Although most categories of substance abuse have been in a slight decline in recent years, youth addiction rates continue to increase. Millions of teens and pre-teens engage in drug and alcohol abuse right under the noses of their parents and teachers. For some it is occasional partying, but for others it is a daily habit. Although many baby boomer and Gen X parents seem to find a certain amount of substance abuse acceptable as a part of normal teen life, the truth is that even occasional intoxication by a young person can cause a lifelong chemical dependence. Recognizing the symptoms of addiction and finding age-appropriate treatment as early as possible is critical for long-term healing.
Substance Abuse and the Young Mind
The human brain is not completely developed until around the age of 25. The last stage of brain growth, in fact, is related to impulse control. The brain’s frontal lobe is responsible for risk assessment, resisting temptation and avoiding certain dangerous situations. This level of development is recognized behaviorally as maturity. This final stage of growth is critical for a person to be capable of making the kinds of decisions that will lead to a long, healthy and fulfilling life. This is one major reason that neglect is so dangerous for young people. Human beings, in effect, often need to be protected from their own bad decisions until they are mature enough to protect themselves.
Young brains have not yet connected all of the necessary synapses between this cognitive part of the brain and the emotional core or “reward center” that experiences pleasure and anxiety. For this reason it is especially risky for minors to use intoxicating substances. Their brains are more likely to demand the euphoria associated with the use of drugs or alcohol and are less capable of resisting the craving to feel high. Youth with the following psychological disorders are even more likely to wrestle with addiction due to underage drug or alcohol use:
- Impulse control disorders
- Self-esteem deficiencies
- Obsessive behavioral disorders
- Post-traumatic stress (PTSD) related to bulling, neglect or abuse
Drugs and alcohol provide immediate, short-term relief of these disorders at first, though that relief is often very short-lived and has many negative consequences. Young people are simply unable to comprehend the risks of their behavior, or to generate the willpower to resist temptation once addiction is established.
The following substances are commonly abused by youths in the United States:
- Prescription painkillers
Youth are also at increased risk of addiction due to the strong peer pressure temptations they face. Pressures related to school and athletic performance add to the risk. It is important for youth to stay meaningfully connected to caring adults and healthy friends in order for this risk to be minimized.
Symptoms of Youth Addiction
The following are some of the most common symptoms of youthful drug or alcohol abuse:
- Uncharacteristic secrecy
- Emotional volatility
- Missing money or property
- Slipping grades
- Dilated eyes
- Marked changes in sleeping or appetite
- Loss of interest in previously valued activities or relationships
- Defensiveness when approached with addiction concerns
- Unexplained weight loss or gain
If these symptoms describe you or your loved one, please call our confidential, free helpline right now for immediate advice and assistance.
Effectively Treating Youth Addiction
Successful addiction recovery is possible for youths who receive the proper treatment and attention. Specially designed treatment programs are available with the following customized therapeutic elements:
- Private counseling
- Peer group support sessions
- Family counseling
- Medically supervised detox
- Self-awareness and coping skill development
- Adventure therapy
- Arts and creativity therapy
- Spiritual and emotional support
- Aftercare resources
While the basic elements of treatment are similar for addicts of any age, there are unique factors that affect underage addicts. Specialized, age-appropriate programs offer very real results. A drug or alcohol problem as a young person means a great chance of avoiding addiction later in life. The risks of underage substance abuse are real, but help is available for people of any age.
24-Hour Youth Addiction Helpline
If you would like more information about addiction and recovery for yourself or a loved one, please call our helpline today. Our staff members are standing by 24-hours a day with the following free, no-strings-attached, help:
- Answers to all of your questions
- Information about specialized underage rehab programs
- Insurance coverage confirmation and advocacy
- Logistical assistance regarding transportation
- Information about continuing education during treatment
- Access to specially trained professional intervention services
The call is completely free and you can remain anonymous if you choose. We are here to help, not to pressure you. Youth addiction is serious and requires professional treatment. We can help you find that treatment today.
Addiction limits a person’s potential to thrive. Many of the neurological changes caused by youthful substance abuse can be extremely difficult, or even impossible, to reverse without help. Don’t sentence yourself, or your child, to a lifetime of pain, frustration and hurt. Call now and let us help you take the first steps toward healing.