Addiction is an issue that no parent wants to envision for their child. However, it is an issue that can touch any family, living in any city, from any economic background. Addiction disorders are classified as Substance Use Disorders and Substance-Induced Disorders (intoxication/withdrawal). Criteria for a Substance Use Disorder, with a minimum of two required, include:

1. The substance is taken in larger amounts.
2. Efforts to cut down are unsuccessful.
3. Great amount of time devoted to obtain the substance.
4. Cravings.
5. Recurrent use resulting in failure to fulfill other roles/obligations.
6. Continued use despite recurrent social or interpersonal problems.
7. Important activities are given up or reduced.
8. Recurrent use in situations that are hazardous.
9. Tolerance.
10. Withdrawal.

Helping Children and Adolescents with Addiction

Addiction is a complicated issue, and a child may need intensive inpatient or outpatient hospital services before beginning counseling. If your child’s behavior seems “off”, he or she seems more secretive or evasive about activities or whereabouts, your child’s group of friends has changed, or he or she has been skipping school or grades have been slipping, alcohol or drug use may be involved.

Counseling can help with addiction. Recommended interventions for children and adolescents with addiction include a combination of individual and family counseling, incorporating cognitive and behavioral techniques. Family sessions are especially important, as addiction is considered a “family disorder”; that is, counseling should address both the child’s issues and issues within the family that can help or hinder recovery. Techniques may include addressing anxiety or depressive symptoms, processing the benefits of sobriety, learning and implementing coping strategies to prevent relapse, and identifying positive and supportive adults and friends. If the family is undergoing life stressors, family counseling sessions can help a child work through these feelings and improve coping.

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