What is Substance Abuse Disorder?
Substance abuse disorder is characterized by one’s inability to abstain from regularly abusing substances, illicit or otherwise. While this diagnosis is not to be confused with ‘experimentation,’ or ‘occasional drug usage,’ experts state that any abuse of harmful substances, if left unchecked, will almost certainly lead to one developing a substance abuse disorder.
And, according to these same experts, as well as nation-wide statistics, no other demographic is more vulnerable to experimenting and ultimately developing a substance abuse disorder than that of troubled teens - teenagers who are especially inclined to act on out-of-control behaviors due to deep-rooted mental health-related issues.
As it stands, the nation’s troubled teens are currently abusing substances like never before with millions of high school students experimenting with harmful drugs - a large portion of whom meet the criteria for having a substance abuse disorder diagnosis.
What causes teenage drug addiction?
Addiction occurs when repeated use of drugs changes how a person’s brain functions over time. What starts as recreational use progresses to compulsive drug use, reflecting changes in the brain’s natural inhibition and reward centers that keep a person from exerting control over the impulse to use drugs, despite understanding the negative consequences. This is the defining characteristic of addiction.
Who becomes an addict?
Some people are more vulnerable to becoming addicts than others. This involves a series of risk factors. For instance, stressful early life experiences such as being abused are an important risk factor. Adolescents with a history of physical and/or sexual abuse are more likely to become drug addicts. Other risk factors for teenage addiction are prenatal exposure to alcohol or other drugs, genetic vulnerability, lack of parental supervision or monitoring, and association with peers who are users.
Still, there are plenty of other genetic and environmental influences that promote resilience that enables the teen to stay away from addiction. That makes it difficult to pinpoint exactly who would be likely to become or not become an addict.
Is teenage addiction hereditary?
Research has shown that addiction definitely has a genetic component. It has been linked to certain genes within a person’s DNA. If a person has family members who are addicts, the family could carry this type of gene. That doesn’t mean the parents have to have substance abuse disorders, and it doesn’t mean the teen will automatically become addicted to a substance. It just is a risk factor, the same as depression and various environmental factors. A person’s genetic makeup can make him or her more prone to sensation-seeking behavior, more compulsive, and more vulnerable to addiction.
What are the most popular drugs abused by teenagers?
Today 1 in 5 teens admit to recreational drug use. These are the drugs they are using:
- Synthetic marijuana
- Anabolic steroids
Potential Warning Signs and Symptoms of Adolescent Drug Abuse and Addiction
When it comes to teenage substance abuse, early intervention is key. As any addiction-specialist will attest, receiving treatment early on in their addiction (or experimentation with harmful substances) will exponentially increase an addicted or experimenting teen's chances of achieving full-sobriety, as well as dramatically decreasing their chances of developing a long-term, potentially life-threatening addiction later on.
While the early-intervening treatment is left to the licensed addiction-treatment specialists, noticing and identifying potential warning signs of addiction are the responsibility of the parents. Before a parent can successfully identify potential symptoms and signs of addiction, however, they must first be well-adept educated on knowing what to look for. Thus, we have created a list of potential warning signs for parents to use in their attempt to readily identify their child's potential addiction or experimentation to drugs.
Adolescent Substance Abuse Signs:
- Heightened secrecy or isolation from the rest of the family
- Increased inclination to lie or make up excuses for odd behaviors
- Difficulty with critical thinking or keeping focus
- Withdrawing from academic, sport, or other interests and responsibilities
- Fits of paranoia, irritability, anxiousness, or constant fidgeting
- Changes in character such as moods or attitudes and passions
- Significant loss (or gain) in weight
- Loss of interest in once-passionate interests, hobbies, or activities
- A rapid decline in academic performance
- Abandonment or indifferent attitude towards peers who were once considered as friends
- A poor or diminished sense of hygiene
- Constant avoidance of eye-contact
- Unusual tiredness or uncharacteristic increase in manic energy
- Developing a habit of missing curfew or sneaking out at night
- Bloodshot eyes or habit of using eye drops to conceal bloodshot eyes
These potential warning signs are not complete, nor are they definitive pieces of proof that confirm a diagnosis of addiction. Rather, they are merely potential warning signs that could be implications of surreptitious, drug-abusing behaviors.
If a teen displays or acts on any of the aforementioned symptoms or warning signs, it does not automatically imply that drugs are veritably to blame. However, even if a teen isn't abusing drugs while displaying these types of behaviors or warning signs, it could suggest that the child in question is struggling with mental health-related issues. In either case, parents should seek immediate treatment for their child if he or she has shown a dramatic change in character or behavior - such as the aforementioned list of signs and symptoms may indicate.
Substance Abuse Treatment Programs for Troubled Teens
As the title aptly suggests, substance abuse treatment programs for troubled teens are facilities in which teens who suffer from substance abuse disorder can receive rehabilitative treatment for their harmful addiction to dangerous (sometimes life-threatening) drugs. Like most treatments involving out-of-control teens, there is a wide array of treatment programs and methods for parents of said addicted teens to choose from. However, it should be noted that not all treatment programs are as credible as others.
In order for parents to narrow their search in finding drug treatment for their child, it is highly recommended that they act with due-diligence by personally researching and inquiring about any prospective treatment program before sending their child to said program's facility. For instance, some programs are solely defined as treatment facilities, offering little to no services in regards to education. However, most of the premiere troubled teen treatment facilities provide a fully certified academic curriculum in addition to providing effective drug rehabilitation. In reference to the latter type of program, therapeutic boarding schools are the most popular choice among parents who want their child to receive an education while receiving rehabilitative treatment.
What therapies and counseling approaches are used in treating teen substance abuse?
Addiction therapy and treatment commonly consists of a combination of group and individual therapy sessions that focus on teaching those in recovery the skills needed to get and stay sober, as well as how to navigate situations without falling back on drugs or alcohol. Behavioral therapy is the most commonly used treatment, and it is delivered through a variety of techniques.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) — In CBT, teens learn to recognize and change their destructive behaviors. This enables them to recognize patterns and behaviors and it provides coping skills.
- Contingency Management (CM) — CM provides material rewards as motivation for desirable behaviors, such as staying sober. CM can result in a reduction in the two biggest treatment-related issues: dropping out of school and relapse.
- Motivational Interviewing (MI) — MI is a method of resolving ambivalence in recovering individuals to allow them to embrace their treatment efforts, so they have more success in changing their behaviors.
- Dialectal Behavioral Therapy (DBT) — DBT works to reduce cravings, help patients avoid situations or opportunities to relapse, assist in giving up actions that reinforce substance use, and learn healthy coping skills.
- Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) — REBT helps patients understand their own thoughts and then helps to develop better habits and thinking in more positive and rational ways. It seeks to remove the concept that external situations govern happiness or unhappiness.
- Matrix Model — Used for stimulant addictions, the Matrix Model employs a combination of various therapy techniques. It is mostly focused on relapse prevention, family and group therapies, drug education, and self-help participation.
- Equine-Assisted Therapy — Equine-assisted therapy is a type of experiential therapy where the addict interacts on a daily basis with horses. Horses have a natural ability to pick up on human emotional expressions and needs. They are patient, perceptive, and tend to mirror human moods in a nonjudgmental way. The addict bonds with the horse, allowing confidence, self-awareness, and emotion healing to take place.
How effective is teenage drug abuse treatment?
According to research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, most people who get into and remain in treatment stop using drugs, decrease their criminal activity, and improve their occupational, social, and psychological functioning.
Treatment enables people to counteract addiction’s powerful disruptive effects on the brain and behavior and to take control back in their lives.
This includes relapse. The chronic nature of drug addiction means it is likely relapse will occur. This doesn’t mean treatment has been a failure. It just means treatment needs to provide tools and behavior modification approaches that enable the addict to accept why they relapsed and to come back from it.