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It can start innocently enough, with mom and dad allowing their adolescent children to drink at home. The reasoning is straight forward—they want the child to drink at home so they won’t have to drive the car, or worry about getting into trouble out on the street, or get hurt. They reason that the child is going to drink anyway, so let it be in the safe confines of the house. Little do they realize that allowing Adolescents to drink is an invitation to ruin their lives and lead to Adolescent Addiction.
Commonly, Adolescents will begin using a substance because their friends are doing it. Alcohol is common, but outside of that marijuana is by far the illicit drug most commonly abused by young people 12-17 years of age. Even in grade schools, intermediate schools and middle schools, there are drugs and marijuana is chief among them. Both alcohol and marijuana, along with tobacco, are gateway drugs that lead Adolescents down a miserable road of Adolescent Addiction.
Don’t underestimate the power of friends
They will start for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the old nemesis, peer pressure. Adolescents feel the need to fit in, even more than an adult, and sometimes that means going along with the crowd and doing what the crowd is doing.
Sadly, some Adolescents will begin using a substance just because they like the way they feel when they use it. It goes beyond merely getting high and having a good time with friends. They use because it’s the only time they feel good and the substance is the means by which they feel normal. Kids who are shy, or have low self esteem are particularly susceptible to abusing drugs and alcohol. They may feel they are out of step with the rest of the kids, so the drugs are an escape from the limitations of their world.
The younger they are the worse the problem likely to become and Adolescent Addiction is possible.
The major problem contributing Adolescents addiction is the fact that the younger one starts using, the more apt they are to falling into the addiction trap. For example, if a child starts drinking beer at age 15, he/she is five times more likely to develop the disease of alcoholism than someone who waits until age 21 to have their first drink. There is a drinking age for a very good reason, even thought that has been a political hot button issue for many years.
Adolescents are naturally curious. Breaking down the age groups of people who have either abused drugs or have developed addiction, by far the largest percentage was the 12-17 group, as 60.6% fell into that group. As expected the 18-25 group was next at 34.4% and the last was the 26 and older at 24.3%. It just shows that the younger a person starts the more likely they are to get into trouble.
The problem is many parents are completely caught off guard when their child gets into trouble. They may not know what to look for, or what to do once the symptoms of adolescent addiction are manifest. Parents need to be vigilant. Some of the signs might be that the child is slipping in school, maybe ever slow slightly by a half a grade, but sometimes kids who used to earn A’s are now earning D’s or F’s. That’s a huge red flag.
Adolescents are very peer conscious and they are often concerned about how they look, what they wear etc. A sign that a kid is in trouble is when the lose interest in that, perhaps letting themselves go unkempt or radically changing some “goth” look. Another sign is if the kid changes friends. For example, a boy likes sports but over time no longer hangs out with the “jacks” but elects to hang with a new set of friends. Why? They sometimes lose interest in friends at all, and may avoid family contact, electing to hide out in their room.
Still other signs include health issues, such as a loss of weight, or a change in sleep patterns. Adolescents may want to sleep until noon anyway, but when they are sleeping all the time, or not sleeping at all, that’s an issue.
A teen may suddenly have a need for money but will not offer an explanation as to why they need it, or worse yet, they may begin to steal money from their family, or sell household objects to get drug money.
Know your teen, look for changes
Parents need to watch for changes in behavior. Are they growing more moody than the expected adolescent? I’ve often joked that teenagers are supposed to rebel against their parents, but when that rebellion becomes hatred or extreme rebellion, that’s a problem and a sign that something is seriously wrong.
Another important thing to understand is that the human brain does not mature until a person is around 24 years-old. That’s an important number. The first thing that will fully develop is the cerebellum, controlling motor function and sensory processing. Even an early adolescent can look like an adult and maybe even have the physical skills of an adult, but they are still a child.
The neucleus accumbens regulates motivation. They may have the body of an adult and the motivation of an adult, but they are still a child. The amygdale matures next, controlling emotions. Lastly, the frontal cortex matures, and this is what regulates judgment. The last thing to mature is judgment, which is why in college athletics and even in professional sports, you can have a man-child earning millions of dollars, but they have the emotional development of an adolescent. They lack control and judgment. This is why Adolescents are at such high risk for addiction.
Can drink A LOT!
Adolescents also have a larger capacity for drinking and can consume large amounts before getting drunk. They lack the judgment to know when they need help, or when they have had enough or gone too far. Family members need to be watchful for the signs and intercede when they appear.
Adolescent addiction is not just a phase or a right of passage or something they will grow out of. It is a serious health issue and a potentially deadly disease that robs them of their humanity, ruins their career opportunities, crushes their family relationships and destroys their life.
However, treatment is available and it can be effective in restoring all that the disease has stripped away. Adolescent addiction can be resilient and can get their lives back on track with the right program and the right guidance.
Recovery is POSSIBLE!
That ends this section on Adolescent Addiction, visit our home page.
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- Matthew 7:7-8
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