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.

Tips and Tricks for Teens on Managing Peer Pressure

thOk teens…

In high school, there can be a decent amount of pressure to attend parties and sometimes drink or do drugs. Yes, you can certainly say no to attending the party and avoid the whole thing; however, in some cases you then become the topic of conversation, not at the party, but on Monday at school. That’s no fun.  Not to mention that you want to hang out with your friends and be social, but don’t want to feel the pressure from others.  Be proactive! I suggest coming up with a shortlist of responses that you can use when faced with peer pressure, so you aren’t ostracized for doing the right thing. Here, I started the list for you with a few and when stated confidently and honestly, will be respected by your peers.  Trust me!

(These are related to the example of drinking at a party, but can also be applied to when being pressured to do drugs as well.)

  1. I can’t drink, I’m on medication/antibiotics.
  2. I can’t drink, I’m the designated driver.
  3. I can’t drink, I have practice in the morning (or a big game.)
  4. I can’t drink, I have to work in the morning and really need the money.

What would you add to the list?

Teen Girls and the Illness I Call Pleasing

Sugar and spice and everything nice. That’s what little girls are made of.”  Have you heard this rhyme before?  It’s an oldie, but one that is still repeated.  It’s probably fair to say that everyone likes sugar and spicy food is pretty popular these days, but the idea that girls are still meant to be “nice” at their very core is clearly different from the message about what boys are made of (“snips and snails and puppy-dog tails”).
How this translates into contemporary life is that girls still carry the burden of always feeling like they need to please others, a habit that can then carry over into adulthood and keep girls from fully realizing their potential. Another offshoot of this is the intense pressure of trying to be “perfect” – an impossible task.  Pleasing others means avoiding conflict; pleasing others means making your own needs second to what someone who you might not even care that much about wants; and pleasing others means means diminishing your individuality to fit a model of sweetness that denies you have a right to feel anger, to own your choices, and to speak up about what’s bugging you.
What many people don’t realize is that always pleasing others and not prioritizing your own needs has long-term repercussions for self-esteem and for leadership skills.  If you are taught that it’s more important to put others’ needs first and to be liked how will you learn what you really want?  And feel that it’s valued?  How will you run a big corporation one day as CEO if you’re worried about making a decision that might cause others to dislike you?  It’s impossible to do both – and that’s where girls suffer from contradictory tensions that can’t be resolved without breaking the model of what girls “should be” — people who put others’ needs first.
It’s time for a new rhyme – one that lets girls realize that their own voices need to be heard, and while meanness is never a positive value, recognizes that anger, respectfully expressed, is okay.  By figuring out what your own individual needs are, and speaking up about them, rather than pushing them down in order to please others, you are tapping into an inner power that can reframe the picture of how girls are “supposed” to be in our society.  Not being “nice” doesn’t mean being unkind – sometimes, it just means being your honest self – and allowing your individual needs to be heard and seen.
The next time you hear yourself going along with what someone else wants, despite feeling a wave of discomfort in your stomach (or anywhere else in your body) because you know it’s not what you want, try speaking up.  You can be friendly and you can be kind, but be honest.  You might be surprised by how good it feels to put your needs first and how glad a friend or family member is to really hear what you want.  Take a deep breath and focus in on what you really want and then say it without apology.  Start small and remember this feeling of asserting yourself.  Think about how your mom or another woman you know says “no” when something else is clearly more important.  Being involved in your school’s debate team is another way to practice debating and even have fun while learning the art of arguing well.  Pick a cause that means something to you and work on its campaign.  Expressing your passion about this cause to others is a great way to speak up for something you believe it, then translate that to your own personal needs.  Remember every time you say “no” to some one else it also means there’s a “yes” saved for your own priorities.