Why Addiction Prevention in the Teen years is SO Important!
by Rose Lockinger
Drug addiction and alcoholism in a sense do not respect age. They do not wait for someone to hit 21 before they strike and the onset of addiction can occur as early as a person begins to drink or use drugs. Often times these diseases become apparent in a person during their teen years and what starts out as innocent fun can, if the person has a predilection towards addiction, becomes a full blown problem before they are even aware there is an issue.
Many times a teen that is suffering from alcoholism or addiction will not truly be aware of the ramifications of their illness. They may think that it is just a normal sign of their age to smoke pot everyday or binge drink with their friends and because of this many fall deeper and deeper into their addiction all under the guise that they are just being teens, and because of this they suffer grave consequences later on in life. But it’s not just consequences later on in life, the reality is that “abusing alcohol takes a toll on your body but not just that there are short term consequences especially in terms of the adolescent brain and the impact that alcohol has on it.
Dealing with teenage addiction has, until recently, always seemed like a losing proposition. This is not because teenagers are not capable of finding recovery from addiction, but because the resources in order to intervene during these formative years were not really available. Many people held the belief that these teens were nothing more then prospective addicts and alcoholics and so there was nothing that could be done until they got worse and eventually hit bottom as adults.
Schools, with their already overtaxed staff and budget deficits were not capable of creating programs that actually worked to help prevent drug addiction, and even if they did have the funding and time there was a limit to how much they can interject themselves into student’s personal matters. Juvenile Treatment centers were based off of models that worked for adults, but did not take into account the specific needs of adolescents and so they were many times ineffective. And by the time many of these teens got to the legal system, a system designed around the idea of punishment rather than rehabilitation, their addiction had progressed to a point where intervention was exceedingly difficult.
Similar to other aspects of addiction and alcoholism, our understanding of teenage addiction has grown over the past 20 years and because of this we have found that prevention among teens is incredibly important. We have also found ways in which prevention can occur and the belief that we just had to wait it out until they become adults has changed into a more proactive approach.
The first line of defense in teenage prevention really rests with the family. This can be problematic at times because alcoholism and addiction affect the family the most and many times it can be hidden in plain sight for all to see, but due to the nature of these diseases they go undetected. A parent dealing with the daily stressors of life and the difficulty of raising a teen can sometimes be totally unaware that their child has started to follow a bad path, but if they know the warning signs to look out for they have a better chance at being able to intercede.
Some of the warning signs that your teen may be abusing drugs or alcohol are:
· A decrease in personal hygiene
· They lock their bedroom door more often
· Trouble in school
· Trouble with the law
· They smell of smoke or other substances
· They begin to associate with different crowds
· They begin to associate with drug music and the drug culture
· Mood changes, above that of a normal teen
· Unusually tired
· Money, or other valuables are missing
Parental involvement, in either the treatment process or in the prevention of abuse, has been proven highly effective in helping teens deal with their addictions. That being said it is still rests on the addict or alcoholic to actually get sober, but having familial support can and does encourage sobriety.
While the actual cause of addiction and alcoholism are still a mystery to us, one of the main exacerbating forces in these diseases is some form of childhood trauma, which causes the addict to use in order to soothe themselves or try to forget. Since this is the case getting teenagers into therapy, so that they can begin to process these issues, is an important part of prevention.
While therapy alone many times does not cause someone to get sober, giving teenagers the ability to learn different coping mechanism for how they handle trauma can result in a shift that leads to recovery. This is because the underlying reasons for continuous abuse are being dealt with and so a teen that has been able to process past traumas does not have to contend with their addiction within a scope of self-medicating. They can begin to do the work necessary to move towards recovery and not have their past drawing them back to a drink or a drug.
One of the most important aspects of recovery for adults is the sense of community that they get from 12 Step programs and treatment. For many teens this same sense of community does not exist and the 12 Step programs they attend are filled with people twice their age. The place where they can obtain a sense of community, their schools, are often times breading grounds for substance abuse and so being without a recovery community it only makes sense that they find it difficult to get sober.
Luckily, those involved in the prevention of teenage drug and alcohol abuse have begun to realize this and they have started to create Recovery High Schools, where kids can be surrounded by other recovered teens, and support groups that are specifically for juveniles. These two things have proven incredibly effective in helping teens dealing with drug addiction and with the release of films like Generation Found there will hopefully be a greater proliferation of programs that create community for teens.
While prevention among teens is not a perfect science, it is incredible important that we attempt to intervene and cut off the cycle of addiction as early as possible. The earlier that a teen is introduced to the ideas behind recovery, the better chance they have at getting sober, and in turn save themselves from years of misery and pain.
Author Rose Lockinger is a passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.
You can find me on LinkedIn, Facebook, & Instagram