Trilogy Recovery Community
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When to Get Help Print E-mail

When alcohol or other drug use causes serious, recurring problems in your life, it’s time to ask for help. 

What kind of problems?

  • Family Problems
  • Friendships change
  • Personality changes
  • School Problems
  • Changes in physical appearance
  • Abusive language
  • Violent behavior
  • Self-injury
  • Eating disorders
  • Increased sexual activity
  • Legal problems


from the book Teens Under the Influence by Katherine Ketcham and Nicholas Pace, M.D.

Here’s a general rule:  Adolescents and their families need to take action when alcohol and/or other drug use causes serious, recurring problems in their lives.

Alcohol and other drugs are toxic – poisonous – to the brain and body; and millions of kids who are not regular users or addicts get into trouble with them.  First-time users are often in special danger because they don’t know what to expect and they don’t know when to stop.  For example, approximately 20 percent of the kids who die from sudden sniffing death after inhaling toxic chemicals such as hair spray, air freshener, paint thinner, gasoline, or glue are first-time users.

Drugs are clearly dangerous for all kids, but the key words to remember in determining who needs a structured treatment and recovery program are continued use despite negative consequences or recurring problems.  What kind of problems are we talking about?  Here is a general list:

  • FAMILY PROBLEMS:  Fights and violent disagreements at home.  Deteriorating relationships with parents, siblings, grandparents, and other relatives.  Regularly breaking house rules (ignoring curfews, disrespectful language or behavior.)
  • PERSONALITY CHANGES: Gradual or abrupt changes in personality, including irritability, anxiety, depression, belligerence, anger, resentment, defiance, hostility, paranoia, and/or apathy (not caring about what happens in life.)
  • PROBLEMS AT SCHOOL:  Skips school (truancy.)  Numerous sick days. Frequent  tardy (late) slips. Gradual decline or rapid deterioration in grades. Teacher complaints about attitude and/or performance. Suspended or expelled from school.
  • CHANGES IN PHYSICAL APPEARANCE:  Lack of interest in appearance. Clothing and hairstyles change dramatically.  Lack of concern (or excessive concern) about physical hygiene.
  • ABUSIVE LANGUAGE:  Swearing, slang, or gangster talk.  Uses hostile or threatening language with family members.
  • VIOLENT BEHAVIOR:  Physical attacks on family members.  Fights at school. Bullying peers or younger children. Cruelty toward animals. Unexplained bruises, black eyes, broken bones, cuts on parts of his or her body. Gang activity.
  • SELF-INJURY: Scars, blisters, scabs, or infections from burns or cuts, especially on the arms, wrists, legs. Suicidal thoughts or attempts.
  • EATING DISORDERS:  Rapid or excessive weight loss or weight gain.  Preoccupation with body image and perceived physical flaws or defects. Starving to lose weight (anorexia). Bingeing on food and then using laxatives or throwing up (bulimia.)
  • INCREASED SEXUAL ACTIVITY:  Multiple sex partners. . Unprotected sex. Sexually transmitted diseases.
  • LEGAL PROBLEMS:  Arrests for truancy, probation violation, shoplifting, burglary, physical or sexual assault, minor-in-possession (MIP) or minor-in-consumption (MIC) charges. Time spent in detention or on probation.  “Dirty UA’s” (drug use shows up urine screens) and altered UAs (indicating attempts to hide or disguise drug use by drinking small amounts of bleach or massive amounts of water, or using goldenrod or other so-called “vascular flush” products easily available on the Internet.)

Kids who have a history of regular drug use, who experience multiple and ongoing problems related to using drugs, and who are unable to stop despite these problems need intensive treatment. But they are not the only ones who need help.

Ken Winters, Ph.D., director of the Center for Adolescent Substance Abuse Research at the University of Minnesota, argues persuasively that intervention and treatment are also needed when young people: 

  • USE CERTAIN DRUGS:  “The use of some drugs (e.g., crack cocaine) is sufficiently dangerous that, by itself and in the absence of any other personal consequences or diagnostic symptoms, it is a cause for intervention.”
  • START USING DRUGS AT AN EARLY AGE:  “…Any regular use (apart from other considerations) in a child or very young adolescent (e.g., twelve or thirteen years old) may be a warning flag for further involvement, so that these individuals should be referred for early intervention.”  A child or adolescent who huffs inhalants even in the absence of other drug use, for example, should be referred for assessment and possible treatment.
  • USE LARGE QUANTITIES OF DRUGS:  “Prolonged use of intermediate quantities of drugs or acute ingestion of large quantities of drugs at any age is sufficiently risky that such behavior probably justifies intervention.”
  • USE IN INAPPROPRIATE SETTINGS:  “Use in particularly inappropriate settings (e.g., prior to driving or during school hours) may be considered ‘abuse’ even in the absence of the overly negative consequences of such use; it makes no sense to delay intervention until the person advances to more serious consequences, such as getting arrested or involved in an automobile accident.”
  • EXPERIENCE NEGATIVE SOCIAL OR PSYCHOLOGICAL EFFECTS: “…In the event that an ambiguous pattern of risky substance use exists, intervention is warranted when the individual has experienced negative social or psychological effects of use.”
  • HAVE CERTAIN RISK FACTORS EVEN IN THE ABSENCE OF DRUG PROBLEMS: “… The case in which drug use and consequences are absent but several drug use risk factors are present, such as family history of drug addiction or alcoholism, drug involvement by older siblings, presence of conduct disorder or ADHD…and so forth."


Trilogy Recovery Community
120 East Birch Street
Suite 14
Walla Walla, WA 99362

Phone: 509-876-4525
Open by appointment

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