How A Teen Addiction Treatment Center Understands the Cycle of Use and Mental Health
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Substance use and mental health issues often go hand in hand for teens. Whether the substance abuse led to a mental health issue or vice versa, both conditions need to be treated simultaneously so that teens have the best chance at recovery. As a teen addiction treatment center in Iowa, Ember Recovery understands this and provides treatment for both conditions. We’re going to examine the link between teen substance use and mental health issues, as well as how they can be treated so that teens can live happy and productive lives.

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The Link Between Teen Substance Use and Mental Health

How Can Mental Health Issues Lead to Substance Use?

Teens with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety may turn to drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with their emotions and temporarily change their mood. Statistics show that adolescents suffering from a major depressive episode are about 25% more likely to turn to drugs.[1]

Studies show that ADHD, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression increase the risk of substance use in adolescents.[2] Teens with these conditions often turn to substances as an escape. What they don’t realize is that their issues are still there regardless of the substances.

Many teens with mental health illnesses turn to drugs and alcohol because substances affect the same areas of the brain as their disorders do, providing temporary relief.[1] But, when teens are not using these substances, their mental health conditions can worsen. This is why they can become addicted to drugs and alcohol.

Feeling stressed from school or other issues can lead teens to develop anxiety, which can result in substance use. A study from the Centers for Disease Control found that 44% of teens surveyed admitted to using substances to stop worrying about a problem or forget bad memories. In comparison, 40% said they use substances to deal with depression or anxiety.[3]

Dealing with a bad memory can refer to teens who have experienced trauma such as abuse or witnessing violence. These experiences can lead to stress and make teens look for ways to mask their pain. For some, this means finding comfort in substances.

How Can Substance Use Lead to Mental Health Issues?

Just as mental health issues can occur first, leading to substance use among teens, substance use may occur first, causing mental health problems down the road. Substance use can trigger changes in the brain that can make someone more likely to develop a mental health disorder.[4]

Research has found that teens who use alcohol, nicotine, or marijuana are more likely to have underlying psychiatric symptoms than their peers who don’t use these substances.[5] These substances have been linked to anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts.

There is also research to indicate that heavy marijuana use can put people at risk for triggering episodes of psychosis, especially if a teen has a family history of psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia.[3] The misuse of prescription medications can also lead to mental health issues.

It is also important to note that risk factors such as family history can also make it more likely for a teen to develop a mental health illness and substance use disorder.[4] Environmental factors, such as trauma, can lead to genetic changes that are passed down. These can contribute to the development of a mental health issue or substance use disorder. This is why involving family in the treatment process can be so important. Understanding what has happened in the past can help teens have a more prosperous future.

Treating Mental Health Issues and Substance Use Disorders at A Teen Addiction Treatment Center

A successful teen program will recognize the importance of treating mental health illnesses and substance use disorders at the same time. This type of treatment is called dual diagnosis because it treats both conditions simultaneously. Treatment will tackle substance use and can first include a detox program to ensure that the substances are out of the body. From there, a customized treatment program will be developed and can include:

Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy often teaches people how to cope with and change detrimental thinking patterns.[6] STEPPS group therapy can help manage extreme emotions.

Individual, group, and family therapy sessions may also be implemented to help patients deal with their conditions. Sometimes, family issues may have led a teen to use substances. Discussing these issues in a therapy setting can help to understand them better and lead to a successful recovery.

Support Groups at a Teen Addiction Treatment Center

Support groups can also be part of a dual diagnosis treatment plan. During these sessions, teens can interact with peers who are going through the same things as they are. It is often helpful for them to understand that they are not going through this alone.


Sometimes, medication is prescribed to treat one or both dual-diagnosis conditions. Medications can help some teens better deal with the symptoms as they work towards recovery.

When your teen enters a treatment program, the staff will evaluate them to determine what elements will best help them with their conditions. Patients can benefit from various treatments to help them overcome their illnesses.

Are You Looking for a Teen Addiction Treatment Center? Contact Ember Recovery Today

Ember Recovery provides a variety of treatment programs for teens trying to overcome substance use disorders. Besides residential and a variety of therapy programs, we also offer dual diagnosis treatment so that teens can receive help for their mental health illnesses and substance use disorders simultaneously. We recognize that this is the only way to properly treat teens dealing with a substance use disorder and mental health illness at the same time. Our team will develop a customized plan to help your teen work through both areas. Contact Ember Recovery today to learn how our programs can help your teen get on a path to sober living.