Drug and Alcohol Use and Addiction
Teens may try alcohol, illegal drugs, and/or abuse prescription medication for many reasons. Usually they are first offered the substance by a friend, they may try it out of curiosity or to fit in with a group that is also using these substances. Sometimes teens will seek a high or want to get drunk as a way to cope with pressure, stress, or even a mental health condition such as depression or anxiety. However, it is important to remember that although it may feel good at first, drugs and alcohol will ultimately damage your body and brain, impact school performance, and strain relationships.
When a teen becomes consumed with seeking a high or getting drunk despite negative consequences in their life, they have developed a dependence. Through continued use of a substance, a tolerance is developed and it takes more and more of that substance to achieve the same effect. Eventually an addiction can take hold in which the teen’s body must have the substance to avoid physical and psychological withdrawal. At this point, the teen is no longer in control, quitting is not a matter of choice or willpower, and they need help to break the addiction.
Warning signs of drug and alcohol use or addiction:
- Bloodshot eyes, puffy face, tired look
- Drop in school performance, truancy, poor concentration or motivation in school
- Personality changes, mood swings
- Irritability, withdrawing from family, not following household rules or curfews
- Change in friends or activities
- Loss of interest in hobbies, sports, extracurricular activities
- Forgetfulness, slurred speech, incoherent thoughts
- Use of cover-ups such as air freshener, breath spray, perfume, eye drops
- Possession of any drug paraphernalia such as scales, baggies, pipes, tin foil, or grinders
- Involvement with police or juvenile justice system
Addiction is a disease, and it can be treated. However, each situation is unique and requires an evaluation to make the best possible recommendation. Treatment can include individual or group counseling, information groups, or self-help groups such as AA. Sometimes, a person may require detoxification in a medical facility to safely get through the withdrawal period, followed by a rehabilitation program.