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Teen Alcohol and Drug Use

A potent mix of hormonal changes, growing independence, and still-developing brain structures make the teenage years particularly difficult. These difficulties lead to teen alcohol and drug use. Many adults look back on their teen years as a particularly challenging rite of passage, and today’s teens face even more pressures than their parents’ generation. With the advent of social media and cyberbullying, teens are exposed to more negative influences and peer pressure than ever. Adding experimentation with drugs and alcohol can have a strong impact on mood that sometimes results in suicide.

The Prevalence of Teen Drug and Alcohol Use — And How To Treat It

Teen drug and alcohol use is a pervasive scourge on our children’s health. Teens have access to more diverse addictive substances than ever before. Between underage drinking, illicit drug use, and misusing prescription medications, the discerning teen has many ways to become addicted. The 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health measured teen drug and alcohol use, and reported that:

  • 2.2 million American adolescents ages 12-17, or 9% of that population, used alcohol in the last month
  • 4.2 million American adolescents ages 12-17, or 16.7% of that population, used any type of illicit drug in the last month
  • 369,000 American adolescents ages 12-17, or 1.5% of that population, misused prescription stimulants such as Adderall
  • 460,000 American adolescents ages 12-17, or 1.8% of that population, misused prescription sedatives and tranquilizers (benzodiazepines et. al.)
  • 695,000 American adolescents ages 12-17, or 2.8% of that population, misused prescription painkillers (codeine, oxycodone, and other opiates/opioids)

As you can see, teen drug and alcohol use varies by substance and rate of usage. If your child engages in any of the above types of teen drug and alcohol use, they need addiction treatment ASAP. As a parent, it’s your job to act swiftly and help your teen down the road towards recovery.  Luckily, Destinations for Teens specializes in addiction treatment for all the various substances your teen has used or misused. We also offer treatment for a variety of process addictions related to modern media, along with treatment for mental illnesses and self-harming behaviors. Destinations for Teens treats the following types of teen drug and alcohol use, process addictions, and mental health disorders:

No matter what type of teen drug and alcohol use your child engages in, we’re ready to help them. If your child is dealing with mental illness and teen drug and alcohol use concurrently, don’t worry! Destinations for Teens offers dual diagnosis treatment for co-occurring disorders. We’re ready and eager to help your child recover and live a sober, fulfilled life as an adult. No matter what your teen is dealing with, we have an adolescent-specific rehab program designed to help them recover and live a fulfilling, sober life going forward.

The Link Between Substance Use and Suicide

Suicide is the third leading cause of death among American teenagers, causing widespread pain throughout families and communities. Alcohol or drug abuse is one of the key risk factors for suicide in adolescents. These substances enter the brain and affect its reward pathway, leading to the “high” feeling that teenagers often seek. Over time, however, use of drugs and alcohol can dramatically change the chemistry of the brain. These brain changes place a person at greater risk of feeling intense sadness or depression. Another link between substance abuse and suicide is physical dependency. Chronic drug or alcohol use — even with marijuana, which teenagers often believe is lower risk — can cause the body to physically crave the drug. This dependency frequently leads to feelings of helplessness or hopelessness. As the body comes down from a high, individuals often report feeling intense depression, irritability, or anxiety. All of these effects increase risk of suicide. Additionally, access to drugs may provide a means for teenagers to commit suicide. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, nearly 10% of drug-related trips to the emergency room made by adolescents involved attempted suicide. In many of these cases, ready access to prescription drugs was a contributing factor.

Recognizing the Warning Signs for Teen Suicide

Although many parents worry about their teens, few have been educated about the warning sides for drug use and suicide. For obvious reasons, adolescents are often secretive about drug and alcohol use, and many parents remain oblivious. Other parents assume that “it’s just a phase” or that experimentation with substances is a normal part of adolescence. Unfortunately, this sometimes causes teenagers at greatest risk of substance abuse and suicide to slip through the cracks. Not all teenagers exhibit the same warning signs when struggling with drug abuse, but many show:

  • A sudden increase in secretiveness, particularly if the person was previously very forthcoming about details of his or her life
  • Pulling away from friends and family
  • Joining a new crowd of friends, particularly if these friends are known to engage in risky behaviors
  • Declining grades in school
  • Changes in attention to hygiene and physical appearance
  • Dropping out of or losing interest in previously enjoyed extracurricular activities

Of course, some of these warning signs are also exhibited by teenagers who are being bullied at school, have changing interests, or simply are figuring out what they want out of their lives. A more serious cause for concern is co-occurring symptoms of depression, including:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness or anxiety
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Dropping grades in school
  • Feeling hopeless or desperate
  • Feelings of guilt or shame
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Changes in appetite
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Irritability or persistent anger
  • Engaging in self-harm (e.g., cutting, burning the skin)
  • Thoughts of suicide

Because teenagers’ brains are still developing, they often do not have the coping resources to deal effectively with pain and depression. Suicide may seem like an attractive option, and teen alcohol and drug use may exacerbate the problem. It’s essential for adolescents in this situation to receive prompt, compassionate care in a professional treatment setting. To learn more about teen alcohol and drug use, give us a call at 877.466.0620