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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The Benefits of Being Scared

Excerpt from my article in World of Psychology, The Benefits of Being Scared.   th

Being scared isn’t always a negative. You can be scared in many different ways..right? There is the “scary movie” kind of scared, where you don’t know what’s going to pop out on the screen. The jumping out of a plane kind of scared, where you fear real death and your adrenaline is pumping loudly.  Lastly, there is the “taking a chance” kind of scared, where you have to address someone or something that’s anxiety producing and you don’t know if the outcome will be favorable.

Now, with a scary movie, we look forward to being scared.  We want it; anticipate it. We set the mood. Shut off the lights, grab the popcorn and get ready to be entertained.

When jumping out of a plane, we are excited about the experience even if it is anxiety producing. It gives some people a huge rush to look death in the face, which later can make you feel invincible.

Now, the “taking a chance” kind of scared is a little different. This is the kind of fear we don’t look forward to. We avoid it at any cost and dread it all the way through. It’s no surprise that public speaking is the number #1 fear of most people. Why? Because you are willingly putting yourself out there for others to judge you… and who wants to do that?  However, this kind of fear, I believe is the most rewarding and can help teens build self-esteem and confidence.

For more from this article, click here.

The Realities of Teen Dating Violence and Ways to Move on

thTeen dating violence is a reality that many people fail to realize and even fewer talk about. Many parents of teens believe teen dating violence is not even an issue. However, approximately 1 in 5 female high school students report being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner.  I recently discovered that a teen’s confusion about the law and their desire for confidentiality are two of the most significant barriers stopping young victims of abuse from seeking help.

Lastly, many teens hold on to the delusion that their partner will change or that the violence was just a one-time thing. Once it does happen again – and it will – they make excuses or rationalize why it happened again. Trust me, if it happens once, it will happen again. Don’t let it. GET OUT IMMEDIATELY!

Take Action

Teens, be strong and break up with the person. Here’s how: Do it in person (if it’s safe), or do it over the phone. Just do it! Don’t listen to his (or her) apologies or excuses, and cut off communication with him. I understand this is easier said than done, especially if you go to school with him, you work with him, or you live near him. Keep your friends close during this time and lean on your parents. Teach yourself to be strong. Build a powerful shield around you, face your challenges, and speak up. Call a hotline if you feel more comfortable. Protect yourself. Do it for yourself, for your little sister, for the girl still in an abusive relationship. Let them draw strength from your resilience. Speaking out against the abuser shows huge strength and resiliency.

Dating violence is no joke. Tell someone immediately or ask their opinion if you feel unsure about something that was said or done to you. If you don’t feel safe telling a family member or a friend, call a website or a hotline. The call is anonymous and the people on the other end are trained professionals. They will not judge you, but they can talk you through the experience, help you decide how to move forward, and give you ways for ending the relationship safely.

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Support 

A great solution for someone who has suffered a traumatic experience is twofold. One, join a support group with other teen girls who’ve gone through similar situations. This will help you know you’re not alone, and surrounding yourself with others who can relate to the experience mentally and emotionally helps a lot. Ask a therapist about an appropriate group to join or start by calling your health plan. Chances are it has services and groups available to help you heal.

Two, get physical, but in a “mindful” way. What does that look like? It looks like yoga, meditation, tai chi, or dance. It grounds you and helps you reflect on yourself in a deeper way. I would encourage you to take a class at a gym, the YMCA, or another community recreational center. If you’re nervous about trying something like this because it’s new, bring a friend along. You can both go through the class and learning process together. Although you have a friend for support, you will still build independence and self-confidence. You will start to release the questions you had about why you stayed or why you second-guessed yourself. There’s something about the physical movement in these activities that helps victims reclaim their spirit and embrace themselves in a more loving way.

Remember, removing yourself from a violent relationship is the ultimate way to respect and love yourself.  Always put yourself first and leave. Remove from your mind any statements the abuser uses to make you stay such as, “It’ll never happen again,” “I love you,” or, “If you take me back it will be different.”  Sometimes it helps to write these statements down, let your anger build, and then rip them up or burn them one by one (but please do not set any illegal or unsupervised fires!). Throw the remains into your fireplace or a bonfire. As you do so, make a promise to always put yourself first.