How big of a problem is youth drug abuse? 1 in 8 teenagers confess they have abused an illicit substance in the past year alone.1 Since we know this is frequently happening, the bigger question is, why is this happening? Understanding the factors behind teen substance abuse is vital to preventing it and helping those with a problem get the youth substance abuse treatment they so desperately need.
Let’s look at how youths become addicted to drugs and the risk factors involved.
How Do Youths Get Addicted to Drugs?
We all know the teenage years can be especially tough. Many young people act impulsively, not thinking about the consequences. When teens decide to use drugs, they may not understand the addiction that can quickly occur and that they can severely damage their bodies.
While every young person may try and eventually become addicted to drugs for different reasons, there are several common underlying reasons: 2
- Show their independence
- Forget their troubles
- Relieve boredom
- Feel good
- Ease their pain
- Feel grown up
- Peer pressure to fit into a particular group
When teens start using drugs, high levels of dopamine are unleashed. The brain remembers the feelings and the association between these feelings and the drugs taken. Over time, the brain reduces the amount of dopamine released, making it difficult for a person to get the same pleasurable sensations without drugs. Higher doses of the drugs are needed to achieve the same feeling, leading to addiction.
Because the brain is still maturing during the teenage years, teens are at a higher risk of making poor choices that can lead to risky and dangerous behavior.3 Since the brain isn’t fully developed, any damage drugs cause can have lasting consequences.
Risk Factors for Youth Drug Addiction
Not all teens who try drugs or alcohol will become addicted. Certain environmental and genetic factors can make them more likely to develop a substance abuse disorder. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, genetic factors account for 40 to 60 percent of a person’s chance of becoming addicted to a substance. 4 The genetic risk factors for youth drug addiction include having a close family member who is currently or has been addicted to drugs or alcohol. Mental illness, such as anxiety or depression, can also play a role in addiction.
Besides genetic factors, environmental factors can contribute to drug abuse during the teenage years. Some of these include:
- Having friends who abuse drugs or alcohol
- Easy access to drugs
- Being the victim of bullying
- Low self-esteem
- Being in an area where there is a high tolerance for drug use among youth
- Lack of parental guidance and supervision
If a young person is at a higher risk of developing a drug addiction, some things can be done to lower this risk. Spending time around positive role models and forming a solid bond with a parent or caregiver can help to get teens on the right track. Boosting self-esteem and instilling the belief that using drugs or drinking can be harmful are ways to help prevent a young person from going down a dangerous path.
Youth Substance Abuse Treatment at Ember Recovery
Ember Recovery has helped over 5,000 youths across Iowa with substance use disorders. If your teen is battling an addiction, let our youth substance abuse treatment program get them back on track. We offer programs to better suit each young person who enters our doors.
At Ember Recovery, we believe in individualized treatment because each client will benefit from a different program or therapy. During the initial assessment, our team will make recommendations about the best course of treatment to help each young person finish their program and be successful in their recovery.
For more information on how our plans can help, call us today or message us online. Our professional and experienced team is ready to give your teen the help they need to combat their substance abuse disorder.
Sources: https://drugabusestatistics.org/teen-drug-use/  https://www.getsmartaboutdrugs.gov/family/why-do-teens-use-drugs  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3399589/  https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/13597/8/NIDA_Drugs_Brains_Behavior.pdf
Andrea Dickerson is a Licensed Therapist and Certified Substance Use Counselor who has worked in behavioral health since 1997. Currently, Andrea is the Director of Behavioral Health, overseeing the Ember residential treatment programs and YSS outpatient counseling clinics throughout Central and North Central Iowa. She became a Motivational Interviewing (MI) trainer in 2006 and provides MI trainings throughout Iowa.
Andrea specializes in working with adolescents and their families and enjoys seeing the family relationships grow through therapy. Andrea is also a CARF International Surveyor, going around North America ensuring behavioral health organizations are meeting required standards.
In her free time, Andrea enjoys cheering on the Iowa Hawkeyes and Chicago Cubs, as well as being an active member of Soroptimist International of the Americas (SIA), a global organization that provides women and girls with access to the education and training they need to achieve economic empowerment. She has been a member of the SI of Des Moines club since 2012 and has been actively involved at the regional level, currently serving as Co-Governor of the Peaks to Plains Region.
Through her involvement in SIA, Andrea has been actively involved in the Dream Programs, coordinating annual Dream It, Be It: Career Support for Girls projects, which give girls the tools they need to achieve their education and career goals, empowering them to break cycles of poverty, violence, and abuse.