Teenagers today face a world that is far more complex than the one teens faced even 15 or 20 years ago. The pressure to use drugs and alcohol is ever-present, and today’s teens are exposed to substance abuse, eating disorders, and sexual behaviors more than ever, due in part to the explosion of social media. Depression, anxiety, self-harm, and suicide are more prevalent than ever before. Today, parents face more challenges than past generations, including keeping track of who their children are talking to and monitoring which ideas are influencing them.
This article gives information about the challenges facing teens and how parents and teens can handle these issues as they arise.
Consequences of Teen Substance Abuse
It begins harmlessly enough…simple curiosity. But for some, curiosity turns to recreation, which all too often turns into abuse, dependence, and addiction. The toxic influence of substances like alcohol, marijuana, and other illicit drugs can have long-term effects by literally altering brain chemistry and, as a result, numerous complex developmental processes—potentially impacting personality, behavior, and cognitive abilities. Read More
Resources for Drug and Alcohol Abuse
Teens don’t appear to be taking the risks involved with substance abuse as seriously as they should.Teens are introduced to drugs and alcohol primarily through their peer groups. Although the use of illicit drugs is at an all-time low, the perception of the seriousness of drug abuse, such as inhalants, marijuana, and ecstasy, is also lower than ever.1 Teens don’t appear to be taking the risks involved with substance abuse as seriously as they should. There are numerous resources available for parents and others who work with teenagers that can help increase their understanding of the key issues in drug and alcohol abuse, such as:
- The consequences of substance abuse: Learn about the real-life results of abusing substances.
- The signs of substance abuse: Parents and caregivers are often confused when trying to understand the appeal of drugs and alcohol, as well as what signs to look for to help determine if their child is using. These frequently asked questions (and answers) may help shed some light on the subject.
- How to prevent substance abuse: Parents also want to prevent their children from using drugs and alcohol in the first place. Learning more about how teens are exposed to them can assist parents in avoiding pitfalls.
- How to help an addicted partner: Many teens find that substance abuse creeps into their romantic relationships. Teens often wonder how to help an addicted or alcoholic boyfriend or girlfriend and how to handle the difficult conversations that arise in these situations, so having the necessary tools is very useful.
- How to avoid synthetic drugs: New and designer drugs are a growing problem. Ecstasy and other synthetic drugs are frequently used by teens and young adults, often with frightening consequences. Parents and other concerned adults can get information to help understand the signs of use and learn how to prevent the use of these drugs.
- The dangers of opioid use: Opioid use has grown dramatically among all age groups. Fentanyl is an extremely potent opioid that is finding its way to teens—find out what you need to know.
- General resources on substance abuse: These resources for substance abuse education are incredibly important for any parent or teen.
Getting Help for Mental and Behavioral Issues
Today’s climate of political unrest, family conflict, and other social issues, as well as the pressures of academic achievement, is taking a toll on the mental health of teenagers. In addition, teens face tremendous pressure from social media to attain high standards of physical appearance and online popularity. Furthermore, social media has led to an upswing in cyberbullying. The latest studies suggest that around 20% of all children have had a serious mental illness at some point in their lives.2 The following resources can help in battling these problems:
- Behavioral health resources: Behavioral health, in general, is a topic that many parents and caregivers want to know more about. Parents worry about many things affecting their children, such as depression and suicide, so having good resources available can make all the difference.
- Behavioral addiction resources: There are other issues, known as behavioral addictions, that include porn addiction, sexual addiction, internet addiction, and gambling disorders. In addition, behavioral and discipline problems with teens are a topic of interest to many parents. The following articles give more information about these subjects:
- Social media and body image: A generation ago, social media did not exist, so other than a few magazines and television, teens did not have a visual resource for self-comparison. Today, the constant barrage of Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and other forms of social media expose teens to bikini-clad or nude celebrities or models, whom they often compare themselves to. Educating yourself as parents is a good first step toward helping your teen.
- Eating disorder resources: Eating disorders are a big problem among teens, but parents and other adults may not realize that anorexia is not the only serious eating disorder—bulimia and binge-eating disorders can be equally dangerous. Estimates show that 2.7% of all adolescents ages 13–18 have been diagnosed with some form of a severe eating disorder.3 Read more about the various struggles teens experience with body image, exercise addiction, and the different types of eating disorders:
Drug and Alcohol Addiction Treatment
Treatment is often needed to address drug or alcohol addiction because, quite simply, it’s incredibly difficult to successfully quit on your own. Drug and alcohol addiction treatment programs are designed to help you escape a compulsive cycle of alcohol or drug abuse that represents a loss of control over your substance use. To these ends, treatment programs teach you how to function in everyday life without using your substance of choice. Read More
Finding the Best Option for Treatment
Left untreated, substance abuse, mental illnesses, and behavioral addictions tend to get worse. Drug addiction is a chronic, lifelong condition, but getting treatment helps. Yes, those who receive treatment do often relapse, however, relapse rates among those with a drug addiction are lower than for those following treatment protocols for asthma and high blood pressure.4
While there is no one-size-fits-all treatment for substance use disorder and other mental health issues, there are databases of studies that show some kind of treatment is better than no treatment at all, and that some treatment approaches do seem to work better for certain types of mental issues.4
- How to find treatment: Anyone who wants to find treatment for a loved one struggling with addiction likely has many questions, and these answers are a good starting point.
- How addiction is assessed: The first step in any form of treatment is a thorough assessment to look at all aspects of a person’s mental and substance history.
- Is detox needed? A common question facing anyone who wants to get off drugs is whether a detox program is needed. Not all types of substance abuse require a medically supervised detox before starting treatment, but it’s helpful to know if the person you love could benefit from it.
- Treating alcohol addiction: Alcohol treatment is sometimes the sole focus of a substance abuse rehab program; additionally, alcohol abuse often co-occurs with addictions to other substances.
- Treating cocaine addiction: Cocaine can be abused in many forms, including crack, which is smoked, or purer forms, which can be injected or snorted. Either way, it is highly addictive and should be treated properly.
- Addiction in college students: College students are often vulnerable to substance abuse since it is usually the first time they are away from parental scrutiny and have a lot more freedom. For those college students who have already had issues with addiction and been through treatment, the need to stay away from drugs and alcohol is even more critical.
- Addiction support programs: There are numerous programs that provide ongoing support for people in recovery, such as AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) or NA (Narcotics Anonymous).
- Treatment of eating disorders and behavioral addictions. In addition to substance abuse treatment, eating disorders and many types of behavioral addictions, such as gambling addiction, internet and gaming addictions, and addictions to love and relationships can also be helped through treatment.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). Monitoring the Future Survey: High school and Youth Trends.
- National Institute on Mental Health. (2010). Any Disorder Among Children.
- National Institute on Mental Health. (2010). Eating Disorders Among Children.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction.