At some point during their adolescence or young adulthood, most children are faced with the decision to use drugs or alcohol. And while teens and adults experience much the same complications and effects of substance abuse and addiction, young adults are often at a greater risk than their adult counterparts. Keep reading for more on addiction during adolescence, including information on risk factors, symptoms and available treatment options.
Addiction and Teenagers: Risk Factors
During their adolescent years, children experience intense physical, emotional and psychological changes. These changes, though a natural part of development, often play a major role in a teen's decision to use addictive substances. For example, due to developing cognitive function, many teens have extremely poor impulse control, and are therefore more likely to engage in substance abuse and other risky behaviors. And, in addition to impulsiveness, factors like the following can make teens and young adults susceptible to drug and alcohol abuse:
- Low self-esteem.
- Peer pressure, or a desire to “fit in.”
- Fluctuating hormone levels.
- Problems at home or school, e.g., divorce, school-related stress, issues with friends or classmates, etc.
How to Help
While it's true that nearly all teens are at risk for substance abuse and addiction, there are ways parents and loved ones can help. For example, if you think your teen is experimenting with drugs or alcohol, keep the following tips in mind:
- Be aware. When it comes to your child and substance abuse, a little awareness can go a long way. Know your children's friends and where they spend their time. Communicate with other parents, and be aware of other adults in your child's life. Make drugs and alcohol a part of your family discussions, and encourage open, honest communication in your household. Also, make yourself aware of the signs and symptoms of drug use.
- Avoid confrontation. While interventions and similar methods are popular, there is little evidence to support their efficacy in dealing with substance abuse and addiction. In fact, these situations can often backfire completely, and may even result in violence or aggression. However, if you feel that your teen is in immediate or severe danger, confrontation may be necessary.
- Encourage your child to get help. Instead of forcing treatment, offer your child incentives for getting help. For example, remind your child of all the ways treatment will enrich his or life, while also reinforcing the dangers associated with substance abuse.
- Show your support. Teens who use drugs or alcohol often feel alone or misunderstood. And though it can take some time, parents can help by making an effort to support and understand their children. This can be achieved through open, honest communication, as well as a commitment to show up for your child in every aspect of his or her life.
- Know your options. When it comes to seeking treatment for your teen, knowing your options is essential. Research treatment facilities in your area, and ask questions regarding patient age, insurance, methods, policies, etc. This way, you'll find the perfect facility for your child, which can significantly enhance the odds of a lasting recovery.
The Treatment Process
If your child enters treatment for substance abuse, there are several ways you can help. For example, throughout the process, it's important for parents to maintain a positive attitude, while offering constant love and support. Also, depending on the facility in question, parents may be able to attend counseling sessions with their children, as well as undergo one-on-one therapy. These services can be an immense help to your family, and will enhance your child's odds of experiencing a full, lasting recovery.
The idea of your child using drugs can incite feelings of intense fear and helplessness. However, though countless teens and young adults are at risk for substance abuse and addiction, there are ways you can help. With the tips provided here, parents can educate themselves on the dangers of adolescent drug abuse, and seek the proper help in treating this disease.
Having goals to work toward and something to look forward to can be powerful antidotes to drug addiction. It doesn’t matter what the goals are, just that they are important to you.