Teen depression and substance abuse are closely linked. Mental health problems can lead to self-medicating, where you use drugs and/or alcohol to alleviate symptoms like sadness. About 8% of adolescents suffer from depression, and 11.5% of high school seniors use illicit drugs other than marijuana at least annually. (1)
The teenage years are stressful, awkward, and, at times, uncomfortable. Since the brain’s logical reasoning centers continue to develop until your late 20s,(2) teens are at an increased risk of making poor or risky decisions. In addition, peer pressure can encourage teens to experiment with drugs and alcohol. Teens going through puberty can make poor decisions that lead to problems with alcohol or drug abuse. For those struggling with mental health problems, the risks of teen substance abuse are even higher.
Teen Depression and Substance Abuse
Depression is a mental health disorder that causes feelings of intense sadness, loneliness, and hopelessness. While mood changes are common, and everyone experiences sadness at times, depression causes prolonged periods of intense negative emotions that interfere with your daily life.
Common symptoms of depression in teens include:
- Practicing poor personal hygiene
- Sleeping excessively
- Losing interest in hobbies
- Isolating from friends and family members
- Engaging in self-harming behavior, like cutting
- Having suicidal thoughts
The reason teen depression and substance abuse are connected is because depression can increase your chances of using drugs and alcohol. Since many substances can simulate feelings of euphoria, teens may use drugs or alcohol to temporarily relieve symptoms. However, since drugs and alcohol are neurotransmitter inhibitors, they ultimately cause significant neurotransmitter imbalances. Addiction can aggravate underlying mental health disorders, meaning that long-term abuse can destabilize conditions like depression.
Teen depression and substance abuse issues require treatment from a dual diagnosis treatment program, as failing to treat both sets of symptoms can prevent you from fully recovering.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment at Destinations For Teens
When you are struggling with a mental health disorder and a substance abuse disorder, you have a co-occurring condition. You can have both conditions simultaneously, or develop one condition immediately after the other. Many mental health disorders involve neurotransmitter imbalances, which is why drugs and alcohol are especially detrimental to those with mental health conditions.
Inpatient and outpatient treatment programs both offer dual diagnosis treatment. These programs connect you with both mental health and addiction treatment. Since drugs and alcohol limit the effectiveness of mental health medications, it can take time for your mental health to stabilize during substance abuse recovery. Your brain also has to relearn how to release neurotransmitters properly during recovery.
Evidence-based treatments, like cognitive and dialectical behavioral therapy, help you identify, change, and accept negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Another important aspect of treatment is learning how to cope with cravings and triggers in healthy ways. Since cravings can continue long after your last use, finding healthy coping strategies is essential to recovery.
Finding Treatment Today
Mental health and substance abuse disorders don’t discriminate. Teen depression and substance abuse disorders require treatment, as symptoms will continue to become more severe without help. Just like physical health, mental health needs to be looked after. Unfortunately, if an adolescent, their peers, teachers, or family are unable to recognize the signs of a mental health disorder like depression, additional issues can arise. Both teens and adults can attempt to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol when they are unknowingly suffering from depression. While drugs and alcohol might alleviate their symptoms in the immediate, short-term, it can lead to addiction and more severe depression later on. To learn more about our adolescent treatment programs, contact Destinations for Teens today at 877.466.0620.
1-MedicineNet, Teen Depression, https://www.medicinenet.com/teen_depression/article.htm#teen_depression_facts
2-National Institute on Drug Abuse, Monitoring the Future Survey: High School and Youth Trends, https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/monitoring-future-survey-high-school-youth-trends