Substance Abuse In Teenagers: Facts, Signs, Treatment And Counseling
Substance abuse is a wide-ranging term that includes addictive behaviors that involve abusing harmful substances such as alcohol, marijuana, heroin, prescription medications, and stimulants (cocaine, methamphetamines, amphetamines, etc.)
Teen substance abuse has become epidemic throughout the globe - including most parts of the US. and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. Below is a statistical analysis conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
The following snapshot of analysis serves as an eye-opening look into just how severe America's teenage substance abuse epidemic has become:
- Alcohol - the most deadly of all substances, alcohol also remains the most popularly abused substance among teenagers. According to NIDA's research, it has been abused by 36 % of middle schoolers, 60% of sophomores, and 71% of seniors in high school. What's more, according to their study, 41% of 12th graders, 28% of 10th graders and 14% of 8th graders admitted to abusing alcohol in the previous 30 days.
- Marijuana - by far the least dangerous substance on this list, but nevertheless a serious issue among parents of teens, marijuana is also the least abused substance with only 6.1% of high schoolers admitting to using the drug on a regular basis.
- Over the Counter Drugs (OTC) - OTC drugs are the easiest substance to obtain as they can be purchased at any convenient store, local grocer or pharmacy without a prescription. These types of substances include cough medicine which is consumed by roughly 10% of teens each year. It should be noted that, despite its convenient accessibility, OTC medications can be extremely dangerous and can even be fatal if enough is consumed.
- Prescription Drugs - these types of substances are among the most widely abused and dangerous drugs affecting teens today. According to NIDA's report, 23% of all teens admit to having abused prescription painkillers.
- Tobacco — More than 1 in 4 (27 percent) of U.S. teens report having used a tobacco product in the previous 30 days (this includes vaping products).
Ranking of Most Used and Abused Substances
There is no doubt that substance abuse among troubled teens has become rampant among our nation's youth. Below is a list of the most abused substances by American teens according to a study conducted by the University of Michigan in 2015.
Each percentage represents how many American teens have abused the corresponding substance:
- Marijuana 34%
- Adderall 7.5
- Synthetic Marijuana 5.2%
- Tranquilizers 4.7%
- Cough Medicine 4.6%
- Vicodin 4.4%
- Hallucinogens 4.2%
- Oxycontin 3.7%
- Sedatives 3.6%
- Meth 3.6%
- LSD 2.9%
- Cocaine 2.5%
- Inhalants 1.9%.
Risk Factors of Teenage Substance Abuse
- lack of parental supervision or attention
- failure of parents to communicate with their child
- internal conflicts within the family dynamic that lead to dysfunction
- failure of parents to properly discipline their child
- a history of substance abuse issues such as addiction within the family
- traumatic events in which the child was victimized (abuse, sexual abuse, etc.)
- learning disabilities or a low emotional IQ
- compulsivity issues (inability to control one's impulses)
- emotional instability (typically stemming from the child's environment: school, home, etc.)
- a proclivity to 'thrill seek' or act out in dangerous behaviors for the fun of it
- peer pressure from friends or other teens with whom the child wishes acceptance and approval
- lack of knowledge relating to the severity of potential harm that may result from abusing drugs or alcohol
- severe boredom that leads to an intense need to escape their dull surroundings
- the impulse to self-medicate due to hidden emotional or mental health-related issues
- modeling parent behavior (if a parent abuses substances, typically a teenager will use this as an excuse to do the same)
- academic problems (this typically relates to the abuse of stimulants that aid teens in studying harder and for extended periods)
- if a teen becomes curious due to the reputation or desirable effect of certain substances
- other present disorders
Early Detection is Key
Obviously, when it comes to teenage substance abuse and addiction, treatment is absolutely necessary. The longer a drug-abusing teenager goes without treatment the more likely they are to develop long-term, even life-long, dependency issues. Considering drug overdose is the second leading cause of fatalities among teenagers, early detection of substance abuse in teens is paramount.
Symptoms of Teenage Substance Abuse
In order for parents to detect substance abuse issues in their teens, they first must become familiar with the symptoms, or tell-tale signs of what drug abuse looks like.
The following list is just a fraction and most common symptoms of teenage substance abuse:
- a dramatic change in behavior with little or no apparent reason for such change
- a sudden loss in energy
- uncharacteristically frequent changes in behavior or attitude
- seemingly over-the-top moods of elation proceeded by random or sudden bouts of depression
- dramatic change in peer group
- a noticeably steep decline in academic performance
- a decline in grooming and personal hygiene
- loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
- sudden deterioration of relationships with family and friends
While any one of these potential symptoms of drug or alcohol abuse may not necessarily mean that a teenage boy or girl is, in fact, abusing harmful substances, displaying more than two or three at a time may be cause for alarm.
Parents who feel as though their child's behavior exhibits a few or more of these potential symptoms should at the very least talk to their child and become more aware of their ongoing activities. Moreover, if a parent discovers these symptoms to be likely or absolutely due to substance abuse, it is critical to seek immediate inpatient treatment for their child.
The Importance of 1-on-1 Therapy
Individual therapy with a licensed therapist is fundamental in rehabilitating an experimenting or addicted teenager. During individual therapy, clients can explore their feelings, beliefs, and behaviors in a safe, supportive and confidential environment.
Unfortunately, like most forms of treatment, not all residential treatment centers offer optimal therapeutic opportunities to their teenage clients. What's more, programs for troubled teens such as boot camps or brat camps, fail to offer any type of licensed therapy whatsoever - often making problems worse once the adolescent returns home.
With that said, parents should do their due diligence when researching any prospective treatment center for their drug-abusing child.
Family First Adolescent Services - Our Clients Work Closely with Therapists
Here at Family First, we make intensive therapy one of our top priorities. To ensure that every child receives the same complete therapeutic experience, our therapists carry a low caseload of no more than five clients. This intimate caseload further enables our licensed therapists to work one-on-one with each client throughout the week.
Family First Adolescent Services pioneered the 5-in-7 methodology: our clients receive 5 one-on-one therapy sessions within the first 7 days of their treatment. This intense immersion into our program allows our therapists to develop a bond with clients early on.
Working closely with their therapist, clients explore difficult or influential memories. Together they identify trauma and pain-points in the client’s life, which helps our clients understand themselves and how they relate to others. Clients are encouraged in these individual sessions to set personal goals and work towards the desired change.
Teen Substance Abuse - A Disease that Affects The Whole Family
Adolescent substance abuse is not an issue that is limited to the life of the teen, rather, it is a disease that affects the entire family. When faced with the realization of their teen's substance abuse issues, it is perfectly natural for parents to become overwhelmed with worry. However, it is critical that parents faced with such adversity to understand that, although they do not have all the answers, maintaining composure and a sense of confidence is critical for the sake of their child. Giving into emotional stress, blaming themselves or acting harshly critical towards their child, will only exacerbate their child's serious issues.
If you are a parent whose child is currently abusing substances, act quickly with poise. More specifically, rather than torture yourself with matters that are out of your control, take it upon yourself to act on the ones you can control. Namely, locating a viable treatment option that is most suitable to rehabilitate your child's substance-abusing issues.
Family First Adolescent Services - Dedicated to Serving Families Facing Teen Substance Abuse
Adolescents lack the emotional maturity and life experience to comprehend the risks involved with experimenting with substance use or alcohol. As a result, they often fail to consider the potentially life-altering consequences that may befall them by partaking in such self-destructive behaviors.
At Family First, our goal is to open the eyes of naive teens so that they may fully understand the severity of their reckless choices. Moreover, we understand that teens who choose to abuse drugs and alcohol are almost always doing so for reasons that they don't fully understand but painfully feel on a daily basis. It is, therefore, our responsibility to heal the invisible wounds of their internal strife, and ultimately, eradicate their dependency issues by therapeutically attacking the root-cause of their need to self-medicate.
We aim to restore the harmony between adolescents and their families.
If You Feel as Though Family First Adolescent Services isn't The Most Optimal Choice for Your Child, No Problem! We are Still Here to Serve Your Family with 'Round The Clock Support!
Here at Family First Adolescent Services, we want parents of struggling teens to know that our support is not limited to our own treatment facility. In addition to housing troubled teens at our own residential treatment center, our child placement specialists work with parents to help them locate the most suitable program that best fits their child's individual mental, emotional, and behavioral needs - even if that means seeking treatment elsewhere.
For more information about our services, please feel free to call our dedicated child placement specialists any time, day or night at (561) 328-7370. Remember, your child's needs come first!