Lifeline Connections

Why Are Teens Susceptible to Addiction?

Substance Abuse Treatment

Whether in the form of drugs or alcohol, addiction is a growing public health concern among American teenagers. What often begins as experimentation or the result of peer pressure can turn into a vicious cycle of addiction that can destroy promising young lives. Once addiction develops, substance abuse treatment is often the only option that can help a teen to stop abusing drugs or alcohol.

How Many Teens Struggle With Addiction?

Studies have shown that many teens struggle with addiction and have the need for substance abuse treatment.

According to The Monitoring the Future Survey (MTF) funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, these following trends are confirmed among teens:

  • Alcohol abuse causes 6.5 times more teen deaths than all other illicit drugs combined.
  • Forty-four percent of 12th graders reported drinking alcohol in the past month.
  • In 2012, 14.8 percent of high-school seniors used a prescription drug non-medically.
  • Prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing addiction in the teen population.
  • Thirty-three percent of teenagers admit to using marijuana in the past year.
  • Over twenty percent of teens surveyed have tried the prescription drug OxyContin non-medically.
  • Illicit drug use among teenagers has continued at high rates, largely due to the popularity of marijuana.

If you are a parent or loved one of a teen, these trends are particularly frightening. If you are concerned about a teen, it is important to understand the different factors that make teenagers particular susceptible to developing an addiction. Understanding the different factors that predispose teens to addiction can help parents or caregivers to ensure that their teen does not end up abusing drugs or alcohol and needing substance abuse treatment. There are several factors that make teens particularly likely to develop substance addiction:

Biological Factors

Genetics frequently play a role in addiction, because they can predispose an individual to addictive type behaviors and enhance the physical basis of addiction. Teenagers who are genetically predisposed to addiction may be more inclined to continue using a drug after an episode of experimentation.

Social Factors

The teen years are often defined by the increasing role of social pressures in an individual’s life. These social pressures can influence a student to develop an addiction. Peer pressure to experiment with drugs and alcohol, or exposure to family and friends who misuse substances can motivate a teen to try drugs and alcohol for himself, opening the door to addiction. Stress from academic, social, and family life can also lead to addiction: studies have shown that teenagers who have high stress are twice as likely as their low-stress peers to use illegal drugs, drink, or smoke. Combined with peer pressure, stress can be a powerful driver in leading a teen to develop an addiction.

Psychological Factors

There are many mental illnesses and psychological stressors that can put teens at risk for addiction. The mental health disorders most frequently linked with addiction include depression, anxiety disorders, and bipolar disorders, all illnesses that often manifest during the teen years. Psychological stressors such as childhood neglect, abuse, or any kind of trauma can also increase the likelihood of addiction. If a teen has not properly dealt with underlying psychological issues, drugs and alcohol may be used as a coping mechanism, putting the teen at risk for addiction. Hormonal fluctuations and bodily changes increase teens’ stress level and may further weaken their ability to cope with psychological issues.

Focus on Prevention

Addiction can have many different causes, but being aware of the reasons a teenager may begin abusing alcohol, drugs, or food is an important part of prevention.  Despite the large number of risk factors, teenagers can be positively influenced by parents and loved ones to avoid the damaging cycle of addiction.  Become involved in your teenager’s life, offer support, encouragement, and a listening ear.  Fostering a strong parent-child relationship can be one of the greatest protective factors for your teenager against addiction.

Substance Abuse Treatment for Your Teen

If a teen you know does develop an addiction, it is absolutely essential that he or she receives substance abuse treatment immediately. There are many substance abuse treatment centers that specialize in dealing with teens, and can help your teen to break the cycle of addiction and return to a normal, healthy life. Lifeline specializes with teens involved in Clark County Juvenile Recovery Court. If you are in Oregon and Washington seeking substance abuse treatment for your teen, there are many treatment providers.

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