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Teen Substance Abuse and Growing Concern Over Gambling

Feb 26, 2023

Having to find out that your teenager is using drugs may cause a big state of shock. In this video, I've got Rick Capriola with me to help us deal with teenagers and addiction.

Rick Capriola has been a mental health and addictions. Counselor for over 2 decades, and in 2020 he published a book for parents called the “Addicted Child, a Parents Guide to Adolescent Substance Abuse,” and it also comes with a workbook.

Teen gambling can lead to serious consequences such as addiction, financial difficulties, and strained relationships. However, there are solutions to prevent and address teen gambling problems. Education and prevention programs, parental involvement, and counseling can help teens understand the risks of gambling and provide support for those struggling with addiction. It's important for parents and educators to stay vigilant and take action to prevent and address teen gambling issues. Remember, recovery from gambling addiction is a process, and setbacks may occur. It's essential to stay committed to the recovery plan and to seek help when needed.


While for substance use and abuse, Parents can play a crucial role in helping their teens who are involved in drugs. It's important to approach the situation with empathy and understanding, while also taking proactive steps to address the problem. Seeking professional help, creating a supportive environment, and setting boundaries can all be effective strategies for addressing drug use.


Additionally, educating your teen about the risks and consequences of drug use can help them make informed decisions and develop healthy coping skills. Parents can provide accurate information about the effects of drugs on the body, brain, and life. Encouraging open communication and offering support can also help teens feel comfortable discussing their challenges and seeking help when needed. Ultimately, by taking a proactive approach and offering support and resources, parents can help their teens overcome drug addiction and live a healthy, fulfilling life.

Learn more from Rick -

Karin Jakubowski: All right, Rick. Thank you so much for joining me today.

Karin Jakubowski: He has been a mental health and addictions. Counselor for over 2 decades, and in 2,020 he published a book for parents called the Addicted Child, a Parents Guide to adolescent substance abuse, and it also comes with a workbook. So, brick, Welcome back to Momnificent.

Richard Capriola: and help us our listeners today, and know where you are tuning in from

Richard Capriola: I'm, just outside of Houston, Texas.

Karin Jakubowski: Texas. How do you not have the accent?

Karin Jakubowski: There you go. Everybody knows that right. When you g0 0ut on the street. They're like this guy's not for

Karin Jakubowski: So, Rick. Here's the fun question. I always love asking, what's one thing that you've done recently that maybe you haven't done for a while. That's just brought you joy lately.

Richard Capriola: Oh, my gosh! You know I really Haven't ventured out into too many things. I've been spending a lot of time working on this book, and in in in doing interviews. Really, really haven't I i'm looking forward to doing some more traveling, and that'll be new, and going to some new places. We recently went to Fort Lauderdale, which was a new place for us. So that was that was nice. We? We really like it down there by the ocean.

Karin Jakubowski: Yeah, I love it. That's one of my one of my my favorite spots as well, and always near the water and palm trees. My favorite warm weather.

Jakubowski: Well, all the best in your upcoming travels

Karin Jakubowski: that can help us understand what what's been happening, and then an emerging problem team gambling. So maybe you can start us off by helping our listeners with with one of these first questions here to help us understand. What does teen substance abuse look like?

Richard Capriola: Well, I think it looks like, you know, a disruption in the child's life depending on how severe it is. Of course it can. It can produce some significant changes in in the child in terms of their behavior, their attitude, you know, the the this basically getting involved in more and more substance, abuse activities, and if it's not caught early, it could escalate and become a really serious problem that that child can carry into adulthood. But some of the classic warning signs are changes in a child's behavior. Parents are pretty good at knowing their child's behavior. 


Richard Capriola: They probably know their child's behavior better than anyone, so I always advise them to pay attention to the changes that you see in your child. Don't. Assume that it's just normal, adolescent acting out behavior. It might very well be that, but it might be a sign that there's something else going on underneath the surface. So parents need to pay attention to the changes that they see in their child. 


Richard Capriola: Things like declining grades. A child who used to participate in extracurricular activities or sports no longer enjoys doing so. A child who used to introduce you to their friends, and now becomes very secretive of where they've been and what they've been doing. And then, of course, if you find any paraphernalia around the house, but but a general rule is just pay attention to the changes that you see in your child Be a little curious as to why


Richard Capriola: those changes are happening. They may or may not be related to to to drug use, but I think, any time we see a change in our child, a significant change and ongoing change. Then I think it should sort of alert us that maybe we need to inquire a little bit deeper as to what's causing the changes that we're seeing. Some of it may be. Doug related Some of it might be a number of other issues as well


Karin Jakubowski: and as a counselor, maybe a parent.

Karin Jakubowski: Here's that their child's using. Maybe they find out from someone else.

Richard Capriola: Just address their child if they hear from someone else that that that their child's involved in it, and or they notice something. And now they're gonna have to like somehow confront their child like. What's your best approach with that for parents?


Well, I think the first thing you do is have a conversation with your child, and and by that I mean you, Don't, threaten them. You don't argue with them. You don't punish them. You come at it from a curiosity point of view. I i'm seeing these changes. I'm: curious as to what's going on. Can you help me understand it, or i'm scared that you might be using substances? Can you help me understand why i'm feeling so scared? So so the focus is on you, not on the child. And you're inviting the child to come into a discussion with you, a conversation with you as to how you are feeling about what you're observing, or what you're concerned with, and then get feedback from that child. Now.


quite honestly, that's a conversation that's probably gonna g0 0ne or 2 ways. It's either gonna blow up and become an argument, or you might learn some things, but but regardless of how those first conversations go. If you're still concerned as a parent, the next thing you need to do is get some assessments done from professionals that can advise you as to whether or not there's a problem going on, how severe it is, and and if it needs to be treated. What kind of treatment options are the best?

You can begin that process by talking to the school counselor, the school social worker, the school psychologist, the school principal, because many times some of them can do some of these initial assessments, or, if not, they can refer you to professionals in the community who can do these assessments. But but it's really important that if you're concerned your your child might be using a substance that you get some professional assessments done so, you can either rule it in or rule it out

Richard Capriola: and and get the treatment if needed, because the earlier you intervene, it's like anything else within the earlier you catch a problem and intervene and provide treatment. The more likely you are to get beyond it successfully.


Karin Jakubowski: I love those 2 things you said. Just be curious. That's such a great word to take that approach of curiosity and that paper question that is also a favorite of mine like, Help me understand.


Karin Jakubowski: and it just very non Kind of it's just a very relaxed approach so hopefully that gives the opportunity for your child to feel safe to share.

Karin Jakubowski: Which it our tendency might be to like, yell, or get upset, or be like. How could you or I didn't raise you this way, or all those things above. But but being curious and help me understand, I think that's that's that's a really good way to put it so.


Karin Jakubowski: If if a parents listening and maybe their child, or they know of a child who has been using or abusing drugs alcohol.


Karin Jakubowski: How can you help them understand today? Maybe can their brain redevelop after substance abuse?


Richard Capriola: Yeah, that's a great question, because what we do know is that our brains have a remarkable capacity to heal themselves. But parents need to understand that the adolescent brain is in the process of maturing and developing our brains. Don't become fully developed until around age 24 - 25, and that's why it's so important that, as parents we help our child understand the importance of protecting that brain.


Richard Capriola: and any time you introduce a substance, whether it's marijuana, or vaping, or alcohol, or any any illicit drug, you run the risk of doing some some damage to that developing brain. Now, as parents, you might not notice those changes, because they're often very, very subtle changes going on in the brain, but they can have long term a facts. The example that I would that I would share with you is that when I was working at mining or clinic in Houston, Texas, and treating it.

Richard Capriola: Adolescents who were smoking a lot of marijuana. The the psychological test that came back on those children showed that the processing speed of their brain was below average. Their short-term memory was impaired, and their attitude was their behavior. Their motivation was was very low. Now. Some of these changes, like a processing speed in the brain, and the short term memory might not be readily observable by the parent. But they're just examples of what's going on underneath the surface, and the importance of protecting that child's developing brain, so that it does not

Richard Capriola: Incur any damage as a result of introducing drugs to it. Now, if drugs are introduced to it in the in, the person has treatment and gets beyond it. We know that our brains have a remarkable capacity to heal themselves. So even if a child is using a substance once they in your treatment, they stop using, then the brain starts to heal itself.

Karin Jakubowski: Oh, that's such good news right? Because it kind of gives them hope. It's not like. Well, they did that. And now there's no coming back.


Richard Capriola: Is is the possibility of the brain. Our bodies are incredible, Aren't. They? Yes.


Karin Jakubowski: So, Rick, Last year you and I went over some data that you shared of the the the substance of you


Richard Capriola: Percentage of kids that have been using mostly alcohol and marijuana. Those are the 2 primary drugs the kids are attracted to. The teenagers seem to you know, be attracted to the most.


Richard Capriola: And the percentage of kids that have been using those substance remained fairly constant for for years and years and years. primarily using alcohol and marijuana. But prior to the pandemic, what we did notice was a dramatic increase in vaping, vaping nicotine and vaping marijuana for 3 years prior to the pandemic. Those percentages of kids that were getting involved in in vaping things like marijuana and nicotine was just skyrocketing. It was a dramatic increase.


Richard Capriola: Then the pandemic comes along. Well, what happens? Kids are at home kids who pulled away from school doing online learning pulled away from their activities and their social activities, their sports, activities, and their peer groups. So what happened?


Richard Capriola: Substance, abuse to kind declined significantly across the board. Now we have data that just came out in December about what happened to teenage substance use a year after the pandemic, and what we found was that there was a rebound. There was a rebound and an increase in kids

Richard Capriola: In going back to using substances still, not to the p pre pandemic level, but starting to increase, we'll know obviously in a few more years, if that trend of increasing use continues, or has it stabilized, it's still not back to what it was pre pandemic, but it is increasing, and the one substance that increased the most after the pandemic was alcohol use. So it appears that the pandemic had

Richard Capriola: Very little, if any, long lasting effect on teenagers drinking alcohol. There are some increases in the other drugs, marijuana vaping, but again not back to the pre pandemic level, so it might be too soon to to to make a judgment as to whether we're going to return to the pre pandemic level or not. I suspect we may. We may get in that direction.


Richard Capriola: And what do you think it is that's going to help these adolescents curve this? Have the statistics go down.


Richard Capriola: The one thing that that I think we fail to do is in the education system, and by that I mean our approach. For years decades has been.


Richard Capriola: I just just say no attitude, so we will tell teenagers that drugs are bad for them. We'll tell them that they're illegal. We might have a school assembly. We bring in a law Enforcement official who talks to them.

Richard Capriola: None of that means anything to teenagers. They don't care about it. They don't believe it to begin with. But what I noticed

Richard Capriola: Did I make a difference was when I started to talk to them about the neural science, because they're curious about their brain. They want to know how their brain works. They want to know what the brain does. Even as early as middle school and elementary school. They're very curious. They want to learn.

Richard Capriola: So the approach that I would take would be a neuroscience approach. I would teach them about the brain. I would teach them what the brain does with the different areas of the brain are responsible for. We have an area of the brain that helps us walk in and and in in other areas, and then, once they had a good understanding of how important the brain was and what it does. Then I would introduce how drugs work in the brain, so that they could draw that connection between the importance of the brain and what it does.


Richard Capriola: and drugs, and what they do to the brain. And it was almost like a light bulb would g0 0n. Then they understood. Wow! This stuff really affects my brain. It has the potential to damage my brain. That approach which is founded in education


Richard Capriola: Is a lot more effective than simply telling kids that drugs are bad. They're not going to work, and they're going to do bad things to them because they discount that. So if we're going to change over all the long term, how we're going to change, how we're going to change adolescent substance abuse. We need to do it through the education system. We need an education approach that helps children starting from elementary school through high school, learn the and pro importance of protecting their brain, and then learn


Richard Capriola: what these drugs can do to that brain.

Karin Jakubowski: Hmm. Cause it's just like. If you tell a kid not to do something? What are they going to do


Karin Jakubowski: mit ctl? And and if you tell them why or how it impacts them that they can control, that you've got to give them that sense of ownership. And with that understanding,


Karin Jakubowski: then it flips it to educating them for what they can juice themselves, because the effects that it's going to have on them. So yeah.


Richard Capriola: Yes. And and we think that that's attributable to the fact that again kids were at home. Kids were staying at home. Many parents were staying at home and working, you know, from home, and what we think is it allowed parents to pick up on the fact that their child might have an attention, deficit, or learning disorder, because they observe them more, being at home and their and then, when they observe that they saw, they sought out medical attention, which then led to an issue.


Richard Capriola: increase in the prescription drugs for Adhd. So I think the fact that that these kids were confined to home a lot more parents might have been able to pick up on some of these queues that their child might be struggling with learning or attention, and then sought out medical attention, which then led to them, being on prescribed drugs. And that's why we saw such a significant increase in the prescription drugs.


Karin Jakubowski: Yeah, because what was at 11% in 2,021 up to 15% in 2,022,


Karin Jakubowski: and then I'm going to shift. Let's ship to our next topic. And now there's this new emerging problem of team gambling. Okay.


Richard Capriola: Well. What we know and what the data will tell us is that 4 to 5 of kids between the ages of I think it's 12 and 17. Meet one or more of the criteria for having a gambling problem. Okay, 4 to 5 in that age.


Richard Capriola: If we look at the high school population. We know that 60 to 80% of high school students report having gambled for money during the past year, 60 to 80 and 4 to 6 of those students are considered to be pathological gamblers already, and the other thing we note is that boys more than girls


Richard Capriola: are likely to to gamble and experience gambling problems. But we're starting to become a little bit more aware that this could be a growing problem among girls as well. Right now it's predominantly, boys. But girls are getting more interested in it, too.

Karin Jakubowski: So great, Rick, Where are they doing this online?

Richard Capriola: A lot of it is online with online gambling. You see that advertised? Well, we're even now with sports, events and things like that. And there are, you know, there are gambling sites that you can download onto your on your phone or your computer and and and make wagers. So some of it is is sports betting. Some of it is just gambling. Some of it would be, you know, kids getting together, maybe playing cards for money.


Richard Capriola: So all different types of of gambling. But I think with the advent of of a lot of online gambling. Now I think that's increased the the allure of of teenagers being able to get online on their phone or their computer download the app and then start playing for money.

Karin Jakubowski: Well, and what if a parents listening, and probably some parents will be in shock to realize that their kid is gambling, and or know that this is even a problem in teams right now. And so what if one of our listeners knows of, or finds out their kids gambling. What is your recommendation steps for them?


Richard Capriola: I think first of all, be aware of what some of the warning signs are, you know, some of the warning signs are your child starts selling some of their personal property, you know, just just selling it for money

Richard Capriola: Or borrows money and doesn't pay it back. That's another warning side, or has large amounts of cash that seem a little bit unusual that the kid has come across this this large amount of money, or has a great deal of debt


Richard Capriola: or strangers keep calling on the phone. So those are some warning signs, that is, the parents should just sort of peek our curiosity and our interest. And again we go back to the child, and we approach it from a curiosity point of view, as you're observing these things, can they help? You understand why you might be concerned about that.

Richard Capriola: And and there's some forms of gambling that that I don't think you need to be too concerned about, You know. If as long as you're paying attention to it, so, if you're if your child has some of their friends come over, and they have a little game of cards, and maybe they're playing a little bit for money as long as you're observing, you know, paying attention to it, and it's not getting out of hand, and involves large amount of money and things like that. It's more of a game or an activity that they're doing more for just entertainment. Then it's probably not too, concerning


Richard Capriola: i'm not saying that all gambling is is bad. Some of it under parent supervision can be, you know, a past time, but you do need to be concerned that it has the potential always has the potential of getting carried away and becoming more serious. 


Karin Jakubowski: That's crazy. Was there any more data you wanted to share on that?


No, I think that, you know. Just be aware that this is a problem among certain kids, not a large percentage. We're not talking large percentages. But for some kids this can. This can be a problem that, if it's not addressed, can become even more serious as the child goes through late adolescents, and even into high school Or and adulthood.

Karin Jakubowski: And are they saying what age group most teams are? Or is it more teenagers, or what age?

Richard Capriola: I I think it's probably more the high school population you know. Then the younger kids. So I think, I think a child is more vulnerable. The older they get, and as they go through high school, particularly like junior senior year of high school, when they're more likely to come in contact with peers that might be gambling.


Karin Jakubowski: And what are the effects, and or what kind of treatment would you say is is usually


Richard Capriola: well, unless it's a a serious pathological gambling, which I don't think you're going to see very often in the adolescent population. There's a very small percentage of of kids that perhaps are pathological gamblers, but it's a very, very small percentage.


Richard Capriola: I I think that you know that that it goes back to the parent, being aware of the issue and talking to the child about the issue setting limits and setting boundaries just so that it doesn't get carried out of hand.

Karin Jakubowski: Hmm. It's so helpful. Thanks for that, right? And is there is there anything you Lastly, you would like to say to our listeners today?

Richard Capriola: I would say that when it comes to substance abuse don't become paranoid. Don't become frightened of this issue. Learn as much as you can about it, so that you feel prepared. If you have to deal with it. You hope you don't have to deal with it. But if you do, you you feel prepared. You know what to do. Be aware of what's out there on the street.


Richard Capriola: Understand that all kids, every child is vulnerable to getting captured by drugs.


Richard Capriola:But that knowledge is power, and the more that you know about this. The more you know about the warning signs, the more you know what treatment options are available. Then you feel more confident as a parent that If you have to address this issue, you can address it in a way that helps you feel comfortable and prepared, and that's the best that a parent can do. Know what the warning signs are. Have a plan in place. Hope you don't have to deal with it. But if you do feel prepared and confident that you can deal with this issue and help your child and your family.

Karin Jakubowski: Thank you, Rick. And how can someone find and follow you?

Richard Capriola:  Go to the books. Website, which is


Richard Capriola: There's some blog articles that parents might find helpful. There's one on you know, adolescent substance abuse. There's a a short little paper on 10 questions that you can ask your child to to check in on their mental health.


Richard Capriola: and there's a link that'll take you to to Amazon, where you can purchase the book if you want, as either a Kendall or a paper back, and I would encourage every parent to get a copy of the book. It's only about 100 pages. It's a quick read, but hopefully, after reading it, you'll feel more confident, less afraid, and more prepared to deal with this issue, and just keep it on your bookshelf as as a reference


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