Understanding the Mind of an Addicted Teen (Why Teens Use Drugs)
In the pursuit to understand why teens use drugs many parents may feel confused, nervous, and devastated. It is important to not blame yourself for your child’s addiction. Addiction is a complex cycle that affects your child’s brain in ways you cannot see. Addiction may make you feel distanced from your teen, or they may even lash out at you, understand that this behavior should not be taken at face value.
Moreover, all any parent wants is to see their teen happy, healthy, and safe. Addiction is a disease that threatens every aspect of your child’s livelihood and disrupts the home. There are probably a variety of questions that run through your mind as the parent of an addict. How did this happen? Where did they get the drugs? What will addiction do to them? Here we will look at why teens turn to drugs or alcohol, how these substances impact their brain, and what you can do to help.
To summarize, do not feel like you have to figure it all out on your own. Addiction requires a great deal of patience, forgiveness, and knowledge. However, you may already realize that your teen needs treatment or you are just learning of their substance misuse. Regardless, we can answer any questions that come up on your journey. Teen addiction is a complex issue call us today at 614-502-6247 and we can get you connected to a treatment center in your area.
Continue reading below to learn more about teen addiction. If you require additional assistance then please contact our experts today.
Teens Using Drugs
Why do teens turn to drugs? The simple answer is that pleasure can become addictive. Drugs and alcohol impact the brain of users, young and old, in a few ways. The first thing they do is interact with the brain’s reward circuit through bursts of dopamine. Dopamine is referred to as the “happy hormone” because it sends feel-good messages to the brain. This reward system, at normal levels, is an excellent tool. It is what allows people to enjoy the day to day pleasures, like food and relationships. Unfortunately, in your addicted teen’s brain, dopamine levels are unnaturally high. These inordinately high surges of dopamine encourage the repetition of unhealthy behaviors, to the point that they become reinforced.
In addition, as your teen continues to use the drug, they start to develop a tolerance. This tolerance means that your teen now has to take more of the drug to achieve their original high. Another unfortunate consequence of tolerance development is that your child does not get the same pleasure from other activities. This is why you may notice your child has pulled away from school, sports, or social activities. They may even be isolating themselves from relationships they once valued, including family.
Addiction results from these adverse outcomes, not being enough to deter your teen from the drug. Substance abuse traps the addict in a vicious cycle that strips the fullness of life from right under their feet. Teens take drugs for pleasure or escape and end up in a constant fight to maintain that feeling. As a parent, you must understand that a lot of this fight is out of your control. However, an unfortunate and likely uninformed choice your teen made has led to genuine disease with the possibility of creating long-term changes in their behavior.
If your teen has been using for a while it is important to acknowledge the long-term changes addiction is to blame for. For instance, these changes can include impairment with:
Furthermore, these behavioral shifts may have been obvious to you, but other parents may not have understood their link to addiction. If the achievement of that “high” is a priority, some may go to great lengths in an attempt to mask their addiction. So, if you notice your teen beginning to struggle with any of the mental functions mentioned, they may be a victim of addiction. There are a few other tell-tale signs you will want to look out for.
However, you, and your teen, do not need to suffer the effects of addiction alone. Call our specialists today, and start living your best life tomorrow. Let us help you figure out the best course of treatment for you and your situation.
Signs Your Teen May Be an Addict
There are many signs that your teen may be suffering from an addiction. For example, some frequently seen ones are:
- Switching friends frequently
- Spending a lot of time alone
- Losing interest in their favorite activities
- No longer taking care of themselves – for example, they have stopped showering, getting dressed, or brushing their teeth
- Becoming increasingly sad and tired
- Appetite changes
- Becoming oddly energetic, talking fast, or saying things that make no sense
- Constantly in a bad mood
- Frequently fluctuating emotions between feeling bad and feeling good
- Missing important appointments or deadlines
- Having problems at school – they skip class or get bad grades
- Increased problems in familial or personal relationships
- Increased lying and theft
- Suffering from memory loss, poor concentration, lack of coordination, and slurred speech
However, it is important to remember that every teen is different. Not everyone will experience the same situation when they start using drugs. If you need help confronting your teen, or figuring out if there is an addiction then call us today. We will be able to work with you to determine the best course of action for you and your child.
Risk Factors for Addiction
Teens addicted to drugs or alcohol are unfortunately not immune from the normal risk factors of addiction. However, these factors can play a part and have influence but this is not the same as being the cause. For instance, risk factors for addiction include:
- Biology: your teen’s decision to pick up the drug may have been influenced on a genetic level. People’s genes make up nearly half of a person’s risk of addiction. Other factors that play a role in the likelihood of addiction include gender, ethnicity, and the presence of other mental disorders.
- Environment: There are a variety of environmental factors that can contribute to addiction risk. An individual’s environment includes everything from friends and family to their economic status and overall quality of life. Other factors like abuse, peer pressure, stress, early exposure to drugs, and parental influence can play a large role in the individual’s decision to use drugs or develop an addiction.
In addition, another major factor is development. The genetic and environmental influences often happen at critical points of your child’s development. However, this is a major influence in addiction risk because their brains are far from mature at this point. This is why young people are particularly affected by drug use because once they take the drug it is far more likely to progress into an addiction. Young people lack proper development in crucial areas of the brain that are responsible for self-control and decision making. Furthermore, this is why their influences hold a lot of importance because teens already have a predisposition for risky behaviors. As you continue to learn why teens use drugs understand that these factors play a role, and without shame, take this knowledge and apply it where you can in your home.
What Else Should I Know About Teen Addiction?
One important thing to know if you are a parent with other young children is to get them screened early. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests starting screening for substance abuse around nine. As mentioned above, the environment plays a role, so if you have a teen addict with younger siblings, you want to make sure they do not fall into the same traps. For instance, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), these are some other things to know about addiction teens addicted to drugs or alcohol:
- Alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco are substances most commonly used by adolescents.
- By 12th grade, about two-thirds of students have tried alcohol.
- Nearly half of 9th through 12th-grade students reported ever having used marijuana.
- About four in ten 9th through 12th-grade students said having tried cigarettes.
- Among 12th graders, close to 2 in 10 reported using prescription medicine without a prescription.
However, despite it being illegal for people under the 21 CDC, this demographic makes up about one-tenth of drinkers. Not only are some teens doing severe damage to their bodies, but they also break the law.
In addition, adolescence is a period of significant change. Teens are in the process of forming foundational parts of their identity. The last thing anyone wants is to see this beautiful process interrupted by addiction. Teens should be excited about prom or college, not trapped in a cycle of addiction. However, thanks to their development stage, many teens do not understand the total consequence of their actions.
Moreover, our culture does not help with this issue. A first-year student may think it is familiar to binge drink on the weekends with friends because it was romanticized in the shows they watch. Many powerful influences dictate why teens do drugs.
How to Help Your Teen
To summarize, now that you understand why teens use drugs, what can you do to help? First, release the urge to “fix’ your child. The last thing you want is to accidentally push them further away. Also, enabling behaviors, like loaning money, only further their addiction. Your child has to change for themselves, but you definitely can help them in that process.
Moreover, another tip is to become comfortable being uncomfortable. Addiction will force your family into a lot of uncomfortable conversations and reality you may not have faced otherwise. Protect yourself and do not let guilt trap you. Instead, be open to ask them questions and listen without judgment. Also, take the time to learn their triggers. Triggers are actions that influence them to use the substance. You may have to remove the alcohol or other substances from the household.
Finally, the most important way you can help your teen is to get them into a professional treatment program. It is essential to have the whole family on board so you will want to make the home a safe space for the addict. However, they will need a support system, as recovery often entails a large variety of lifestyle changes. Your teen may have to cut off friends, change their weekend routines, and discover new habits. This can be a lot to process for your teen and they will need to be surrounded by people, like family, who encourage their sobriety.
Give Us A Call
Not sure you can figure this all out? Then please do not overwhelm yourself, addiction is no light burden to bear. We can help you and your loved one through this process. So, make this the last day your teen’s addiction goes untreated, call us today at 614-502-6247.
By Meccah Muhammad
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