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How Are Teens Affected by Addiction Issues?
As a teenager, your life is already filled with pressure and dramatic changes. Whether it’s school, work, family, or the never-ending trials of peer pressure, it’s a true challenge for teens and young adults to balance all their responsibilities and still maintain their happiness and mental health.
To help cope with these challenges, some teens turn to drugs or alcohol, leading to serious addiction cases. For many, working with a residential treatment for teens center effectively helps them navigate these times and work toward developing healthy, positive habits.
While many teens will experiment with drugs or alcohol at one point in their lives, these experiments can quickly build and turn into an addiction. Addiction to drugs or alcohol is dangerous for anyone, but teens are especially vulnerable. Because their bodies and brains are still developing, they may take greater risks and do more harm to their bodies.
The effects of addiction can grow more severe over time and even make a lifelong impact on your teen or child. To better understand how teens are affected by addiction issues, we’re taking a closer look at teens and addiction and what you can do to help the teen in your life if you believe that they may be dealing with drugs, alcohol, or addiction.
Why Do Teens Experiment With Substances?
As a teen, you’re constantly fighting battles on all fronts. Teens are in a constant flux state in terms of physical development and hormonal fluctuations, which can lead to difficult or confusing feelings. If they have to face these changes alone, many teens may feel stressed, anxious, or depressed. To deal with these issues and emotions, they may turn to drugs or alcohol as a means of self-medication and escape.
Teens experiment with harmful substances for various reasons. Sometimes, the experimentation can be relatively harmless if the teen is responsible and only permits themselves to try something once. However, in other cases, a teen can become addicted to substances, resulting in a difficult struggle to get sober and maintain a normal life.
Even though addiction challenges are well-documented, many teens still opt to try out various substances. The reasons behind this experimentation are myriad and include, but are not limited to:
- Peer pressure
- Wanting to escape their current situation/feelings
The younger a teen is when they begin to experiment with drugs or alcohol, the more likely they are to develop an addiction. According to research, over 70 percent of teens who try an illegal drug before 13 will develop a substance abuse disorder. The percentage drops dramatically to 27 percent for those who try an illegal drug after 17.
What Are the Effects of Addiction?
The effects of addiction on teenagers can be severe; however, some of these effects can be reversed if there is early intervention. If the addiction is left untreated or unaddressed, however, the consequences can become much more severe.
Some of the effects of addiction that teens may experience include:
- Impact on brain development.
- A decrease in cognitive abilities, including focus, processing, critical thinking, and memory.
- Harmful changes to brain chemistry, including a reduced ability to experience pleasure, an interference with neurotransmitters, and damage to brain connections.
- Physical effects, including delayed puberty, damage to the reproductive system, liver damage, lowered bone density, reduced bone growth.
- A loss of interest in education and outside activities.
- A loss of friends and a strained relationship with family members.
What Are the Signs of Drug Abuse?
It’s not always obvious that your teen or child is experimenting with drugs or alcohol. Even in the closest relationships, things can still easily be hidden, and addiction can go unnoticed for long periods of time. However, there are some signs that people experimenting with substances commonly exhibit. Here are some of the signs:
- Bloodshot eyes
- Lack of interest in school and other activities
- Poor grades
- Giggling or laughing for no apparent reason
- Poor hygiene
- Overeating (the “munchies”)
- Smell of smoke
- Sneaking around
Addiction Issues: Talk to Your Teen About Addiction
While many teens and young adults will experiment with drugs or alcohol at some point in their lives, these substances can quickly turn into an addiction, which can have lifelong effects if not addressed quickly and with a professional’s support. Teens may experiment with drugs and alcohol for various reasons: anxiety, depression, curiosity, or as an attempt to self-medicate their complex and changing emotions. Often, peer pressure plays a major role in encouraging teens to try these addictive substances.
No matter the cause for their behavior, it’s always important to keep an eye on your teen or young adult and watch for warning signs of drug or alcohol abuse. Even those who seem happy, successful, and perform well in school or other activities may fall victim to addiction issues. A teen’s life can be compared to an iceberg, and often, as a parent, you’re only ever really seeing the tip.
If you believe your teen might be using drugs or alcohol or struggling with addiction issues, the most important thing you can do is sit down and talk to them. Ignoring the problem won’t make it go away–it will only make things worse. Even more, the addiction may become severe. Check out teen rehab centers near you!
When you talk to them, have a plan in mind and be conscious of approaching your teen. Avoid being harsh, angry, or judgmental, as this will most likely cut off the chance for an effective conversation. Instead, approach them from a place of love and understanding. Use positive body language and allow them an opportunity to speak. Try to learn why they’re facing addiction issues, and together, work toward a solution. If you think it could be beneficial, reach out to a professional who can help you both deal with the issue properly so that you can move on with your lives in a healthy way.