Oops, She Did it Again, and Again
America's favorite celebrity tragedy, Britney Spears, is a visible example of how difficult it is to help someone who has spiraled out of control, particularly when they have come of legal age.
Without speculating about whether her behavior results from abuse of drugs or alcohol or some psychological disorder, it is clear to everyone, except apparently Britney herself, that she has a serious problem and needs to get help.
She has been in and out of rehab, although her stays have seemed pretty short - just barely long enough to get the chemicals out of her system. Most rehabilitation programs require a substantial time commitment by the client in order to be successful.
And there's the rub. According to all conventional wisdom, a person who abuses drugs or alcohol has to want to change before any progress can occur. So what can a parent do to help a teenager who refuses to admit they have a problem? Or if they do admit it, what if they adamantly refuse to do anything about it? Or even if they do agree to get help, what if they end up falling short and returning to their old ways?
If you're not 100 percent sure about the type of problem plaguing your older teen or young adult, seek professional help. What you think may be drug use actually could be some kind of mood disorder. Many teens have undiagnosed mental health problems like depression or bipolar disorder. A physical checkup, which can include testing for drugs, should be the first step in deciding what additional actions to take.
Your role as a parent is to first make sure they know you love them, and second to make sure they are safe. This is not the time to stick your head in the sand and hope it will all blow over. The sooner you get help for you and your teen, the higher the likelihood that you can minimize long-term damage.
Seek help for yourself by finding a support group. High schools often have groups for parents dealing with troubled teens, as do local hospitals. You will meet other parents who have already dealt with the same troubles you are facing and receive guidance and support in moving forward.
For your teenager or young adult, get them the help they need. Acknowledge that you are not capable of dealing with this on your own. There is no shame in that. There are many resources for all different types of problems and all income levels - you just have to seek them out. Talk with your health insurer about treatment coverage and speak frankly with treatment providers about your financial situation so they can help devise a program that you can afford.