually the circumstances that lead to initial use that play the greatest role in a teen’s potential substance use problem. While no substance use disorder starts with hit number one, or the first drink, most drugs prime the brain for another session because they contain substances that very closely mimic – and even overpower – ones our own brain produces to incentivize and promote certain behavior, from eating to procreation. 

In that sense, half of the battle against addiction keeps kids from using drugs to begin with. The resilience against addiction seems to increase with age, as young people using drugs are more likely to form a lasting substance use issue than if they had the first contact with a drug well into their mid-20s. Peer pressure is often blamed on why and how kids begin experimenting with drugs at home – but research shows that parents play an even greater part.

Parenting styles affect the kind of relationship a child has with their parents – and in turn, with others around them. A poor relationship can lead to trust issues, early self-reliance, an unbalanced mental state, and isolation. Parents who are too uninvolved or enforce rules too rigidly may cause their children to seek out unhealthy attachments or struggle massively with social interaction, especially anger management, adaptation, verbal expression, and healthy coping.

Addictive drugs cause addiction of their very own accord. Still, emotional and social factors make substance use disorder more or less likely, even after a teen was exposed to drugs. A healthy relationship – an authoritative one – with one’s parent more often translates into better relationships with other people, improved social skills, better coping skills, higher self-esteem, and a lower risk of getting addicted. Addiction usually affects the vulnerable the most, after all.

But just as parents can have a significant impact on their children’s behavior, even well into their rebellious teen phase, so too do they play a crucial role in preventing teen drug abuse. Parents with a positive, strong bond to their children will have an easier time helping them through their addiction than a parent who is too harsh or too distant. Punishing or neglecting a child for their choices and experiences will only reinforce negative behavior and make it that much harder to recover from a substance use problem.

What About Peer Pressure?

Despite a drop in numbers for most illicit drugs among adolescent users during the pandemic, COVID-19 saw alcohol and cannabis use rise among teens as millions of young people struggling with social isolation. About half of surveyed teens reported using these drugs alone, without digital nor face-to-face contact with peers. Peer pressure has always played some part in teen drug abuse, but it’s a case of putting the cart before the horse in many cases. Peer choices are often driven by a teen’s general attitude and relationship with their parents, as are drug choices.

Peers with a positive relationship with their parents are also far more resilient to peer pressure. While wanting to be popular can be seen as a valid motivation for drug use and experimentation, it usually does not weigh as heavily into a teen’s relationship with their parents. This does not change significantly until after the teen years, around the age most kids move away or are beginning to form long-term bonds of their own. 

The Importance of Protective Factors

Addiction risk factors are a common point of discussion when discussing teen drug abuse – but it’s just as important to highlight protective factors. These can also play a role in substance use cessation and long-term recovery. Alongside a healthy relationship with their parents, other protective factors for teens include:

  • Healthy social interaction with other teens.
  • Having a strong attachment to the neighborhood, feeling safe and comfortable at home.
  • Having parents that are involved in a child’s interests and activities.
  • Enforced anti-drug use policies at school.
  • And more.

A parent’s love might not be enough to rout addiction, but it is an important component for many teens.


7 Sobering Teen Addiction Facts Parents Usually Get Wrong

If you have a teen who is struggling with substance abuse, you are not alone. Nearly fifty percent of teenagers report that they have used substances before graduating from high school. Of those numbers, only a small percentage received intervention or support toward stopping the behavior. The longer that substance abuse goes on, the more chance there is to develop an addiction. Once dependence has taken root, parents should be armed with some sobering teen addiction facts on how and where to seek help.

1. Addicted Teens Can’t Just Quit

If your teen can simply decide to stop using substances, he or she is not technically addicted. Addiction refers specifically to an inability to stop doing something, even though the action or activity is causing harm. In the case of drug and alcohol addiction, the persistent use of the substances have literally taught the brain and body that existence without it is not possible.

Physical withdrawal from drug and alcohol addiction can be physically painful, and even life threatening. When mental health problems are also present, finding the will to overcome the physical dependence may seem impossible. Intervention from loving parents and a knowledgeable treatment team will help your teen to overcome these obstacles.

2. Hitting Rock Bottom Isn’t Necessary

There is a popular myth that has circulated within our culture for quite some time. The myth proposes that people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol won’t stop using until some dire consequence forces them to see the light. This way of thinking is dangerous. No one can tell what someone else’s rock bottom will look like, and the ultimate rock bottom is death.

The disease model of addiction suggests that, like with other kinds of diseases, addiction will get worse if left untreated. Instead of waiting for your teen to reach a point where he or she realizes the full consequences of continued drug or alcohol abuse, seek to intervene as early as possible.

3. Teens Don’t Have to Want Help

The nature of teen addiction is that it initially feels pleasurable to participate in it. The negative feelings leading up to the drug or alcohol use are temporarily eliminated while partaking in it. Expecting that a teen will be completely on board with giving up an activity that he or she finds enjoyable is unrealistic. Unlike adults, teens don’t have a long-term viewpoint of consequences

Thus, teens may be afraid of entering the vulnerable scenario of a counseling program. Rather than working to convince your teen that he or she needs to go to a treatment program, utilize the parental influence that you still have, and negotiate a plan with your teen that includes required treatment program attendance without requiring complete buy-in to the process of recovery.

4. Big-Name Teen Addiction Programs Produce Better Outcomes

In both parenting and therapy, there is something called the goodness of fit. This refers to the importance of a person to feel as though he or she is understood and valued by those in a position of support. When it comes to treatment programs, not every facility will feel like a place that your teen fits in.

Try offering your teen multiple choices when it comes to choosing which program to participate in. This has the added benefit of allowing your teen to feel as though he or she has some amount of control over the situation. Once your teen has decided on where to go, help your teen to stick to the choice and follow through.

5. Relapse Can Be Part of Recovery

Feeling like a failure can be overwhelming. Teens who have attempted to escape their addiction, only to be tempted back into it, can be be discouraged away from giving it another try. It is important that both parents and teens know that relapse does not spell the end of the recovery road. During the period of time that teens are abstaining from substance abuse, they learning new coping skills and learning more about themselves.

This learned information carries forward, even if the drugs or alcohol are reintroduced. Keep in mind that the journey to sobriety more often resembles an upward spiral than it does a straight line. Your teen’s failures provide a way to recognize what is, or is not, working. Getting back into the game after suffering a loss is what builds character and resilience.

6. Punishment Can Be Counterproductive

There is a difference between punishment and discipline. Punishment refers to a negative consequence that is delivered after the fact. Discipline, on the other hand, refers to learning how to conduct oneself. Parents who attempt to administer punishment to their teen after discovering the use of drugs or alcohol may be inadvertently creating a scenario for the behavior to get worse.

Punishment creates negative feelings such as shame and anger for the person being punished. For many teens, the desire to use substances stems from already experiencing negative feelings. Adding more reasons to feel poorly is like adding fuel to the fire. Discipline and positive reinforcement are much more effective in helping your teen to find his or her own reasons to quit.

7. Teen Addiction Medications Can Help

The mechanisms of some drugs, in particular, rewire the brain and nervous system in a way that makes it extremely painful – and even deadly – for a teen to go cold turkey from using. Many treatment programs provide medical detox, which can ease the physical transition of withdrawal. Physical freedom from teen addiction can provide the space for teens to begin to explore any gaps in mental wellness which allow the temptation of continued use to fester.

Mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, are often found to be at the root of teen substance abuse, and there are psychiatric medications which can assist in relieving the mental and emotional discomfort. Medication can be useful in both getting the physical influence of the substance out of the way and in controlling the mental health symptoms which threaten to bring it back.

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Drug Addiction in Youth: Common Misconceptions

The way we think about addiction has to change if we are ever going to make a difference as caretakers, confidants, friends and family members. More specifically, we should think differently about drug addiction in our youth and the common misconceptions about it. Only recently has the addiction community begun to develop specialized addiction treatment centers for teens struggling with dependency.

Visions Adolescent Treatment Center has fought for awareness of addiction and the difficulty it creates in these children’s lives. We have made it our purpose to share everything we can about addiction in adolescents from the earliest age of 12 because it should be a concern we address. You have a choice to open your eyes and see what we see every day. Don’t ignore the signs and assume nothing that can be done; there is, you just have to listen and see.

The common misconception of adolescent addiction are:

  • “My child tells me everything. They would never get involved in something like that.”

Most of the time our children will hold something back from us, no matter how well we think we know them. It’s important that we continue to work on our familial relationships and communication because if we don’t big changes like addiction can happen when we’re not. We should make sharing new experiences and thoughts comfortable and something we do each day at home. If your children and siblings are comfortable talking with you, then you will see any change as it happens and be able to reach out to them.

  • “You can only develop an addiction as an adult.”

This is a big misconception because trying something like alcohol at an early age or smoking a joint, can seem like just a thing that kids do. But, addiction can develop in children very early on in their lives; it can also be something bigger if you pay attention. Because adolescents haven’t developed completely in the areas of the brain that deal with decision making and consequence, addiction is the most real thing. When they think nothing is bad for them or could hurt them, this is when they try these things. Understand that teens are most vulnerable at this time.

The argument for this has gone on for years but for treatment centers and adolescent addiction advocates, we know that this is not the case. About ten percent of kids that smoke it before 19 can become dependent and addicted to marijuana. It isn’t just your mother’s marijuana anymore, because it’s grown with chemically enhanced additives. We should be careful to say that it doesn’t affect brain chemistry.

  • “Prescriptions help my child. They have to be good for them since they were prescribed by a physician.”

Before you turn to a prescription drug to solve your teens problems, remember that what you agree to give them isn’t natural. Unless absolutely necessary, many of these drugs that work to reduce the effects of ADHD and emotional mental health conditions may do more harm than you think. Prescription drugs are of the most addictive of them all. Once you give them a prescription, it’s not guaranteed they won’t abuse the medication. Just because it’s a pill given to you by a doctor doesn’t mean it can’t harm you.

Now that you know some of the ideas you should watch out for in your own thinking, share what you’ve learned with your family about addiction. You can save your child from addiction if you’re open minded. Call Visions Adolescent Treatment Center to find out more about specific addictions and how we can help your teen recover at 866-889-3665.

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Are Popular Music Festivals Endangering Your Teen?

Drugs, Inappropriate Behavior and Death

These last few months have been all the rage with teens and everyone under 30. Music festival season took off, as it does each summer and trails of at the start of fall. So Cal is one of the best places to be if you’re into any type of music from hip-hop and indie to heavy metal and techno. Whatever you’re looking to blow out your eardrums to, there’s a festival for it for sure. These festivals can be fun and are the talk of the town for celebrities all over the world that flock here to things like Coachella for the fashion, the press, the food and most importantly the music. Weeks before these festivals, people wait in their online cue to pay hundreds of dollars or a couple thousand to lay out in the hot California sun for a three-day dehydrating extravaganza. But when do these festivals get out of hand and why? Are popular music festivals endangering your teen?

Not So Wonderful, eh Wonderland?

Just this weekend, Labor Day weekend, there was a huge festival called Nocturnal Wonderland out in Southern California at the San Manuel Amphitheater where thousands flock to see their favorite DJs and mix artists. This festival is one that has to be smack in the center of nature because it gets loud and crazy. Every year there are hundreds of arrests, but this year there was a record 428 arrests made for teens that were under age and under the influence, to people being completely out of their minds on drugs and a few cases of public exposure. This festival is known for drugs and lots of them which are why several arrests were made on those that were at the concert to sell large inventories of drugs such as combinations of anything goes ecstasy, marijuana, cocaine, LSD and more.

For some kids, this festival is about exploration and getting out there to try new things without worrying about getting caught. The only problem is this time cops were ready to take down anyone that was doing just that. These festivals would be a perfect place for someone that enjoyed the music and was responsible enough to say no to harsh substances, but many teens that attend have no idea what they’re getting themselves into. There have been a few cases where overdose and death on the first attempt at drug use for young people has occurred at this particular festival. So, if your teen is pushing to go to these concerts, they may not be prepared for what’s available to them; this is where addiction and bad habits are formed, but we should be aware of the risks. Know all the facts and educate your child before you allow them to take part in music festivals such as these.

If you feel your teen has an addiction and needs rehabilitation, please call Visions Adolescent Treatment Center today at (818) 889-3665 to schedule an appointment with our addiction specialists.


Helping LGBT Teens Find New Hope and Sobriety

Substance abuse is an issue for adolescents in general, but it is, even more, concerning among LGBT youth. This portion of the population sees alarmingly higher rates of substance abuse and addiction than heterosexual youth, in large part because of the many additional stressors experienced by these teens. Family conflict, bullying and difficulty belonging can all contribute to substance abuse and dependency. It is important for LGBT teens struggling with substance abuse find support and treatment at an adolescent residential rehab center where their sexuality can also be explored comfortably.

Statistics Open Eyes

Studies involving substance abuse among LGBT adolescents have resulted in some eye-opening statistics. According to a meta-analysis performed by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh in 2008, lesbian, gay and bi-sexual students were 190 percent more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol. Bi-sexual teens were 340 percent more likely to experience substance abuse while lesbian teens were 400 percent more likely to struggle with substance abuse.

A Youth Survey from the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and Partnership for Drug-Free Kids found that LGBT young adults are 1.3 times more likely to participate in heavy alcohol use, 1.6 times more apt to use marijuana, 2.9 times more time more likely to use injection drugs and 3.3 times more likely to use cocaine. LGB girls appeared to have a higher risk factor for substance abuse than boys in this category.

Cause and Effect

There are many possible reasons why substance abuse is so much higher among LGBT teens. Some of those factors might include:

Family Conflicts and Rejection – When sexual orientation and gender identity take their toll on family relationships, the teens at the center of the conflict are often the ones that suffer the most. The Youth Survey found that less than half of LGBT teens felt like they had an adult they could turn to for any type of help, versus 79 percent of heterosexual teens. Researchers at San Francisco State University found that substance abuse decreases among LGBT youth in direct proportion to the family’s acceptance of their sexualc orientation and gender identity.

Bullying and Harassment – LGBT youth are more likely to face bullying at school and in other places, whether it is face-to-face or online through social media. In 2011, approximately 21 percent of all hate crimes involved the victim’s sexual orientation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that in seven states between 2001 and 2009, LGB students threatened or injured with a weapon on school property ranged from 12-28 percent.

Discrimination – Minority stress is another issue for many LGBT youth, as many of them are harassed by peers and rejected by their own families. Even those that were not harassed directly may be affected by negative messages they see and hear about their sexual orientation in the media. Even when they received positive support and affirmation from those closest to them, the general attitudes in today’s society about LGBT men and women can create stress and tension in their lives.

Violence and Victimization – LGBT teens are also frequent victims of various types of violence. In 2001, a report by Human Rights Watch stated, “Gay youth spend an inordinate amount of energy plotting…how to become invisible so they will not be verbally or physically attacked…No child should have to go to school in survival mode.” The CDC found that gay and lesbian students are also more likely to be victims of dating violence and are more frequently forced into sexual intercourse at some point during their lives.

Peer Influence – LGBT teens, like all teens, feel a strong urge to fit in with their peers. Unfortunately, because LGBT youth tend to bond together, the incidence of substance abuse continues to spread among this population. When these adolescents find other teens to befriend, they are often more willing to try and use substances to “fit in” than heterosexual teens.

LGBT and Mental Illness

Another factor working against LGBT adolescents is the high incidence of mental illness among this population. The constant stress these teens face can lead to anxiety, depression and other mental disorders. The Institute of Medicine has noted that while the majority of LGBT teens are happy and well-adjusted, there is a higher rate of mental health problems among these kids. They are also more likely to attempt suicide at a rate 2-7 times higher than the heterosexual population.

Research has also found LGBT adolescents are more likely to:

  • Experience feelings of sadness or hopelessness (19.3-29 percent for heterosexual students vs. 288-52.2 percent of LGB teens)
  • Seriously consider suicide (9.9-13.2 percent of heterosexual students vs. 18.8-43.4 percent of gay and lesbian students)
  • Attempt suicide one or more times (3.8-9.6 percent of heterosexual teens vs. 15.1-34.3 percent of gay and lesbian teens)

Researchers have also found that the fact that these teens are LGBT is not necessarily the catalyst that increases their risk for mental health disorders. In many cases, it is the reaction to their gender identity and sexual orientation from others that leads to the serious symptoms of mental illness.

Effective Treatment

Helping LGBT youth overcome substance abuse and dependency can be infinitely more complex than helping heterosexual teens along that same road. Providing specific support and therapy for these adolescents in both their sexuality and their substance abuse is absolutely necessary in order for these kids to achieve successful, long-lasting sobriety. At the same time, the entire family unit must be supported to help everyone come to terms with the reality of the teen’s sexual orientation.

At Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers, we offer teens a safe space to walk through their process, whether they are coming out as gay or bisexual, transitioning or questioning their gender or sexuality. We also provide support to parents that are dealing with a parallel process as well as their own unique grieving process while a teen is in transition.

Our individualized approach to treatment at our adolescent residential rehab center allows us to meet all of our clients where they are at, gender or otherwise. We collaborate with leading professionals and specialists regarding gender identity issues and connect families with local resources and support groups to continue the therapeutic process after residential treatment. To learn more, contact Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers at 866-889-3665.

Addiction Substance Abuse

Social Media, Teen Girls and Substance Abuse

The impact of social media on teen girls may be highly underestimated, according to author Nancy Jo Sales. Sales recently released a book, American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers, in which she interviewed dozens of teens about their social media and Internet use. The findings of those interviews sheds light on the pressures faced by this demographic, as well as the sexism and misogyny played out against these young women. When these new findings are coupled with statistics showing an increase in substance abuse among teens on social networks, concerns over social media use become even more alarming.

Social Media and Self-Worth
In her interviews with more than 200 girls, Sales discovered that many of these young women were very disturbed by the impact social media was having on their self-worth and their relationships. The angst of making a post and failing to get enough “likes,” the negative comments that seem to come so easily in the anonymity of social platforms and the anxiety over missing messages is just one more source of worry for girls that already have enough drama on their plates.

Teens are increasingly communicating without face-to-face contact, which opens the door for all types of communication problems. First, written messages can be easily misconstrued, resulting in conflicts that might not ever happen with a more personalized approach. Second, the ease in which other teens can make inappropriate or hurtful responses creates a much more hostile environment for some teens. With most adolescents using a variety of social media platforms in addition to texting to communicate with others, the potential for conflicts increases as well.

Social Media and Sex
The way in which girls are sexualized on social media is an alarming and widespread problem. Sales opens her book with an account about a 13-year-old girl that received an Instagram request for “noodz,” nude photos of herself, from a boy she did not know well. Other girls the same age told Sales they had been threatened with rumors and other types of humiliation by boys if they refused to send the requested photos.

Unfortunately, when girls comply with these requests, the trauma often multiplies. The photos can, and often are, shared with groups of people. This typically occurs without the girl’s consent and most of the time, the girl doesn’t even know about the situation until a friend alerts her to the fact her pictures are out in public view.

In some cases, Sales discovered groupings of these photos are posted on what have become known as “slut pages.” Sales compares them to an amateur pornography site, which they basically are. Often referred to in the media as “sexting rings,” Sales found these pages existed in nearly every school she visited during the research of her book.

The Cyberbullying Problem
Cyberbullying is another huge problem brought on by the prevalence of social media. According to studies conducted by the Cyberbullying Research Center, as many as one-fourth of teens surveyed said they had been a victim of cyberbullying. Around 16 percent of those surveyed admitted to being perpetrators in such attacks.

PEW Internet Research found that teens that witnessed cyberbullying on social media rarely saw anyone come to the defense of the victim. In fact, as many as 95 percent said they have seen others ignore the bullying behavior completely. Two-thirds said they saw others join the initial cyberbully, ganging up on the victim online.

Cyberbullying is seen as an easier way to torment a peer secretly. Bullies say they participate in the behavior for a variety of reasons, including to show off to friends, to be mean or for entertainment. A large percentage of those actively involved in cyberbullying were also involved in some form of sexting.

Social Media and Substance Abuse
Substance abuse is another concern associated with social media networks. A study by CASAColumbia (National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University) found that teens that are on social media sites daily are:

  • Five times more likely to use tobacco
  • Three times more likely to use alcohol
  • Twice as likely to use marijuana

The study also found that 40 percent of teens have seen pictures on social media of other teens drunk, passed out or high on drugs. Around three-quarters of those teens admitted seeing the images encouraged them to use drugs and alcohol as well. Those teens were also more likely to have friends that abuse street and prescription drugs, another risk factor for their own substance abuse.

Prevalence of Social Media among Teens
Social media has made its way into every culture and economic level of this country. Last year, PEW Research Center found that nearly one-fourth of teens go online “almost constantly,” fueled by the abundance of mobile devices like smartphones. As many as 92 percent said they were online daily.

The most frequently used social media platform for teens continues to be Facebook. However, teens are also logging onto Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and Google+ in large proportions. Texting is another important method of communication among teens, with the average teen sending and receiving around 30 texts daily.

Prevalence of social media use is even more problematic in light of the fact that few parents know or understand exactly what their kids are doing on these platforms and they are unaware of the potential dangers lurking online. One teen told Sales, “Sexism has filtered into new arenas that adults don’t see or understand because they are not using social media the same way. They think, how can there be anything wrong here if it’s just Snapchat or Instagram – it’s just a game.”

Unfortunately, statistics and anecdotal reports from the teen users of social media are telling a very different story. Sales rescecomends that Silicon Valley spend more time finding ways to stop cyberbullying and the online exploitation of children. She also urged parents to get off their own phones and talk to their kids.

The adolescent residential rehab center Visions is aware of the problems associated with social media, because we see those issues with some of our own patients. If your teen is struggling with substance abuse as a result of social media trauma or other reasons, we can help. Contact our counseling center today at 866-889-3665.

Addiction Adolescence Alcohol Mental Health

What is “Normal”? Signs of Mental Illness in Teens

The teen years are filled with emotional ups and downs and sudden mood swings. How can you tell whether your teen’s behavior is normal or an indication something might be wrong? Parents of teens may worry that their teen is exhibiting symptoms of a mental illness, but they may not be sure how to identify the condition or talk to their teen about what they are seeing. The staff at Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers has some of the early signs of mental illness to watch for and what to do if you see those signs in your own child.

The Prevalence of Mental Illness

According to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), around 20 percent of youth between the ages of 13 and 18 suffer from a mental health condition. Some of those teens will turn to drugs or alcohol to “self-medicate” their symptoms, creating a substance abuse disorder in addition to a mental illness. A significant portion of those youth also drop out of high school or end up in the juvenile justice system. Common mental illnesses that develop during the teen years include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Mood disorders
  • Behavior disorders
  • Eating disorders

Half of all mental illnesses begin by the age of 14. Another 25 percent occur by the age of 27. The earlier these illnesses are identified and treated, the better prognosis both during the teen years and into adulthood.

Signs of Mental Illness

There are a number of possible signs your teen may be suffering from a mental illness:

  • Mood shifts out of character from your teen’s usual mood fluctuations
  • Withdrawal from family, friends and activities
  • Difficulty in school or relationship problems with friends
  • Behavioral changes that make your child seem like a different person
  • Weight loss without any clear cause
  • Risk-taking behavior completely out of character for your teen
  • Signs of drug or alcohol use that could indicate your teen is self-medicating
  • Symptoms of sadness that last more than a week or two
  • Suicidal thoughts or ideations

Any one of these signs alone may not necessarily be a problem, but if you begin to see a pattern that is different from what your teen usually displays, don’t wait to seek guidance and assistance. Talk to your teen about what you have observed – you may be met with resistance, but at least your child will see that you care and you are willing to get the necessary help. The sooner you get your teen the medical support needed, the less likely your child will be to turn to drugs and alcohol as a means of dealing with their illness. If drug or alcohol use is already present, Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers can help. Contact us today at 866-889-3665.

Addiction Depression Mental Health Self-Harm Suicide

What Parents Need to Know About Cutting

Cutting is a form of self-injury or SI. Contrary to how it might seem to someone on the outside looking in, cutting is not a way to get attention. It is not a suicide attempt. Cutting is a sign that the person is in deep emotional pain and that pain must be addressed before the self-injuring behavior can stop. If you suspect your child is self-injuring, there are some basic facts about this behavior that you need to know.

What does Cutting Look Like?
Cutting can be done with any sharp object found around the house; razors, thumbtacks, scissors or even the edge of a soda can pop top. The cuts usually occur on the arms, but some teens also cut on the thighs or abdomen. Most cuts are straight lines, although some teens might also cut words into skin to reflect their deep feelings leading to their self-injury.

Common symptoms of cutting might include:

• Fresh cuts or scratches
• Scars along the arms or other areas
• Sharp objects in the trash or hidden in the teen’s bedroom
• Wearing long sleeves even on hot days
• Spending longer periods of time alone
• Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness
• Other disorders, such as an eating disorder or substance abuse
• Extreme mood shifts or out-of-control behavior

Hiding the Pain

Kids that cut may find some type of emotional relief from the behavior, but they also know it is not “right” or “normal” to others. They will make every effort to hide their cutting, wearing clothing that covers up the injuries and scars or lying about how the injuries occurred. Parents often feel

Cutting is a form of self-injury or SI. Contrary to how it might seem to someone on the outside looking in, cutting is not a way to get attention. It is not a suicide attempt. Cutting is a sign that the person is in deep emotional pain and that pain must be addressed before the self-injuring behavior can stop. If you suspect your child is self-injuring, there are some basic facts about this behavior that you need to know.

The Pain Principle
If cutting is not done to get attention, why do kids do it? In most cases, kids begin cutting because they are experiencing deep emotional pain – from an event like a death, previous abuse or intense stress or anxiety. The cutting actually relieves the emotional pain, almost like drugs or alcohol numb the senses.

Teens that cut are not looking to end their lives from this behavior. However, there are cases where the cutting goes deeper than the person intended, requiring stitches or even hospitalization. Kids that cut are also suffering deep emotional issues that could lead to suicidal thoughts and ideations in the future if the issues are not addressed.

Cutting is a serious problem that can become almost addictive over time. The behavior is often associated with food addictions or substance use disorders. If your teen is cutting, help is available. Contact Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers today at 866-889-3665 to learn more about cutting or get the help your child needs.