Addiction in Teens

Adolescents are more susceptible as compared to adults and the elderly against dependencies to alcohol, snuff as well as other addictions. The reason to this is that the regions within the brain of adolescents which govern urge as well as motivation are not formed completely at an early age, as scientists have discovered at Yale University.

An investigation conducted of 140 studies of basic and clinical neuroscience concerning youth; it was found that the behavioral disorders of adolescents related dependencies or addictions are actually neurodevelopment disorders.

The research, published in The American Journal of Psychiatry found that brain circuits that are involved within the growth of hobbies undergo profound changes during adolescence, which encourages people of this age to undertake new experiences.

At the same time, as the neurological structure of self-consciousness is less mature at this age, teens are driven to risky behaviors and impulsive actions, inclusive of experimentation and abusing of addictive drugs.


New Perspective

This biological process, which makes them particularly vulnerable to addiction among adolescents, independent of socio-cultural aspects in which these people develop their lives and introduces a new perspective for the treatment of addictions in youth.

Due to the changes that occur in the regions of the human brain associated with motivation during adolescence, the impact of drugs on these people are higher than in other ages and gets prolonged with time.

What emerges from this research is that addiction in youth must be viewed as disorders of psychological development and therefore the attention of therapists should concentrate especially in the treatment as well as the prevention of addiction.

The discovery suggests new strategies for prevention and treatment of addiction in puberty or adolescence. Many special measures of protection for young people against the threat of consumption of drugs like alcohol snuff and other similar substances are also stimulated.


What causes addiction in teenagers?

There is no doubt that addictions are established as one of the most serious problems affecting society today. More and more people become addicted to all kinds of substances, not to mention that most are teenagers. There are many causes that can lead to addiction and following mentioned are some of the main reasons that cause addiction in teenagers.

Family problems: This cause is usually the most frequent issue among young people. Adolescents, who grow up in a complicated family environment or difficult stages, look for ways to forget or avoid such situations. Generally they do it by drugs and alcohol. Family conflicts often relate to misunderstanding, miscommunication, aggression (both verbal and physical), abuse, rejection, divorce or separation, the poor economy, poverty, heartbreak and even the difficulties in school. It is essential to note that the drug does not cause teens to escape their problems, but they become increasingly serious.

Social Influences: This occurs almost always in teenagers, when they want to fit into a particular group. Some friendships can persuade an individual to start using drugs or get addicted to other abusive substances, so it is important that the person in question has the power of decision and strength to be able to say no.

Emotional: This cause is closely related to family problems, however, conflicts related to depression, low self esteem, homelessness, arrogance and escapism are also important factors contributing positively towards addiction in teens. Many people, for certain reasons, tend to accumulate anger, shame, distrust and sadness within their minds and heart and in order to get rid of all the anger or frustration, teens resort to drugs considering it a way to insulate themselves from their emotions and forget about everything.

Cultural norms: This factor influences satisfactory standards of using substances and addiction in adolescents, while laws have been drafted to determine the use of drugs legally. The fact as to whether there exists a normative pattern of abuse in these addictions is still relatively uncontroversial.

Disorders that are addiction-related in teens are caused due to multiple factors, such as environmental factors, genetic vulnerability, individual personality characteristics, psychiatric problems as well as social pressures however, it has not yet been determined what factors are determinants with addictions in teenagers, but it is accepted that a combination of every determinant generates addiction in adolescents.

Reasons of addiction among teenagers

There can be many reasons underlying the cause of addiction among teenagers. Parents, in order to help their children out from the addiction problem should determine the reason, understand it and talk to them about the dangers of being addicted to alcohol or drugs. Following mentioned are some reasons which can be related to the addiction problem in adolescents.

  • Popular media: a study conducted in the year 2011 revealed that about 47% of teenagers agreed to the fact that television shows and movies stimulated the thought in their mind that using drugs is not a big deal. Adolescents between the age group of 12-17 years and watched three or more television shows or movies rated an ‘R’ every month are 7 times more likely to get addicted to different abusive substances in comparison to those adolescents who did not see Rated ‘R’ movies.
  • Other people: Teens see their parents and other people smoking, drinking alcohol or making use of other similar substances. Moreover, the social scene of an adolescent revolves around smoking or drinking marijuana. On the other side, many teens are also forced by their friends and other people to try smoking or drinking. They are of the opinion that drinking alcohol or smoking or using any type of drug is a normal aspect in the life of a teenager.
  • Boredom: Teens who have troubles in being alone or those who long for strong emotions are more prone to addiction. Getting addicted to abusive substances not only provides them something to do but, they also feel that their inner emptiness is filled by these drugs. Additionally, these teens have a common base for getting interacted with other addicted youths thereby, generating a circle of addicted adolescents.
  • Self medication or escape: When a teenager is unhappy about any situation and finds no way to get rid of their frustration or are unable to find a trustworthy person to whom they can talk too, they may make use of abusive substances to get away from the situation. Depending on the substance being used, such teenagers are ecstatically unaware and happy and remain full of confidence and energy.
  • Lack of confidence: Teens who are shy or do not have enough confidence indicates that they tend to gain confidence after using drugs which was not possible otherwise. This can also be associated with those teens that have confidence but, find themselves to be stronger after consuming drugs or making use of other abusive substances. The reason to this is that alcohol, smoking or using other drugs tend to provide relaxation to their inhibitions and relieves social anxiety levels.
  • Rebellion: Teenagers who are rebellious tend to use different drugs which they consider suits their personality the most. Many adolescents who are high at anger make use of alcohol as it frees the aggressive behavior properties. Methamphetamine also has the same properties however, it can be potent and dangerous than that of alcohol. Hallucinogenic and LSD drugs are used by those teens that feel misunderstood and have the desire to escape into a friendly and more ideal environment. On the other side, marijuana is used by tens to reduce the emotion of aggression and is also considered a drug of avoidance. Smoking cigarette is another form of rebellion in which a teen considers themself to be independent.
  • Instant gratification: Alcohol and drugs work fast. The effects it provides initially are very strong and effective. Teenagers turn towards using drugs since they find it a short cut to achieve short-term happiness.
  • Bad information: The use of abusive substances can also be evaded is no bad information is spread about them. Many adolescents have friends who have a claim to be an expert in using different recreational substances who also ensure that the risks associated are minimal. It is important that teens must be educated about the dangers associated with using abusive substances.


What are the consequences of addiction in adolescents?

The negative consequences associated with adolescent addictions affect many different aspects of a person. They are very diverse and can be divided into two groups.

Health: The emergence of various diseases, damages, organic and psychological problems, such as hepatitis, cirrhosis, depression, psychosis, paranoia, are some addictions disorders that occurs in adolescents and can even be fatal.

Social: The inability to maintain stable emotional relationships can destroy family relationships and group of friends. This can cause the teen to cease to participate in the real world, abandoning goals, after which their life revolves around their addictions. Likewise, poor performance at work or the inability to reach targets or achieve goals also leads to addiction problems as they find it the only “solution” to problems. The use of abusive substances can be very expensive, leading the addict to devote all their resources to maintain consumption even to subtract the assets of his family and friends.


How to overcome addictions in adolescents?

There are several rehabilitation centers and many types of treatments for addiction in adolescents. Choosing a suitable rehab center and the right treatment is extremely important as it will determine the recovery of a normal healthy life for the adolescent suffering from addiction.


What is the treatment to overcome addiction?

Effective Treatment Approaches

The combination of medication as well as different behavioral therapies tend to develop an effective way to treat addiction problems among adolescents which starts with the process of detoxification and followed by treating and preventing relapse of the same. The decrease within the withdrawal symptoms is considered to be very important for starting the treatment process whereas, preventing the relapse situation is essential for maintaining the long term effects. Occasionally, as like other persistent conditions, there may occur episodes of relapse that the addict repeats previous stages of treatment. A good level of continuum of care which is inclusive of an individualized treatment regimen that takes into account all the aspects of the person’s life may be essential to successfully achieve and maintain a lifestyle without drugs. This care includes mental as well as medical health, as well as tracking options like family support systems and community.


Medications are most often used to provide help in managing the varying elements that exists within the process of treating an addicted adolescent.

Withdrawal. Medicines are a great support to suppress withdrawal symptoms in the process of detoxification. However, the process of detoxification that is medically assisted cannot be considered as a treatment, but it is only the initial step within the process of treatment. Teenagers who undergo a process of withdrawal that is medically assisted, however, remains deprived of further treatment process tends to develop similar drug abusing patterns as compared to those who did not receive any treatment at all.

Treatment. Medications are generally used to restore the normal functioning of the brain, preventing relapse and reduce the desire to use the drug. At present, there are many medications for treating addiction to opioids (heroin and morphine), to snuff (nicotine) and alcohol, cannabis (marijuana) and other drugs are that have been developed to treat addiction to stimulants (cocaine and methamphetamine). Moreover, those teenagers who have severe addiction problems and are multiple drug users need treatment for every abused substance.

Opioids: buprenorphine, methadone, and for certain addicted adolescents, naltrexone, are very effective drugs for treating opiate addiction. Methadone and buprenorphine act on similar parts within the brain as morphine and heroin, so that it reduces the withdrawal symptoms along with providing relieve for the craving of the drug. Naltrexone blocks the property of heroin and different other opioids at reception and is recommended to be used in only those patients who have gone through the detoxification process. Due to problems of adherence to the indications for use of this drug, naltrexone drugs are not being used widely as compared to other medications. Every medication has been designed to help patients to move away from the search for drugs and other criminal behavior along with making them more receptive towards behavioral treatments.

Snuff: Now there are numerous replacement therapy formulations of nicotine that can be obtained without a prescription, including the patches, spray, gum or gum and lozenges. In addition, the Food and Drug Administration of the United States has approved two prescription drugs to treat addiction to snuff: bupropion and varenicline. They have different mechanisms of action in the brain, but both help to prevent relapse in people seeking smoking cessation. It is recommended that combining each of these medications with behavioral treatments, including group and individual therapies, as well as telephone support hotlines smoking cessation.

Alcohol: There are three FDA approved medications for treating alcohol dependence among adolescents: naltrexone, acamprosate and disulfiram. A fourth drug, topiramate, which is yielding encouraging results in clinical trials is also added. Naltrexone stops opioid receptors due to effects of alcohol and the thirst to drink. It reduces relapse to alcohol abuse and is very effective in many patients, but not all, which may be due to genetic differences. It is believed that acamprosate reduces symptoms related to protracted withdrawal, like that of anxiety, restlessness, insomnia and dysphoria which is an uncomfortable state of emotion like irritability, anxiety or depression. Disulfiram interferes with the deprivation of alcohol, resulting in a buildup of acetaldehyde that has a very repulsive reaction of nausea, flushing and palpitation if the patient drinks alcohol. While there may be difficulties with treatment compliance, disulfiram is very effective in patients with high motivation.

Behavioral treatments

Behavioral treatments are designed to help teenagers get involved within the treatment process, alter their behaviors and attitudes that are related to the abusing of drugs and increase their skills to lead a healthier life. These treatments are also capable of enhancing the effect of medications along with helping them to remain longer in the treatment process. Treating adolescents who are addicted to abusive substances can be performed in varying environments by applying different behavioral approaches.

The outpatient behavioral management programs cover a wide range of programs for teenagers who are eager to visit clinics regularly. Many of these programs include individual as well as group counseling for drug abuse. Other similar programs include varying behavioral treatments like:

Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps patients to avoid, cope and recognize with situations where they are more likely use abusive drugs.

Multidimensional Family Therapy has been developed for adolescents using abusive substances and to improve the functioning of the family in general, deals with the various factors that influence patterns of drug abuse.

Motivational interviewing, designed to take advantage of the willingness of teens to bring in a change within their behavior along with entering the treatment process.

Incentives to enhance motivation or contingency management therapy make use of positive reinforcement that stimulates the desire to remain abstinence from using drugs.

Residential addiction treatment programs are also quite effective programs, especially for people who have more serious problems. For instance, the therapeutic communities are considered to be well structured programs. The teenager, under this program, will stay at their residence for a period of 6-12 months. Therapeutic communities differ from various other treatments within the community as key factors to influence change in perceptions, attitudes and behaviors that are associated with using abusive drugs among adolescents. The therapeutic community approach is the social reintegration of the teenager to a lifestyle which is free of drugs and crime.

How to prevent addictive behaviors

It is essential to restore good relationships with the children, taking into account that in this age peer groups are quite critical as they require to be identified and find a place of belonging. Moreover, talking about the problem at home can also prevent addictive behaviors and will strengthen the ability of an adolescent to face and deal with the changes.

It is important to instill values that realize the importance of health and personal care and it is paramount that parents or immediate environment also teach it to one’s behavior, which contributes to improved self-esteem. These positive health attitudes help to develop behaviors that are incompatible with drug use.

It is important to achieve and develop interaction skills as a form of protection against environmental risk factors. Promote autonomy, self-confidence and the ability to make decisions and choices that face the possibility of consuming along with the ability to say “NO”.

In adolescence, the family is one of the largest membership groups (also considering the importance of the peer group attachment), therefore conveying clear messages, without double standards that provides safety and strengthen the self-esteem are substantial.

To all this, it is elementary that expressions of affection is promoted and that functional communication between parents should be stimulated.