New Milford Substance Abuse Prevention Council

Information, articles & videos available for teens and their families


Teen Mental Health Disorders and Substance Abuse: Understanding the Basics

This is a must read! Excellent article written for our coalition by Robert Hunt, a recovering addict and active advocate for those suffering from substance abuse and mental illness.

Teen Mental Health Disorders and Substance Abuse: Understanding the Basics

Dealing with a combination of substance abuse and mental health issues is difficult at any age. Especially for teenagers. Unfortunately, there are those who are unsure of how to go about providing support when a teen is suffering from any type of emotional illness and is also battling dependence on medications, illegal drugs, or alcohol. Here is some information that explains the impact that this type of dual diagnosis has on teenagers, the social stigma that comes with this combination, and what can be done to help the patient recover.

Which Comes First?

There is no one way for a teen to get to a place where substance abuse and a mental illness are part of daily living. One scenario involves the development of depression or some kind of anxiety disorder as the result of an illness or some catastrophic series of events. When people are telling the teen to shake it off or ignoring the warning signs altogether, the individual may turn to self-medicating.

At first, choosing to engage in recreational use of legal or illegal substances may seem to lift the depression or allow the individual to function without experiencing the mind racing and panic attacks that come with anxiety. Unfortunately, the benefits are short-lived. As the addiction develops, it takes larger and more frequent amounts to achieve any type of good feeling. In time, even that sense of feeling better is replaced by a constant craving.

For others, the depression or anxiety is the result of becoming addicted to alcohol or some type of drug. The usage starts out as something fun to do and a way to be a part of the group. As the craving increases and it becomes harder to function without having a hit or finding someone to supply a bottle, the teen begins to experience the seemingly contradictory sensation of feeling nothing at all and feeling too much at the same time. After a while, even getting a fix won’t restore a sense of feeling normal.

The Isolation and Stigma

As the problems mount, people find it easy to turn away. Peers who are not involved with any type of substance abuse or have never experienced the crippling effects of emotional illnesses find it hard to relate. With no idea of what to do, they choose to look the other way. That includes making a decision to not invite the teen to social events, call to check on the individual, or include them in their lives in any way.

Others don’t just turn away. They begin to ridicule the teen. Being classed as weak, no good, and worthless make it all the easier to sink deeper into depression and drug use. Unless someone intervenes the potential for the teen’s life to end in tragedy is very real.

Treating a Dual Condition

Seeking professional help is the only way to overcome a dual diagnosis. By taking into account the general health of the teen, it’s possible to come up with the right approach to come up with a combination of treatments. This may include counseling to aid in dealing with the depression while employing detox treatments that help to incrementally decrease dependency on the drugs of choice. While the process may take months, committed professionals monitor the teen throughout the process and adjust the scope of treatment when and as the need arises.

Seeking help is the key to overcoming a combination of substance abuse and emotional illness. With professionals there to determine the severity of the conditions and identify the methods that will help the patient, it is possible to feel good again and be able to control the addiction successfully.

By: Robert Hunt- a recovering addict of 7 years. He has devoted his life to helping others suffering from chemical addictions as well as mental health challenges. Robert maintains many blogs on drug addiction, eating disorders and depression. He is a sober coach and wellness advocate and a prominent figure in the recovery community.

Nar Anon in Danbury


Nar-Anon Family Groups are a worldwide fellowship for those affected by someone else’s addiction. As a twelve step program, we offer our help by
sharing our experience, strength, and hope.
St. Gregory the Great Church-Community Room
85 Great Plain Rd. off Hawley Rd.
(Use Lower Parking Lot adjacent to the school/playground)
Tuesday’s, 7:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Contact Information
Nar-Anon World Services
23110 Crenshaw Blvd. Suite A Torrance, CA 90505
(800) 477 -6291
To get a printable version of this flyer (for outreach purposes), go to -flyer

The Dangers of Combining Alcohol and Marijuana, Adam Cook

Check out this article written specifically for our community by Adam Cook, the founder of

The Dangers of Combining Alcohol and Marijuana, Adam Cook from



Photo via Pixabay by Pezibear

Alcohol addiction affects millions of Americans every year, and while the reasons for addiction can vary from person to person, the effects are often similar. Addiction filters through a person’s life and touches everything, from finances to employment to relationships. It can have a huge negative effect on physical and mental health and, in some cases, can lead to depression and even suicidal thoughts. When combined with other substances–such as marijuana–the dangers are multiplied.

While marijuana is legal in some states, it has not been approved by the FDA in every state and some studies have shown that the effects of the drug can include paranoia, anxiety, and panic attacks, memory loss, and reduced reaction time, making it hazardous for those who are operating a vehicle. When paired with a substance like alcohol–which can have very serious side effects–marijuana pushes those symptoms even further and can increase the risk of nausea and vomiting, increased heart rate, impaired judgement, and lack of motor skills.

Some of the most common warning signs of addiction and drug use include:

  • Changes in appearance
  • Decline in health
  • Isolation from family and friends
  • Spending money frequently
  • Changes in behavior
  • Problems at school or work
  • Legal problems
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Strange smells that linger on clothing
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Losing or gaining a significant amount of weight
  • Lashing out

Depressants like alcohol and marijuana can interfere with blood sugar levels, the kidneys, and the brain, changing the way the individual receives and perceives information. Slurred speech, confusion, dizziness, and inability to focus are also symptoms of combined drug use. When a person becomes addicted, over time they need more and more of the drug to get the same effect, meaning they may unintentionally ingest a large amount and run the risk of overdosing.

While many individuals use marijuana as a means to relax or soothe stress, it can have the opposite effect in some people, particularly when mixed with alcohol. For some–military vets who suffer from PTSD, those living with mental health disorders such as bipolar disorder, and individuals who have suffered from trauma or who have ingested psychedelic drugs in the past–mixing alcohol and marijuana can trigger nightmares, depression, hallucinations, and suicidal thoughts.

If you think a loved one may have a problem with dual addiction, don’t hesitate to reach out to them and let them know you are concerned. While it’s almost unheard of for an individual to overdose on marijuana, mixing the drug with another substance can be dangerous or fatal. Let them know you’re listening if they want to talk, and try not to be judgmental.

Withdrawal symptoms can be painful and could lead to relapses, so keep this in mind if your loved one has gotten professional help for their addiction. It is not an easy road, but with love and patience, anyone with addiction can find their way out of it.

Parents matter in prevention

The New Milford Prevention Council believes that families and communities are the key in substance abuse prevention. We know that families matter, and that families that talk early and often about drugs and alcohol, and about everything, have better outcomes and have kids who are less likely to engage in risky behaviors. Also, if and when teens in these families do engage in risky behaviors, they are more likely to go to their parents for help. Michael Pantalon, founder of the Center for Progressive recovery at Yale, points out the importance of open, exploratory conversations with teens, “If a child admits he’s using drugs, parents tend to become afraid, judgmental, angry, or punishing. If they do, the conversation is over. Parents should remember that the answers to the questions are not as important as the the fact that parents and kids are are communicating and creating trust and staying connected.” Once the conversation is started, your teen will know that it’s OK to come to you to talk about this stuff. For tips on having this conversation, take a look at the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids Parent Toolkit

How to Get Involved

There are many ways!

First: get on our email list, so we can directly send you information about events and programs, and you can communicate easily with us as well.

Email to get on our email list.

• Attend our programs and events
• Spread the word about the Prevention Council
• Volunteer to help with events, posting flyers, etc.
• Talk to us: we want to hear your perspective, insights and ideas
• Learn and talk about what you learn: A more educated and
aware New Milford = a safer New Milford

New Milford Parent Support Network

The CARES group offers weekly support to parents and loved ones of substance abusers.

Thursdays 7:00-9:00 PM @ the First Congregational Church Annex on Main St. in New Milford.

Free & confidential!

If you prefer to get support from parents that are not local, check out the regional parent support groups under the resources tab or call the Partnership for Drug-free Kids Parent Helpline 1-855-378-4373

NM Cares

Members of the NMPD paid a visit to the High School to help spread the NM Cares message. If your organization would like to participate, please let us know!!!

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