Youth and Addiction

Youth and Addiction

Young people are more vulnerable to addiction than adults, because peer pressure, problems at home and a desire to fit in

Young people are especially susceptible to the temptation of drug and alcohol abuse. First, the desire to fit in with the crowd can often overwhelm a maturing sense of right and wrong. Furthermore, young people are particularly vulnerable during times of change, and transitions from elementary to middle and high school, college, moving, divorce and the death of elderly family members can shake a young person’s sense of security. So much is happening both inside a young person’s mind and outside in her environment that those without a strong support system can fall through the cracks and into substance abuse. To discourage addiction from forming, understand the pressures that young people face on a daily basis and how drugs become a part of those pressures.

Kids at Risk for Addiction

When it comes to drug abuse, certain young people have more risks than others. If you know the factors that often put teenagers at risk for addiction, then you can help reduce the chances that your child will experiment with drugs or alcohol in the first place. The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that the following issues put a young person at a greater risk for substance abuse:

  • A lack of attachment and nurturing by parents and caregivers
  • Ineffective or uninvolved parenting
  • A caregiver who uses drugs or alcohol
  • Poor classroom behavior or poor social skills
  • Academic failure
  • Association with drug-abusing peers

On the opposite side of the spectrum, young people who have a strong bond with their parents, clear limits and boundaries and parents who are involved in their lives have significantly smaller risks of experimenting with drugs and alcohol.

Signs of Drug Abuse in Teens and Young Adults

As reported by the Substance and Mental Health Services Administration, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health finds that adolescents as young as ages 12 and 13 are already abusing drugs. For these young people, drug experimentation probably began much earlier, typically with tobacco, alcohol, inhalants, marijuana and prescription medications such as sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medications. If you know the signs of drug experimentation and drug abuse, then you can prepare to intervene in the lives of your kids and their friends.

The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids lists the following problems as signs of drug abuse:

  • Personal appearance may seem messy, so a drug user will not care for her appearance, have poor hygiene and red, flushed cheeks or face. She may also have track marks on her arms or legs and wears long sleeves in warm weather to hide marks. Lastly, she may have burns or soot on her fingers or lips.
  • Personal habits or actions may also evince addiction, such as clenching teeth, smelling of smoke or other unusual smells on his breath or clothes. He may also chew gum or mints to cover up his breath or nasal irritation. He may frequently break his curfew, have cash flow problems, be a reckless driver, experiences car accidents or cause unexplained dents in the car. He may even avoid eye contact, lock his bedroom door, go out every night, make secretive phone calls, get the  Munchies or show sudden increases in appetite.
  • Behavioral issues may mean changes in relationships with family members or friends, losing inhibitions, showing mood changes or emotional instability, having loud, obnoxious behavior, laughing at nothing, being unusually clumsy, stumbling, lacking coordination, becoming sullen, withdrawn, depressed, unusually tired, silent and/or uncommunicative. A teenage addicts may also show hostility, anger, uncooperative behavior, deception, a secretive nature, make endless excuses and have decreased motivation.
  • School or work-related issues may demonstrate truancy or loss of interest in schoolwork, extracurricular activities, hobbies or sports, failure to fulfill responsibilities at school or work, draw complaints from teachers or co-workers and have reports of intoxication at school or work

Teens who experiment with drugs may also exhibit certain health-related issues. Some of these include the following problems:

  • Nosebleeds
  • Runny nose with no sign of allergies or cold
  • Frequent sickness
  • Sores and spots around the mouth
  • Queasiness or nausea
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive thirst
  • Skin abrasions or bruises

Any one of these signs or symptoms is enough to motivate parents and caregivers to ask questions and get help.

The First Steps in Helping Teenage Drug Addicts

When teenagers have addiction, getting help quickly can often mean the difference between life and death. One of the best places to begin is with your child’s pediatrician: because many of the symptoms of drug abuse often mimic the symptoms of other illnesses, getting a clean bill of health from your child’s doctor can rule out any issue that is unrelated to drugs. Talk to your child’s pediatrician privately and let her know your concerns. A thorough exam and a private conversation with your teen can also help the pediatrician guide you in taking next steps.

Another place to seek help is through your child’s school. Your school administration and guidance office can provide information and resources to help your child. Additionally, if you are a teen who struggles with substance abuse, then talk to a trusted adult, like a teacher, guidance counselor, member of the clergy or the parent of a friend. It is not too late to reach out!

Find Help for a Teenage Drug Addict

If you or a loved one struggles with substance abuse, then know that we are here for you. Call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline now to speak to an admissions coordinator about available treatment options.