Addiction among teens is a rampant, yet pertinent issue for many. According to the NSDUH (National Survey on Drug Use and Health), 138,000 people between the ages of 13 and 17 were treated at a specialised facility in 2010. Research also suggests that in the same year, 1.7 million people between the ages of 12 and 18 years old, used illicit drugs for the first time. This is equivalent to over 8,100 new drug users daily throughout the year. This makes the issue of teenage addiction, a tragically wasteful one if unattended because rates of drug use doubles if untreated by early adulthood (18 to 25 years old). So, if you suspect you have a teenaged loved one showing symptoms or signs of being in active addiction, it is best to seek treatment for that individual before it is too late.
Yet, parents are unwilling to put their teenage child into treatment facilities for fear that their education would be disrupted as a result of treatment. Rest assured that many 15 to 17-year-old addicts will not finish their education due to the grip of addiction. Even if they should succeed into early adulthood, the severity of the illness will only increase, as their capacity to cope with life deplete. In other words, it is only a matter of time when the addiction will take over life itself eventuating in death if left untreated. Hence, if you love your teenage loved one and suspect him/her of active addiction, do the right thing and get the help he/she needs. Such help will be appreciated as you guarantee them a bright future having the disease arrested at such a young age.
Not every teenager will be an addict. It is helpful to notice some tell-tale signs of the disease. Here are some indications of active addiction, which may help you notice whether addiction is present with a teenage loved one:
i) Changes in the peer group.
ii) Carelessness in personal grooming.
iii) The decline in academic performances.
iv) Missing classes/skipping school for unknown reasons.
v) Loss of interest in favourite activities.
vi) Trouble in school/with the law.
vii) Changes in eating and sleeping habits.
viii) Deteriorating relationships with family and friends.
There are a number of reasons why teenagers do not have the power to stop their respective addictions. Here’s a number of the most likely reasons as to why teenagers just can’t stop their behavior:
a) Addiction is a disease – Addiction is a disease of choice and pleasure as a result of actual physiological and chemical disruptions in the nucleus accumbens, located in the midbrain. It is far more than just a matter of personal choice. Being an actual physical ailment, treatment is necessary for quitting the addiction. The power to stop addiction is akin to the power to stop asthmatics from coughing or to control the sugar levels of diabetics. As neither of these can be controlled, nor can addiction be arrested without proper interventions.
b) Addictive Environments – Addicts are surrounded by a toxic environment, which promotes their addictive behavior come what may. The same applies to teenage addicts. They are surrounded by people, places, and things that will take them back to their addiction time and again as a coping mechanism. This could be in the form of family, friends, and school. Stress and the expectations of society could be a catalyst for addiction.
c) Co-morbidities - Underlying the addiction, teens could be struggling with all kinds of physical and mental disorders, ranging from depression to anxiety, autism, bipolarities, and Schizophrenia to name a few. Having to cope in a society that does not respect nor regard these symptoms as a norm, may be driving your teenage loved one to the point of addiction.
Treatment planning is highly individualistic, depending on the person in question. We will need to assess the teenager and see the whole picture in order to treat the problem. Generally, for teens, a multi-faceted, multi-disciplinary approach is recommended, which will include the following:
1) Behavioural Approaches - These approaches help adolescents to actively participate in their recovery from drug abuse and addiction. They consist of group therapy, where if facilitated along the lines of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and steered away from the glorification of drugs, allows for peer feedback on pressing teen addiction issues. Besides that, there’s also Adolescent Community Reinforcement Approach (A-CRA), which gives teen addicts the power to re-adjust their environment to suit one that would promote recovery. Additionally, teens could undergo CBT, Contingency Management, and Motivational Enhancement Therapy; which are also tools to aid and help the teen addicts’ behaviour towards recovery from addiction.
2) Family Based Approaches - These approaches aid in involving family and peers in recovery in the overall treatment of the teenage addict. This is important as teen addicts will eventually return to their respective families and need to learn how to function without addiction in those settings. The approaches consist of a number of family-based therapies such as Brief Strategic Family Therapy (BSFT), Family Behavior Therapy (FBT), Functional Family Therapy (FFT), Multidimensional Family Therapy (MDFT), and Multisystemic Therapy (MST).
3) Recovery Support Services - These services exist within and out of treatment. Within treatment, the recovery support staff, as well as peers, will be there to aid the recovering teen addict to get a firm footing on their personal recovery issues. However, upon discharge, there is a necessity to maintain the recovery given through various ways such as Assertive Continuing Care (ACC), wherein teen addicts will be trained in relapse prevention by trained clinicians; Mutual help groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, which is a 12-step based meeting where teen addicts could share with other recovering addicts/alcoholics, their daily experiences and challenges of being sober; Peer recovery support services; and Recovery High Schools, to name a few.
Addiction treatment will only be effective should our clients immerse themselves in a long-term residential care system. Private outpatient sessions, which last for up to a couple of hours a week is insufficient for proper care. Addiction is cunning, baffling, and powerful – occurring in all sorts of fashion within one’s life. In-house, long-term, residential care helps the clinicians properly assess realistically the reality of the disease as well as implement useful and longer lasting solutions for your teenage loved one. Nevertheless, upon discharge, there will be outpatient treatment options as a means to maintain the recovery attained. We, at Solace Sabah believe in rooting out the addictive lifestyle from its very core, and thereafter, help your teenage loved one transition into a workable lifestyle.