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Stigmas and myths surrounding teens abusing drugs and alcohol

Group Of Teenagers Boy Smoking Cigarette With Friends
Posted at 7:41 AM, Jan 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-05 14:10:49-05

TUCSON, Ariz. — COPE provides behavioral and medical health services for children and teens at the Youth and Family Center in Midtown Tucson.

Around 30 percent of the teens who go to COPE have substance abuse issues, according to Jenifer Regan, the director of youth and family services.

The vast majority of those teens are going in for marijuana or alcohol usage, and they are seeing more youth using harder substances.

It's also not unusual to see teens using more than one type of substance at a time, Regan said.

"It's pretty common somebody might use a combination of methamphetamines and heroin," Regan said. "Really depending on what is available."

When it comes to treating teens for substance abuse, COPE treats why they are using them in the first place.

Regan says they try to find what the underlying issue is and work with family members.

"It could be trauma, it could be underlying depression and anxiety," she said. "It could be grief and loss. There are so many things that could have led up to the start of using a drug in the first place, and so that's really what we want to treat."

COPE is also fighting stigmas surrounding substance abuse among teens -- such as people needing to be a certain age or at rock bottom in order to get help.

"Let's say they're abusing heroin, at 17-years-old," Regan said. "That they can't get their treatment they need, and get their life turned around. So that it's just a bump in the road, and not the end of their life."

Here are some early warning signs of substance abuse parents can look out for:

- Your child is being more secretive
- Their grades are slipping
- They don't seem happy
- You can tell something is going on

You can find more information about COPE and their Youth and Family Center here.