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3 Teen Addiction Experts Answer the Questions That Keep Parents Up at Night


If your teen is suffering from any kind of addiction problem, you have tons of questions…

Most of all, you just want to know what you have to do to give your child the best chance of success possible. There are probably other unanswered questions questions that keep you up at night as well. To answer those nagging questions for you, I reached out to addiction experts who are in-the-know on issues relating to teen addiction.

What they had to say was as inspiring as it was informative.

Check it out and let me know by posting on my Facebook discussion page!

Mark Derian, psychologist, Animus Empire

The most common question is: “what do I need to do?” My answer is go to al-anon, learn about addiction, and seek support and give support to other parents going through the same experience.

Addiction is, ultimately, less of a disorder and more of a disconnection.

The more connected the parent feels, the more connection their teen will feel.

Denise DeBratto, former NYS OASAS Assistant Director

l. What signs should I look for if I suspect my teenager is abusing drugs?

One of the first signs is a change in behavior patterns. For example, if your son/daughter begins to isolate from the family; sleeps in often and/or is up until all hours of the evening and often misses and/or cancels important family events. You may also notice them asking often to borrow money and making excuses for needing more money. You can also look into their eyes. Pupils are often dilated if one is abusing cocaine / diet pills and to the contrary someone abusing an opiate (heroin; prescription medication) will have a pupil that looks like a pin point. That is a definite sign. A sign that things are very bad would be jewelry missing from the home; money missing from your bag and/or any other items of value missing.

2. Should I show “tough love” and kick them out of the house, or am I enabling them by allowing them to have a roof over their heads.

This is a tricky question and depends on the family dynamic. In order to not allow your son/daughter to stay in the home you need to be prepared to first do an intervention with a credentialed individual who will arrange a place for them to get treatment prior to meeting with them. Bags will be packed and the patient will need to go into treatment immediately. I don’t recommend showing “tough love” by not allowing a teenager into the home. I would recommend not providing extra money and keeping a close eye on their habits. There is always hope. If you shut your door and your son/daughter overdoses in the streets, you will never forgive yourself. Of course, there is always the chance that they will overdose in the home. This is a life and death matter and it is a disease. You wouldn’t throw someone out who had cancer, however, if they refused to get help, you’d do what you could to stand by them.

3. How should I approach my son/daughter when they get very defensive.

Approach them head on. Don’t dance around the issue. The more defensive they are the more likely it is that they are abusing substances. Defensiveness is a form of manipulation. Don’t be manipulated.

4. What can I do, I feel so helpless?


Monte Drenner, Mental Health Counselor, MTC Counseling

I am a licensed mental health counselor, master certified addictions professional, life coach and consultant practicing in the Orlando area.

I have 30 years of experience counseling and coaching teens and families with addictions.

The most common questions are: Is their hope? Is this my fault? What could I have done differently in my parenting? Where do we go from here?

The first thing I do working with parents with teens with addictions issues is to give them hope. Because I have been working with people with addictions for so long I am able to share multiple stories where a teen with an addiction problem was able to turn their life around.

These stories give hope to struggling parents who are desperate for some hope in their journey with their teen. “Is it my fault?” is a question that every responsible parent will ask. I always answer the question with “did you teach your child to use drugs or alcohol?” The answer is always no and they will share the ways they raised their child to do the right thing.

I teach parents that their role is to create an environment for their child to succeed and that they are not responsible for the decisions that their child will make. This approach helps parents to feel less responsible and guilty which will help the healing process. “What could I have done differently in my parenting differs from situation to situation but the fact that they are asking the question is a good sign. This means that the parents are evaluating their skills as parents and are open to input.

The last question is difficult to answer because each situation is different.The main thing to communicate to parents as a professional is that there is a plan to get to a better place. I help them to understand that they are in a process to get to a better place and that it will take time. This approach helps them to understand there is no quick fix and to be prepared for a journey that they often do not want to take.