These days, it’s not uncommon to walk into a twelve-step support group to see younger and younger faces. It’s been clear for some time that teen drug addiction is a big problem, but it appears they may also be getting sober as well. According to the evidence, one thing rings clear: Addiction surely doesn’t discriminate based on age. It doesn’t care about the color of your skin, about where you live, or to which God you pray. The disease of addiction doesn’t care about your socioeconomic status or social group, about who you love or who loves you. Anyone could suffer from a substance abuse disorder under the right circumstances.
There’s a common expression that can be heard in twelve-step meetings every now and again: “Addiction is like pregnancy. You either are or you aren’t an addict. The only thing that changes over time is how much it shows.” Addicts and alcoholics who have attempted recovery at a young age can attest to the truth of this statement. Teens frequently start off by smoking marijuana with their friends in high school, which is why marijuana is often called the “gateway drug” as it’s usually the first and most accessible drug that adolescents sample. When they get to college, they add binge-drinking to the roster and maybe follow the alcohol with cocaine, which is commonly used as a way to offset the effects of excessive drinking. When this pattern gets to a certain point, they may begin using heroin to come down from the cocaine so that they’re able to get some sleep. By a year of two of college, many college-age adolescents are regularly abusing substances in all the major chemical groups like some warped drug version of the food pyramid.
Early Identification of Teen Drug Addiction
When it comes it teen drug addiction, early identification is crucial. Addiction, especially to certain substances, can create lasting damage to the brain and other areas of the body. This is especially damaging to adolescents who may or may not be fully developed physiologically, which can put them at additional risk. Developing addiction at such an early age gives the disease a potentially longer time in which to achieve maximum severity, which can entail numerous types of destruction; this can ruin changes for college and obtaining a good career, prevent adolescents from learning life skills and responsible behavior that would allow them to support themselves as adults, and so on.
While it’s sometimes too late to stop the vicious cycle of addiction, it’s never too early. Adolescents who have begun to experiment with recreational drug and alcohol abuse may already be showing signs of addiction. On the weekends, recreational abusers may start to binge drink—considered to occur when an individual has five or more drinks in a single sitting—which indicates that the consumption is quickly escalating beyond the individual’s control. This may lead to excessive anger, anxiety, and depression, which can cause an individual to turn to other drugs and more alcohol in order to self-medicate. While under the influence of an intoxicant, adolescents will often do irresponsible things. Once teen drug addiction is in full-force, it can be difficult to stop.
Pre-teens and teenagers who are beginning to recreationally abuse alcohol and drugs are one of the easiest adolescent groups during which a parent can intervene in the destructive behavior. Oftentimes parents can detect even subtle changes in an adolescent’s routine and behavior and, through the process of elimination, can narrow the potential causes to a few of the most likely. What’s more, when these adolescents attend appointments with pediatricians or doctors, the physician will often be acutely aware of certain types of substance abuse and can either perform an intervention in the office or refer the adolescent to an appropriate program to treat teen drug addictio.
Treatment and Therapy for Adolescent Addicts
For adolescents who have only been recreationally abusing alcohol and drugs for a short time relative to their adult counterparts, it’s been found that one of the most effective types of treatments is behavioral therapies. With this type of treatment, professional counselors help to motivate the adolescent addict toward healthier alternative behaviors. This type of therapy includes things like skills-building, developing incentives to abstain and remain sober, developing tools for dealing with triggers, replacing substance abuse with more rewarding and productive behaviors, teaching coping skills, improving stress management and problem-solving, and so on. An important concurrent goal of this type of therapy is to help prepare the adolescent for the real world, ensuring that each individual possesses the skills necessary to become a well-rounded adult who can thrive in society.
What’s more, it’s been found that parental involvement in treatment is extremely important when the addict is still an adolescent. Most adolescents of lost their way and wander into the world of teen drug addiction will feel as though their recent behaviors are so unacceptable that admitting them to their parents would mean they would be kicked out of the home or disowned. Due to this fear of rejection, adolescents can quickly become quickly adept at hiding their substance abuse, which will make parental detection much more difficult. As such, it’s crucial for parents to remain supportive of their adolescent children who may be suffering from the early stages of addiction. Parents should have an open dialog with adolescents they believe are recreationally abusing alcohol or drugs, taking extra care to project love and be understanding. The adolescent has to feel as if accepting their addiction won’t be tantamount to becoming an orphan in order to accept the help that parents will naturally want to give.
For those who are lucky and don’t delve too far into this world, this behavior may turn out to be nothing more than temporary recklessness that can be attributed to adolescent rebellion; however, the rates at which adolescents are developing addictions that follow them into adulthood are higher than they’ve ever been. With addiction and alcoholism being serious chronic diseases that cause many deaths each year, the best thing that parents can do is educate themselves and talk to their children.
There are countless facilities across the country that offer addiction treatment programs for teen drug addiction specifically. At these facilities, adolescents suffering from addiction can receive the personalized, individual care for their specific needs, which might include family troubles, coping with physical or emotional abuse, or a dual diagnosis. Additionally, these adolescent programs offer support groups where individuals can network with peers and form support groups, which help these adolescents foster a sense of community at a time when it’s common for addicts to feel abandoned and alone. When adolescents suffering from teen drug addiction participate in recovery programs, they can see that recovery is possible regardless of age.
If you or your adolescent child are suffering from addiction, Drug Treatment Center Finder has a team of recovery specialists that can help. Addiction is a lonely disease, but recovery is a mere phone call away! 855-619-8070