Teen Substance Abuse

The common image of an addict is that of an adult—someone who struggles with work pressure and personal difficulties and who has turned to alcoholism or drug abuse as a means of coping with life’s stressors. However, addiction is not limited to this demographic.

Adolescents are struggling with addiction at alarmingly high rates. These self-defining years are filled with stressors of their own, and many teens turn to drugs and alcohol as a method of escape during these early years of life. Easy exposure to addictive substances makes this behavior possible. More than 60 percent of high school students report having easy access to drugs and alcohol at school.

Teenage Drug Alcohol Abuse

Approximately 50 percent of high school seniors report having tried at least one form of illicit drug in their lifetime.

Unfortunately, developing addictive behaviors early in life can lead to a life-long struggle with teenage drug and alcohol abuse. Treatment for addiction in adolescents is different than that for adults, as adolescents benefit from additional education, support and guidance to help them maintain abstinence long into adulthood. According to researchers from Columbia University, nine out of ten adults who struggle with addiction began using illicit substances before they turned 18.

How Teen Drug Abuse Starts

Adolescence is a gray phase of life. It includes the years just prior to puberty, well into young adulthood—often including the early college years. Loosely, adolescence includes the years between the ages of 10 and 19.

There are a collection of factors that may influence an adolescent to turn to addictive behavior, such as:

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  • School changes, including after a move or from middle to high school
  • Stress concerning interpersonal relationships, including platonic and romantic friendships
  • Pressure to plan for the future as they struggle to understand their lives in the present
  • Peer pressure to look “cool” and to use drugs to fit in with a crowd
  • Bullying, either in school or through social media
  • Family stress, including problems like divorce or a death in the family
teen addiction treatment

Issues like those listed above cause stress, and addictive behaviors are one method of escape from that stress. Teaching children healthy coping mechanisms can reduce their risk of turning to drugs and alcohol later on.

Treatment for Teenage Substance Abuse

Addiction recovery programs for adolescents often focus on providing the young adults with positive coping skills that will help them manage stress, avoid unhealthy interactions and maintain strength over cravings. Addiction programs for adolescents are restricted in age, giving adolescents the opportunity to overcome their personal struggles with drug abuse or alcoholism in an environment of their own peers.

Teenage addiction recovery programs may be in a residential or outpatient therapy center. The programs often include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (talk therapy)
  • Educational programs
  • Stress management
  • Peer Mediation
  • Ongoing support and guidance

Many teenage substance abuse treatment programs also include group therapy. This is an opportunity for adolescents to talk with peers about their experiences with addictive behavior, and to gain insight and perspective from others their age about the negative effects of drug abuse, and how to avoid addictive behavior in the future.

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