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Teen and adolescent substance abuse is a growing problem worldwide. In the United States alone, roughly 7% of all of those admitted into a drug or alcohol rehab center are aged 12 to 17 years. These individuals are typically the hardest to treat, with relapse rates as high as 90% within the first year after treatment. But studies have found that the figures might be much higher than suspected.

Because of their developing minds and bodies, teens and adolescents are at particular risk of developmental delays, stunted growth, and cognitive impairment as a result of substance use. Despite the risks, however, the use of illicit substances is on the rise for this susceptible age group, making it necessary for parents, guardians, educators, and specialists at drug and alcohol rehab centers to equip themselves with sufficient knowledge to tackle the growing problem.

Addiction Statistics Among Teens and Adolescents

At our drug and alcohol rehab centers in Dallas we like to provide people with some important statistics about addiction in teen years. They serve as a wake up call for anyone who thinks addiction during the teen years isn’t common. 

  • Seven out of 100 adolescents attend addiction recovery programs each year.
  • Of the millions affected, only 10% seek out drug or alcohol addiction help and receive treatment.
  • The youngest substance abusers average 12 years of age.
  • 55-90% of adolescents and teens seeking treatment for substance use disorders relapse within the first year.
  • Car crashes are the most common cause of death for teens, with one-fourth of incidents involving alcohol.
  • Synthetics, marijuana, and alcohol are the most commonly abused substances within the age group.
  • 50% of teens have misused a drug at least once.
  • 43% of college students actively use illicit substances.
  • 74% of adults in a drug treatment program started their use by the age of 17 years old.

What Causes Substance Use Disorder in Teens and Adolescents?

There isn’t a single factor that decisively indicates the potential for substance use disorder among teenagers and adolescents. However, there is a combination of elements that can increase an individual’s risk of exploring the effects of illicit substances.

  • Peer pressure – One of the most significant risks among younger high school and college students is peer pressure. These individuals are at an age where acceptance into social groups is one of the objectives of their psychology. And if an individual were to go against the grain and oppose the social norms around them, then they risk being left out or bullied.
  • Family dynamics and history – Adolescents with parents or close family members that use illicit substances are four times more likely to develop an addiction as well. This is typically attributed to the idea that minors tend to mimic what they observe around them, especially the behaviors manifested by people they recognize as authority figures.
  • Personality – There are some teens who explore illicit substances simply because of their curiosity and personality. Teens and adolescents with a more adventurous and carefree disposition are more likely to try alcohol and drugs to satisfy their desire for new experiences.
  • Abuse and violence – Adolescents who are constantly or recurrently exposed to abuse and violence are significantly more at risk of substance use disorders. The shame and trauma associated with negative experiences from childhood can make them search for an escape, leading them to alcohol and drugs that temporarily relieve the negative emotions.
  • School pressure – Academic responsibilities make up the bulk of a teen’s workload. Being their major source of stress and anxiety, the desire to perform at school can impose significant pressure that some teens struggle to cope with. Studies have found that some adolescents explore illicit substances like methamphetamine in order to improve academic performance.

Aside from the unique risk factors that surround teens, they’re also prone to abusing substances more severely than adults. Their immature impulse control means they tend to binge more readily compared to adults, leading them to use more of a substance more frequently than those in older age groups.

Teens also tend to use illicit substances among their peers, which adds a social facet to the substance use experience. While adults will mostly use drugs in the secrecy and privacy of their homes, teens and adolescents often misuse these substances as part of social celebrations and gatherings, or as a way to boast to their peers.

Finally, it’s important to note that teens lack the maturity to accurately anticipate the dangers of using illicit drugs. Often, teens that use drugs aren’t fully aware of the risks and don’t believe that they will become addicted and dependent on the substance. That’s why they rarely seek out drug or alcohol rehab in Dallas and other locations across the country.

The Implications of Drug Abuse in Teenhood

Substance disorders are damaging at any age, but use during the teenage and adolescent years proves to be slightly more dangerous. At this young age, it’s possible for drugs and alcohol to interfere with the growth and development of their immature system, leading to significant impairments and disease in the long run.

Some of the potential effects of substance abuse among adolescents include:

  • Disrupted brain development – Illicit substances and alcohol are known to interfere with pathways in the brain, especially those that handle pleasure, memory, emotions, and stress. Since the teen brain is still underdeveloped, the use of these powerful chemicals can disrupt brain development and produce significant impairment in various areas of cognitive functioning.
  • Reduced growth potential – Alcohol is one of the most serious dangers to adolescent growth, as evidenced by the effect of alcohol use of pregnant mothers. Constant intake of alcohol can shorten an individual’s limbs and reduce their growth potential. Teens who abuse alcohol have also been found to have lower bone mineral density, delayed puberty, and impaired reproductive systems.
  • Sexually transmitted disease – The adolescent years are when individuals tend to explore their sexuality and gender expression by engaging in sexual relations. Because drugs and alcohol lower the inhibitions, teens may be at risk of making faulty decisions in terms of who they engage in sexual relations with and how they protect themselves. Statistics have found that adolescents using drugs are more likely to acquire sexually transmitted infections.
  • Criminal activity – Drugs and alcohol impair decision-making skills and make it easier for teens to engage in criminal activity that they might not have considered if they were sober. What’s more, addiction cravings and dependence can make it difficult for adolescents to take their mind off of the substance they abuse, pushing them to explore any means – including theft – in order to secure their next fix.
  • Missed opportunities – It’s possible for drugs and alcohol to change a teen’s priorities, making the substance the central focus of their efforts and attention. While some students use drugs to perform better at school, studies have found that teens who abuse illicit substances tend to veer away from academic performance and start off later on their chosen career path.
  • Damaged relationships – Most parents struggle to cope with their children’s addiction, causing significant strain in the fabric of family relationships. This can make it even more challenging for teens to receive and accept treatment at a drug or alcohol rehab center in Dallas. The stress caused by damaged relationships may make it more likely for them to seek relief with substance abuse.

Why is It Difficult to Address Teen Addiction?

All substance use disorders come with their set of challenges for those seeking to assist in treatment, however, teen and adolescent addiction are far more complicated for several reasons.

Lack of Foundation and Support

The first reason teen addiction is complex is because it’s assumed that for an individual to start drugs at such an early age, it’s likely that they have poor family backgrounds. Social and family support is one of the most powerful factors for a healthy and effective recovery, and if a teen or adolescent doesn’t have the proper foundations, then they’re more likely to relapse.

Constant Exposure to Drugs and Alcohol 

The second reason for the difficulty of treating teen addiction is because they will constantly be exposed to drugs and alcohol as long as they’re in school. Drug abuse and underage alcohol use is rampant in high school and college. So even if a student willingly participates in a treatment program, they’re likely to encounter the same substance once they return to their school.

Resistant to Getting Drug of Alcohol Addiction Help

Finally, teens and adolescents aren’t quite as mature in terms of reasoning, logic, and emotions. Many teens won’t seek out drug or alcohol addiction help from anyone thinking they can handle the situation alone. 

Without a family to support, a job to sustain, or children to care for, teens don’t have quite as many reasons to stop drug use. Unfortunately, most adolescents don’t think too much of their health, so warnings about the potential effects of drug abuse on their wellness might not hit home.

What’s more, some teens tend to feel empowered by the presence of their parents and other authority figures. In some cases, an adolescent will continue their drug use thinking that as long as their family provides support, financial stability, and basic needs, then there isn’t a reason to stop.

Sobriety in School

The adolescent years are some of the most challenging. Teens are bombarded with changes, new responsibilities, and hormonal fluctuations that interfere with their emotions and their mental state. And while it’s hard enough to be a teen, there are the constant risks that surround students in school, such as peer pressure and the desire to fit in causes them to explore the dangerous territory of drugs.

The use of illicit substances and alcohol is rampant among these susceptible groups, and the implications for their health, growth, and future present unique challenges for those seeking to treat the problem. Fortunately, not all teens give in to the temptation. With proper support, guidance, and information, adolescents should be able to protect their sobriety and veer away from drug use despite the trends and pressure.

How Lighthouse Recovery Can Help

Addressing your relationship with drugs or alcohol can be a very eye-opening experience. Addiction can develop under the surface, and many people don’t realize the extent of their use. If you or a loved one are struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol and are ready to take the first step towards your sober future, we’re here to help.

Lighthouse can help find the program for you or your loved one’s recovery. With an array of options, from Sober Living to Intensive Outpatient Drug and Alcohol Rehab in Dallas, TX, our caring professionals will work alongside you to help you achieve your specific goals in recovery. Each program can be further personalized to address the coping skills, grounding mechanisms, and life skills that are most pertinent to each individual. 

Learn more about our services or contact us below to discover how Lighthouse can help you on your road to recovery today. Thank you for your trust.