Adolescent Substance Abuse

Adolescent Substance Abuse

Research by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) indicated that people tend to start abusing substances during adolescence. Statistics show that about 70% of high school students will have tried alcohol by the time they’re seniors. Half of them will have taken an illegal drug before their senior year. While over 20% will have used a prescription drug for non-medical use.

Many factors come into play in making adolescents try drugs. Besides, the teenage years are critical because they become vulnerable to substance abuse and related disorders. Their brain is still developing, with some parts of the brain being less mature than others, hence easy to manipulate.

Enhance Health Group in Orange County, California offers substance abuse treatment for adolescents. Depending on the substances abused and if another mental health disorder is present, a customized treatment plan can be developed. Treatment for substance abuse in teens typically includes different kinds of therapies and medication management if needed.

Common Causes of Adolescence Substance Abuse

Adolescents occasionally want to experiment with drugs and alcohol to fulfill their developmental urges. Teens have a biological tendency to act recklessly and take dangerous risks. The adolescent brain doesn’t fully mature until age 25. Therefore,  it can be challenging to make the right decisions based on their limited life skills and exposure.

Repeated drug use and abuse during these formative years can lead to long-lasting. These effects could take a long time to reverse, even with treatment interventions. 

Common reasons that influence teenagers to experiment with alcohol and drugs abuse include:

It’s essential to note that substance use and alcohol abuse have no single cause in adolescents. The disorder develops over time and doesn’t start as a full-blown addiction. Different pathways exist for the development of a teen’s substance abuse disorder. Family members can take action by recognizing risk factors and talking to their teen about substance abuse.

Teenage girl with curly hair sits on a couch with her head in her hands

Risk Factors for Substance Abuse in Adolescents

Adolescents may use drugs for many reasons. However, there are also factors that can contribute to an increased risk of substance use disorder. 

A study published in the Journal of Addiction established the following risk factors:

Protective Factors for Substance Abuse in Teens

It’s essential to eliminate risk factors and increase the protective factors to reduce the likelihood of teen drug and alcohol abuse. Loved ones may want to consider counseling for teens who have trauma or other mental health challenges. Getting help early can prevent drug abuse or other destructive behaviors

On the contrary, some factors can reduce the likelihood that an adolescent will have an alcohol and substance abuse disorder:

Encouraging teens to participate in positive activities like sports, youth groups, and community clubs helps prevent drug use. Parents are responsible for establishing a solid connection with their teens and encouraging good behavior. It would also help to be their pillar of support in their studies and other life issues that could challenge them.

Signs of Alcohol and Substance Use in Teenagers

The teenage years can be erratic for adolescents, reflected in their behavior, feelings, and thoughts. Teenagers may become obsessed with their dressing style or start creating boundaries with their parents. These actions can be disheartening but are normal as teenagers continue to grow and learn.

A parent should be on the lookout for specific peculiar behavior that may point to something out of the normal scope. Some actions could indicate something more troubling than the typical teenage tantrums.

Suspicious behaviors that could serve as warning signs for drug and alcohol use and abuse include:

Preoccupation with drinking alcohol and doing drugs can crowd out previously vital activities, and the teen’s views can become unrealistic and inaccurate. Continued drug involvement is a sign that problems exist in the teen’s environment and need immediate attention.

How Drug Use Can Develop into Addiction

Different drugs and substances affect the brain in various ways. The common denominator among them is that they raise the level of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a hormone that controls pleasure and reward.

The release of dopamine encourages life-sustaining and healthy activities. For teenagers, rewards that excite them include hanging out with friends, playing sports, listening to music, and other highly-motivating activities. It reinforces these habits, contributing to the well-being and health of teenagers.

For teens that use drugs, their brain is unable to process these rewards because of the chemicals in the drugs. They flood the brain’s reward circuits with excessive dopamine. The brain will then have more dopamine than the natural process generates, creating a strong drive to repeat the experience.

The immature brain becomes dependent on drugs without considering the consequences. The development of addiction becomes a vicious cycle that alters vital brain areas necessary for self-control and judgment. That’s why, in most cases, willpower alone isn’t enough to overcome drug addiction.

Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment in Orange County, California

Given the risks that adolescent drug and alcohol abuse pose, it’s essential to help them get adequate treatment. It may be helpful to enroll them in an adolescent substance abuse program so they can receive professional attention.

If you’re looking for alcohol and drug treatment for a teenager, the Enhance Health Group is an excellent starting point. While at an adolescent substance abuse treatment center, teens can receive comprehensive services that can treat other underlying conditions. The treatment programs can be valuable in uncovering mental disorders and medical, family, and academic issues that occur alongside addiction.