ADHD Teens-Impulsivity, Alcohol and Drugs during the holidays


Impulsivity is what usually gets ADHD teens in trouble with alcohol and drugs during the holidays!

Fortunately, there are several things you can do before uncontrolled or untreated Impulsivity gets your ADHD teen in legal trouble over the holidays.

The holiday season tends to be one of the most common times for teenagers with ADHD to experiment with drugs and alcohol because of all of those unsupervised parties and other social events.

Being around friends and even strangers who are smoking the weed, taking a few uppers or tabs, and drinking beer or liquor seems to destroy  whatever inhibitions an ADHD teen normally has. Their ADHD behavior tendency to be impulsive-take risks without thinking about them or the consequences-just seems to get worse making them more likely to try a few drinks or a take a few puffs of that reefer or pop a few pills-often without knowing what they are.

Unfortunately, Carissa was not an exception to the rule…

Carissa’s mom phoned me at 11:30 on a Saturday night to tell me she had been arrested. She was scared that Carissa would be molested or raped in jail and wanted me to help get her out immediately.

Carissa was only 17 years old and had the mostly inattentive type of ADHD since age 8. She and about 50 other teens were at a party at a friend’s house whose parents were out of town. I’m sure you can fill in the rest of the story. A few 21 and 22 year-old guys showed up with marijuana, beer, vodka and assorted pills. Of course they were hoping to score sex by getting these 17 and 18 year olds a little high. It was definitely  working…at least until the next door neighbor called the police to complain about the noise and kids drinking in the backyard.

After the booze and dope started flowing, it wasn’t long before Carissa’s friend lost control of her party and just figured what the heck, let the good times roll. In fact, 9 months later she delivered a present from the guys who brought the booze and pills. There were no responsible adults in attendance.

When the police arrived, they arrested everyone-including the 21 and 22 year olds for underage drinking, use of illegal street drugs and contributing to the delinquency of minors. Carissa’s one phone call to her mom was the first time she realized Carissa had been at an unsupervised party. When Carissa had asked permission, she hadn’t asked enough questions and Carissa had failed to mention her friend’s mom and dad were out of town.

As the parent of a teen with ADHD, you can be a very strong advocate in keeping them away from drugs and alcohol by taking a few steps at prevention:

  • Openly discuss both the pros and cons of all addictive substances-including cigarettes, marijuana, beer, wine, liquor, and both legal and illegal drugs. If you only talk about the bad things these chemical do, your teen will assume you’re not being fair or objective.
  • Provide teenage oriented reading materials and video clips that discuss what illegal drugs, alcohol and abuse of legal drugs can do to them.
  • Ask specific details about parties when your ADHD teen asks for permission to go. Don’t be dissuaded by them telling you it is at so and so’s house or that some other teen or young adult will be there. What do you want to know?
    Who organized the party? Who are they going with? Whose home is it and where is it? Get telephone numbers for the house, the friend and any adults who are supposed to be there. What time does the party start? When does it end? Are the friend’s parents going to be there the entire time? Will other responsible adults be there? Are college students being invited? Will alcohol be served?
  • Once you have answers from your ADHD teen, use the phone numbers he or she gave you and call the other teen’s parents to discuss what you should expect to happen at the party. Of course, if you discover they aren’t going to be in town or aren’t going to chaperone the party or maybe-didn’t know anything about the party-don’t let your teen go.
  • If you discover the party plans sound reasonable-then sit don’t and share your expectations of your ADHD teen’s behavior while at the party. Tell them while you want them to have a great time, they should either leave and come home or phone you if they see other teens drinking alcohol, smoking dope, taking pills, having sex, or if the chaperones leave for any reason.
  • Explain how impulsive behavior works. Impulsivity increases when a teen sees others doing something that appears to be risky, fun, or highly stimulating. Give your teen tips on how to control their impulsivity. Consider asking your ADHD doctor if your teen can take extra ADHD medication before going to parties or social outings to help control impulsivity.

It’s really important for ADHD teens to learn how to get along with and how to interact and communicate with other teens; both friends and new acquaintances; and often, Christmas and New Year’s parties provide just the perfect opportunity.

In Carissa's case, the judge gave her a break-no record in return for 100 hours of community service and attendance at a drug-alcohol abuse training program. She could have ended up with a record that would have followed her forever-a 17-year-old is considered an adult-not a minor! In addition, she might have been denied college admission and turned -down for good jobs. Talk about a life-threatening disaster.

If you follow these steps, I think you’ll rest better and feel like the super-responsible-sensible parent while your teen is having a great time learning social skills with his or her friends during this holiday season. 

Dr. Frank

Here are a few articles for your further discovery:

ADHD Drug Holiday: Should Kids Stop Therapy on Christmas Vacation?

Simple Tips to Handle Hyperactive Kids over the Holidays


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