Understanding Teen Drug Addiction and Recovery

Guess blog by Amy Wacholz From Steps to Recovery.

dating violence among teensMany teens experiment with drugs and around half of twelfth graders have used drugs recreationally on at least one occasion. While marijuana is usually the drug of choice among adolescents, prescription medications are also popular owing to their ease of access and their perceived safety, though some teens also experiment with street drugs such as heroin, cocaine, crystal meth and amphetamines. Even though for the majority of youngsters drug taking remains an occasional activity, owing to the addictive nature of illicit drugs it is easy for them to become a habit, which is not only damaging to physical and mental health, but can harm all aspects of a teen’s life. Thankfully, for young adults who find themselves in the grip of a drug addiction, specialist help is available to aid their recovery.

Predisposition to Drug Addiction

As not all teens who start taking drugs become hooked, there are certain factors that can predict whether or not addiction is more likely. For instance, young people with a history of mental health problems are more likely to turn to drugs to boost their mood, confidence or self-esteem, with repeated use for these purposes increasing the likelihood of addiction. A family history of substance abuse also makes us more vulnerable to develop similar habits. However, factors in the environment are just as important as biological traits in predicting drug dependency. Good connections with family and friends, feeling part of the local community, achieving well at school, having outside interests and appropriate parental supervision are just some of the protective environmental factors when it comes to preventing drug misuse.

Understanding Drug Addiction

Addiction is able to occur because taking drugs enhances dopamine production and a rush of this feel-good chemical messenger encourages us to repeat the same behavior. The dopamine reward system is also activated by enjoyable activities such as eating, exercise and sex, but over time with repeated exposure to drugs the brain does not respond in the same way to everyday activities. As a result we lose interest in other things and prioritize drug taking. This isn’t the only impact that drug abuse has on our brain though, as it changes brain circuits that control memory and behavior, leading to cravings and an inability to control the desire to take drugs.

Effective Treatments for Drug Addiction

Although specialist addiction programs are available to successfully help those with a dependency on drugs to free themselves from their habit, figures show that less than 10% of addicts receive the treatment they need. While a drug detox is an important first step during the recovery process, a medically supervised withdrawal followed by a structured program of counseling is essential to achieve lasting abstinence. This is because addiction is complex and multi-component treatment for drug abuse that addresses all needs is usually most effective, particularly when individually tailored to the requirements of each person. Treatment typically includes a combination of individual and group therapy, as well as medication to manage withdrawal symptoms and reduce the risk of relapse in opiate addiction. It is essential that during the recovery process any underlying problems that affect mental wellness are identified, as diagnosis and management of co-existing conditions improves the chance of successfully kicking a drug habit for good.

During a detox from drugs, treatments are available to make the process more comfortable. Medications also play an active part in the treatment of opiate abuse, with methadone and buprenorphine helping to relieve cravings and withdrawal symptoms by binding to the same sites in the brain as heroin and prescription opiates. Following opiate withdrawal, naltrexone is also an option, as by blocking the brain sites where opiates bind, drug taking doesn’t offer the same high, helping to promote abstinence.

Whether receiving addiction treatment on an inpatient or outpatient basis, a range of behavioral therapies are available. The benefits of cognitive behavioral therapy in substance misuse is well recognized and is designed to help people change their thoughts and behaviors so they can avoid or better manage situations when they may be tempted to use drugs. However, before someone begins CBT, motivational interviewing is a helpful strategy to ensure addicts entering rehab are ready to change their behaviors. Motivational incentives can meanwhile help to keep people on track during recovery, as rewards encourage continued abstinence. Finally, multi-dimensional family therapy, which was created with adolescents in mind, helps to address factors that influence drug taking and improves the way that family members connect with one another.

For more helpful information and articles about teen addiction and recovery please visit the website Steps to Recovery.

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Girl Talk: Who Wants to RAISE Their Self-Esteem?

Interview with Dr. Carol Langlois by “Out of Ink”

In her new book “Girl Talk: Boys, Bullies and Body Image” Dr Carol Langlois seeks to provide teenage girls with the tools they need to RAISE their self-esteem. Here we chat with Dr Carol, teen self-esteem expert to find out more about her work and the importance of healthy self-esteem development in teenage girls.

Self-esteem issues can corrode many aspects of our lives. Eating disorders, lack of direction, hopelessness, depression, binge drinking and suicide are some examples that have a high association with low self-esteem.  In Australia, suicide amongst teenagers and young adults is one of the leading causes of death, second only to motor vehicle accidents.

Girl Talk: Boys, Bullies and Body Image” is a compilation of interviews with teens girls – their stories, their challenges, their choices and their journey towards self-discovery and empowerment. Throughout each interview, Carol helps the reader to breakdown the issues discussed, offering points of reflection and an effective and practical guide designed to RAISE (Resilience, Attitude, Independence, Self-Respect and Empowerment) teen self-esteem.

What initially drew you towards researching and working with teenage girls and their self-esteem issues?

I’m a trained therapist, academic researcher, educational consultant and writer. My primary area of interest is in female self-esteem development among teens.  During my training, I counselled hundreds of clients in one-on-one sessions as well as in group settings, mostly working with 18/19 year old freshman. They tended to have one of 4 issues when coming to speak with me – identity development challenges, an eating disorder, binge drinking issues, and/or poor choices/lack of direction. 

Some teens go to college fearful of change. Their identity in high school may have been strongly defined by their friends, sports teams or some sort of label (like the cool girls, or the popular girls) so when they get to college they don’t know “who they are or who they want to be.” 

College is the perfect time for exploration and discovery; however, some girls are too fearful to even explore. Afraid to make a mistake. That’s where I see a lot of the eating disorders and binge drinking coming to play. They don’t know where to begin. They are frozen; lost. It’s frightening. This is very different  from a girl, who is comfortable enough with herself and her self-esteem to try figure out who she wants to be in college…to explore. To try new things. To succeed…to fail..to grow.   

For more from this interview click here.

Girl Talk: Interview with Author Dr. Carol Langlois About her new Book for Teen Girls.

6V0TMg_Q5vjyDX905DSgR6lLNxBXApclLF8qhPSQxvQYour Teen Magazine Interview

We’ve loved Dr. Carol Langlois’s advice for Your Teen readers over the years, so we were excited to hear about her new book, Girl Talk: Boys, Bullies & Body Image. We caught up with Dr. Carol to find out more.

Tell us about the approach you took with this book?

In total, I interviewed (and taped) about 160 girls from 10 schools in the Bay Area. After sharing my taped interviews with a few other writers and editors, they suggested that sharing (their stories) from a first person perspective would be very powerful. In the end, I chose 10 stories of ten girls who’s challenges with self-esteem were relatable and transcended culture, race, and socio-economics.

What’s going well for girls these days? 

I would say that their access to and utilization of information is abundant. They can educate themselves on so many topics more easily today. If they want to learn about puberty, smoking, pregnancy, healthy eating, etc.—they can. They know the risks and the pro and cons of most things to make better informed decisions. Many teens today have strong opinions about drugs and alcohol, the environment, or global warming for example because of information from the web. This is incredibly beneficial in helping them make smart choices.

But many are struggling? 

For the book, I interviewed quite a few girls who were dealing with or had survived through some form of an eating disorder, which I think is worth noting. More abundantly were issues of perfection and anxiety—not necessarily unrelated to eating disorders.

Stop the critical self-talk. Instead, model positive self-acceptance around girls.

Teens are stressed out more than ever. I call this  the “duck syndrome.” Think about the duck who looks very serene, calm, and pleasant floating along a lake. Then, if you look under the water she is paddling frantically. That is the duck syndrome. Too many students on the outside appear calm, cool, and collected while on the inside they are completely stressed out. Its a “fake it ’til you make it” mentality. For many, they want to be the great student, the great athlete, and well-liked by peers. But what price do they pay? Proving you can do it all has transformed into an ugly state of unattainable expectations and extremes, which are unhealthy for teens at any age. I’ve seen this further progress into eating disorders for the perfect body and drug addictions to manage the high pace and stress. This is a recipe for disaster.

- See more of this interview here.