Adolescence is the period of life when our personalities and beliefs begin to solidify. It’s also a time of heightened risk-taking. A national epidemiologic survey revealed that adolescents are more likely to abuse alcohol, cannabis, and tobacco than any other age group. Most adults struggling with substance abuse report having started during their teens or early 20s. Due to differences in biology, environment, and personality among adolescents, customized treatment has the highest success rate.
Reasons Adolescents Take Drugs
By understanding the driving forces behind substance abuse, a therapist can determine the optimum course of treatment. Common forces that propel teens toward drugs include:
- Peer pressure. Many teens want to make friends or fit in with the crowd. Others may offer them a cigarette, beer, or other substance as a condition of acceptance.
- Pleasure. Many drugs produce euphoric effects. For example, heroin is known to produce feelings of intense confidence, relaxation, and energy. However, these drugs produce diminishing returns, leading teens to use more and suffer a potentially lethal overdose.
- Relief. Teens often take drugs to cope with stress, anxiety, depression, or pain. Adolescents with mental illness may turn to drugs to mitigate their symptoms.
- Achievement. Adolescence comes with many pressures, including pressure to succeed. Some teens may abuse stimulants to improve their focus or physical performance.
- Curiosity. The risk-taking nature of adolescence often leads to drug experimentation.
Some teens respond well to traditional behavioral therapy, while others require different therapies. For example, a teen who suffered from child abuse or other trauma may benefit from holistic treatments such as art therapy. Another teen might respond well to group counseling alongside peers. Therapists should work closely with teens to craft a treatment plan conducive to their thoughts, beliefs and interests.
Comprehensive Treatment for Adolescents
The downfall of many generic treatment programs is their focus on drug abuse alone. The most effective treatments account for all aspects of the adolescent’s life. These include medications for underlying disorders, co-occurring mental illness, personal fears, and social issues such as bullying or discrimination. Many inpatient treatment programs integrate accredited education with treatment to help teens overcome their illness while keeping pace with life. The best way to help your teen is to find help for them.
Genetic differences make certain teens more susceptible to the addictive effects of drugs than others. They may require a more specialized detoxification program or additional medications to treat the symptoms of withdrawal.
Friends and Family
Support from loved ones can motivate an adolescent to remain in treatment. Drug abuse often stems from feelings of loneliness and pain. Professional interventions and counseling can bolster family ties and change how a teen relates to friends and peers. Educated family members and friends can then help the teen stay motivated and retain healthy habits post-treatment.
The presence of mental illness (e.g. bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc.) alongside substance abuse can produce complex symptoms. Successful treatment programs targets each condition as it relates to the other. For example, behavioral therapy alongside music therapy can help a teen with PTSD come to terms with his fears and find a new way to manage his emotions. The decisions people make during adolescence often shape who they become as adults. As such, treatment should account for the teen as a person rather than a drug addict. With customized treatment and support from family and friends, teens can triumph over adolescent drug abuse and grow into healthy, responsible adults. To learn about our customized treatment options, give us a call at 877-466-0620.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse, Principles of Substance Use Disorder Treatment: A Research-Based Guide, Drugabuse.gov, January 2014, https://www.drugabuse.gov/sites/default/files/podata_1_17_14.pdf
- National Institute on Drug Abuse, Strategic Plan, Drugabuse.gov, September 2010, https://www.drugabuse.gov/sites/default/files/stratplan.pdf