National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week is an incredible week-long event established to promote the accurate spread of helpful information regarding addiction, alcohol, and drugs. NDAFW happens yearly and fosters inspiring conversations regarding the science of drug use, particularly teen addiction and substance use, through a nonjudgmental lens. During this event, teens, parents, specialists, and educators participate in activities and discussions that foster awareness around teen addiction and substance misuse.
Exploring the reality of teen addiction can be a terrifying experience that no family wants to undertake. While many are familiar with conceptualizing an adult drug user, a minor addicted to chemical substances isn’t always a reality many consider. Worst of all, many parents don’t know that this grueling experience consumes their kids.
Inspired by National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week, GateHouse Treatment will explore some of the alarming warning signs and facts parents should consider regarding teen addiction. Additionally, we outline steps and potential treatment options. By sharing the truth about how teen addiction affects health, safety, and well-being, we hope to encourage those affected to seek recovery.
GateHouse Treatment celebrates National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week for its commitment to spreading lifesaving information in a way that reaches individuals that may have fallen between the cracks.
The Definition of Addiction
The National Institute on Drug Abuse states, “Addiction is a chronic disease characterized by drug seeking and use that is compulsive or difficult to control, despite harmful consequences.” Addiction science shows us that addiction alters the brain’s motivation and reward pathways. This altered brain chemistry can make it difficult for the individual in active addiction to feel pleasure from everyday experiences, leading to further challenges in controlling substance use.
In the beginning, teens may feel that taking drugs is voluntary, which it typically is. But repeated substance use leads to changes in the body that can interfere with many essential processes and result in an inability to resist substance use. These changes in brain function can be chronic, so many consider addiction a “relapsing” disease. Even individuals who abstain from use for years may still return to using, under certain variables like stress, lifestyle, trauma, and physical discomfort.
We must recognize that teen addiction is a severe problem in the United States, with more than 2 million 12 to 17-year-olds reporting drug use in the last month, according to the 2023 statistics provided by the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics.
The Prevalence of Teen Addiction
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 15% of students in high school consumed or injected illicit drugs. 14% of these students reported abusing opioids. This data shows that teen addiction has crossed beers at a house party to fatal drugs with no second chances at life. With the current opioid overdose epidemic, overdose and fatality rates are incredibly high.
Alarming Warning Signs of Teen Addiction
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) recommends parents learn the warning signs of teen addiction. Early detection can help prevent further problems and address the issue before it worsens.
A) Changes in Behavior
One of the most alarming warning signs of teen addiction is changes in behavior. These can be major or minor, depending on the degree of dependence. Signs of a potential drug or alcohol problem may be mood, attitude, or personality disturbances.
Teens may become more secretive, irritable, and neglectful of their responsibilities, obligations, and specific interests. Teens experiencing addiction may begin to act out aggressively (in some cases, this can become physical) or lie more frequently. Teens may also become increasingly disinterested in family and friends. Additionally, they may miss school or critical events.
B) Unexplained Changes in Appearance or Hygiene Habits
Another alarming sign of teen addiction is changing in appearance or hygiene habits. Teens using substances often have bloodshot eyes and often lack personal grooming. They may display symptoms of physical illnesses such as nausea, weight loss, fatigue, or changes in appetite.
C) Withdrawal from Social Activities or Family Events
Withdrawal from social activities or family events may be a warning sign your teen is experiencing addiction. Teens may avoid family gatherings or stop spending time with friends who don’t use drugs and alcohol. Additionally, teens may start spending time with new peers who use drugs and alcohol or engage in illegal activities.
Parents need to be aware of teen addiction’s signs and symptoms so they can intervene early on. These are just a few signs to look out for. Others include paraphernalia, legal issues, financial struggles, or general stress that weren’t present before.
Ways To Address Teen Addiction
1) Learn about Substance Use Disorders
Learning about the warning signs of addiction can help parents recognize when their child may be struggling with substance use disorder so that they can intervene early.
2) Talk to Your Teen about Their Behaviors and Risks Associated with Substance Use
Parents should create a safe space for honest conversations free of judgment and criticism, where teens can express their feelings and concerns. It’s also essential to provide resources to help them understand the risks of substance use and help them build positive coping skills.
3) Seek Professional Help When Needed
If you suspect a teen’s addiction has become severe, it may be necessary to consult an addiction specialist for further support. If that is not an option, consider discussing your situation with their pediatrician or school counselor. Treatment options such as counseling, 12-step programs, or rehabilitation can also be supportive options worth exploring.
Potential Causes of Teen Addiction
There are several potential causes of teen addiction, such as peer pressure and stressful life situations. Peer pressure often influences teens and may come from friends or the media’s glamorous depiction of drug use. Also, teens often experience high stress due to school pressures, family problems, bullying, or body image issues.
While these issues are often common proponents of teenage experiences, they can lead to substance abuse as a coping method. Parents need to be aware of the potential causes of teen addiction and take steps to limit their child’s exposure to these risk factors. Precautions may include discussing peer pressure, monitoring your teen’s activities, and establishing clear boundaries.
Additionally, it’s essential to instill a sense of self-worth in your teen by engaging in positive activities and fostering healthy relationships demonstrating the value of human connection.
How to Discuss Drug and Alcohol Use with Your Teenager
Talking to teens about drug use and abuse can be challenging but, ultimately, necessary. When discussing topics like alcohol and drug use, it’s critical to emphasize that using illicit substances is dangerous. Drug use can lead to addiction, health problems, and even accidental death.
Parents should try to provide open dialogue and a safe space where their teens can discuss drug use to open the lines of communication. Honest conversations about substance use allow teens to ask questions and seek advice without fear of ramifications. It’s critical to reinforce the idea that your teen can come to you if they need help or support, no matter what.
Treatment Options for Teen Addiction
Several beneficial options are available for treating teens with addiction problems. The most common treatment is psychotherapy, which addresses underlying emotional issues and helps patients establish and identify healthy coping strategies. Therapists may also provide education about substance abuse disorders and techniques for avoiding relapse.
In addition to psychotherapy, some teens benefit from prescription medication that helps treat addiction or mental health issues. Treatment may include medications such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and other pharmaceuticals designed explicitly for substance abuse treatment.
Other forms of treatment for teen addiction include residential programs, where teens stay in a facility for an extended period and receive intensive therapy and support. Other programs, such as 12-step programs and support groups, can benefit teens struggling with addiction. Ultimately, the best treatment option for each teen will depend on their needs and circumstances.
GateHouse Treatment Embraces Adults Experiencing Addiction
Teen addiction is a severe problem that can lead to devastating consequences. Parents need to be aware of the potential causes of teen addiction and take steps to limit their child’s exposure to these risk factors. It’s essential to recognize that many teen substance abusers will become adults with addictions if the necessary interventions are not employed.
With the right help, substance abusers can recover from addiction and lead happy and healthy lives. Lasting recovery is where GateHouse Treatment can make all the difference.
If you’re an adult experiencing addiction, call (855) 448-3588 or contact us here for more information about your recovery options with us.