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SEPTEMBER 04, 2015

As Teens Start New School Year, Watch for Signs of Substance Abuse

As teens go back to school, experts at Community Health Resources (CHR), the state’s most comprehensive behavioral healthcare agency, remind parents to watch for signs of substance use.  If problems are suspected, CHR offers an innovative approach to help teens learn new skills and live without alcohol and drugs.

“Starting a new school year can be very stressful for teens. If they are already struggling with drug and alcohol use, they will have a hard time keeping up with school work and other demands. On the other hand, if they become overwhelmed by pressures, they may start using drugs or alcohol,” said Michael Asinas, LCSW, a senior program director with CHR.

Asinas noted that an increasing number of teens are getting into serious trouble with prescription drugs and other narcotics including heroin.

“The trend is very real and very dangerous for teens throughout Connecticut,” he said. “Fortunately, we are seeing real results in our program,” Asinas added.

CHR’s teen substance use program is a proven, six-month initiative that incorporates individual counseling as well as personalized work on practical skills to help teens create and maintain a healthy lifestyle. It’s an outpatient program and includes work with each teen’s family.

“It’s very personalized. We work with each teen and focus on what’s important in their lives and how they can reach their goals without drugs and alcohol,” Asinas said, noting that the program is based on a national model that has been extremely successful.

“We focus on each person’s strengths and help them learn new ways to communicate, to make and maintain friendships and handle problems and stress,” he said. “It’s empowering and gives teens skills that will help them throughout their lives.”

Here are some of the signs of substance use problems in teens and young adults. Experts stress that it is important to consider the intensity, severity and duration of the problem.

  • Significant changes in school performance • Missing school or skipping classes • Problems with memory, concentration or attention • Dramatic changes in energy levels: sleeping more or less • Dramatic changes in weight • Spending less time with close friends and family • Neglecting personal appearance and/or appearing drunk or high • Outbursts of violence or rage

Of note, the teen years and early 20’s are frequently the times at which mental illnesses, including depression, appear. That’s another reason why CHR experts advise parents to pay attention to changes in behavior.

“The late teens and early 20’s are a pivotal time of life. It’s often an incredibly creative, innovative span of years when identifies are formed and young people transition into adulthood. However, it’s also when mental illness can appear and substance abuse can become a serious problem,” said Dr. Steven Madonick, CHR’s medical director.

“It’s so important for parents and families to recognize the signs of problems and to seek help as early as possible, Dr. Madonick said.

For the convenience of parents and families, CHR offers outpatient services in locations throughout eastern and central Connecticut. To learn more about any of CHR’s services, including the teen substance use program, 1-877-884-3571 or call Michael Asinas at 860-634-4088.

About CHR CHR helps adults, children and families find real hope for the challenges of real life through an array of community-based mental health, substance use, child welfare, supportive housing, foster care, and prevention and wellness programs. It is the most comprehensive behavioral healthcare agency in Connecticut, serving more than 18,000 individuals each year with locations throughout eastern and central Connecticut. Learn more at

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