No parent would want to see their child become an addict, but it’s sad to say that there are parents out there who are dealing with this kind of problem. What makes young people addicted to drugs and alcohol? If you are looking for answers, then this article can help you with that.

The effects of drugs and alcohol among teens

Drugs and alcohol affect teenagers more than adults because their brains are still developing. When they grow older, the brain’s development slows down. The part of the brain where coordination, motivation, and emotion are centered, develops more quickly than the parts where impulse and control are located. This is also the reason why teenagers often respond emotionally and take more risks compared to adults. In addition to that, this developing brain can also be easily damaged compared to that of a matured brain.

A teenager’s developing brain can be easily disrupted when drugs and alcohol are introduced in their system. It will not only affect them physically but will also impair their memory as well as their ability to adapt to stressful situations or respond to stimuli. Because of this, a teenage addict often suffers from mental health problems. Depression, suicidal thoughts and even personality disorders can result from this when they grow into adults. Addiction is developed because the young brain adapts more to repeated habits like drug use and alcohol consumption which can lead them to cravings and dependence.

In 2011, a study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse found that about 90% of Americans had begun using drugs or learned to drink before they even reached 18 years of age. That fact alone tells you that there are many teenagers today that are addicted to drugs and alcohol at a very young age. It was also found out that 9 out of 10 people who grew up to be drug and alcohol addicts admitted to using these substances before they reached the legal age of drinking. A study also showed that teens who begin using addictive substances before they are 15 years old are more likely to develop an addiction by the time they are 21 or older.

The Effects of Substance Abuse 

A healthy brain is needed so you can have a healthy cognitive function in your adult years. That is why it is important that during the brain’s developing years, the brain does not go through substance abuse. Drug abuse can limit the ability of the brain to function and may not properly grow or develop later in life.

When a teenager abuses drugs and alcohol, their brain can be affected by:

  • Problems with memory
  • Decreased ability to sense or experience pleasure
  • Neurotransmitters are interfered or have damaged connections to the brain
  • Learning potential is missed
  • Hinders the development of perception
  • Unhealthy habits are imprinted in the brain’s circuitry

Alcohol drinking and the teenage brain

Teenagers are more prone to binge-drinking than adults because of peer pressure or social status. Studies show that a young brain responds to alcohol in a different way compared to adults. Individuals who began drinking alcohol at a very young age are more likely to develop a dependence on alcohol compared to those who don’t. In addition to that, alcohol can also hinder the growth of the brain among teenagers which could result in:

  • Reduced growth potential
  • Shorter limbs
  • Bones have a lower mineral density
  • Delayed puberty
  • Problems with the reproductive system
  • High levels of enzymes in the liver, which could lead to liver damage or failure

Risk of substance abuse among teenagers

Teens who abuse drugs and alcohol may have to deal with the consequences of their actions as an adult. Adults who are addicted to drugs and alcohol from their young ages could face tremendous stress in their life which could lead to things like:

  • Damaged personal relationships
  • Criminal records which cannot be cleared
  • Unwanted pregnancies
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Academic opportunities lost
  • Wrong career choice
  • Late start in their chosen careers
  • Accidents

Now there are certain warning signs that indicate whether a teenager is abusing substances or not, which are as follows:

  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Bizarre behaviors
  • Obvious intoxication
  • Smell of alcohol, smoke and other odors in their room, clothing or breath
  • Changes in grooming or choice of clothes
  • New friends or changes of friends or group they hang around with
  • Frequent injuries or trauma
  • Sudden weight loss or gain
  • Frequent fights or arguments with parents or other people
  • Unexplained violent behaviors
  • Mood swings
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Lost of interest in activities and usual hobbies
  • Failure in academics, frequent absences and discipline problems
  • Depressed or talks about suicide and has attempted suicide
  • Delinquent behavior

These behaviors may vary depending on the substances they have abused. This could also be a warning sign that the young adult is suffering from depression and other mental health problems.

Treatment for Teenage Addiction

Young people suffering from addiction have different psychological and emotional needs than adults. That is why it is important to find a rehabilitation center that recognizes these needs so your teenage child can get the best and most effective treatments. But what happens during this treatment?

There are plenty of treatment options to take when it comes to treating teenage addiction. You have the choice of getting inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation. For inpatients, teens are separated according to their gender and age. Outpatient programs, on the other hand, allow teenagers to stay in school while they undergo a treatment program.

  • Behavioral Treatment Option

Struggling with addiction and substance abuse can lead to major depression and anxiety. That is why it is important to find a rehab center or program that centers on this. Behavioral Therapy Option or BTO can help teenagers address any psychological issues that may have lead them to use drugs or alcohol.

BTO is a hands-on treatment for the addict and their families. The young addict can learn skills on how to resist drug use and at the same time cope with triggers. During this period, behavioral therapy allows the parents of the teens to learn how to communicate so their families are brought closer together. The ability to discuss openly and honestly among family members is one of the goals for this kind of therapy.

  • Family-Based Therapies

There is also treatment where the teen’s family and friends are included as their support group. These family-based therapies aim to solve problems like:

  • Peer pressure
  • Co-occurring disorders
  • Family conflict and communication
  • Work and school attendance problems

Most of these family-based therapies are within the outpatient setting so the teenager can remain under parental supervision while receiving the support they need during this treatment.

  • Recovery Support Services or Groups

One of the treatment options you can do is through support groups. These programs were created to focus on giving therapies to addicted teenagers and adults as well. This community allows teens with similar experiences to share their situations in a safe and secure place or group.

Final Thoughts

Families and life at home can deeply impact the growth and behavior of children and young adults. If there’s no stable home life and the family is dysfunctional, then teenagers are most likely to develop an addiction. Finding ways to prevent your teen from developing addictive habits at a young age is essential in order to avoid long-term substance abuse.

Talk to Someone Who’s Been There. Talk to Someone Who Can Help. Scottsdale Recovery Center holds the highest accreditation (Joint Commission) and is Arizona’s premier rehab facility since 2009. Call 602-346-9142.