Puberty, Risk Taking and Addiction

by Lisa Frederiksen
October 14, 2019

Often moms wonder, What happened? My daughter (or son) and I were so close.

She loved spending time with me, talked with me about her friends, did as I asked (for the most part, anyway), and even held my hand as we walked down the street. And then, as if out of nowhere, things changed dramatically—especially once she entered middle school. By eighth grade, she’d basically stopped talking to me, other than short answers to the many, many questions I asked. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t seem to reach her anymore. By the time she was in high school, she was getting into trouble, her grades were slipping, and she was drinking, vaping marijuana, and sometimes taking Xanax. It was a nightmare. I didn’t know how to reach her!

Thanks to relatively recent research, it’s now understood that one of the key reasons our children pull away, turn to their friends, and engage in risky behaviors they’d never considered doing in fourth, fifth, sixth, or seventh grades is the onset of puberty.

You may be wondering, What does this have to do with helping me understand my child’s substance use disorder?

The answer is that it helps explain why a teen or tween may start drinking or using other drugs before the age of twenty-one. Early use is one of the key risk factors for developing a substance use disorder. (The others, by the way, are genetics, childhood trauma, mental illness, and social environment.)

So what is it about puberty that helps explain this? Check out this short video.


For more information on ACEs, treating ACEs, and recovering from addiction when ACEs are involved, please consider reading my latest book, 10th Anniversary Edition If You Loved Me, You’d Stop! What You Really Need to Know When Your Loved One Drinks Too Much.

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Lisa Frederiksen

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