Helping the Young Addict or Alcoholic
Young People and Addiction
The teen and young adult years are a difficult time of growth and exploration for every individual, with brains and bodies alive with transition.
There are few moments in life as exciting – and scary.
Unfortunately, far too often teens turn to substances to guide them during this time of change – particularly if they’ve already had some kind of trauma in their young life.
While addiction can devastate anyone’s life, nowhere is this truer than in the life of a young person with substance abuse issues.
Due, in part, to the fact that substance use and can have very specific, detrimental effects on the developing mind and body.
Here are just a few examples of what substance abuse can do to the health of a young person:
• Substance abuse can damage neurotransmitters within the brain itself
• Substance abuse can reduce the ability to experience pleasure
• Substance abuse can create memory issues
• Substance abuse can contribute to learning delays
• Substance abuse trains the brain to expect unhealthy, habitual behavior
• Substance abuse can delay puberty, with negative effects on the reproductive system
• Substance abuse can lower mineral density in bones
• Substance abuse can spur higher levels of certain enzymes indicating liver damage
• Substance abuse can limit growth potential
What young adults lack most is life experience. They just haven’t lived enough to know what their substance is taking away from them.
This can make it difficult to get teens with substance abuse issues the help they need. They simply haven’t felt the impact of losing everything to substance abuse, because they lack the perspective to know what it is they have to lose.
Don’t wait for rock bottom, because rock bottom may never come, or if it does it may already be too late to help.
If you have a young person with a substance use disorder in your life, here’s how you can help
Find a way to be supportive
Sometimes the best way to know how to help a young person with substance abuse issues is to ask them. They may not always know, but it’s worth opening that line of connection anyway. Ask to be involved in their treatment plan. Consult with their therapist or counselor.
Find a substance use disorder treatment center
Sometimes easier said than done. Underage children can be made to go to a treatment center, while grown children are another matter. It can also be challenging to find a treatment facility without a waiting list.
Whatever treatment facility you choose, make sure you’ll be allowed to be a part of the process.
Don’t be an enabler
You love your child, no question. But have you specifically expressed your disapproval of their substance abuse? Are you sure the money you give them isn’t going to buy drugs and alcohol? And of course, never, ever buy them drugs and alcohol. Not once.
In addition, be sure you’re taking care of yourself while rehabilitating your child. Consider a family-oriented treatment program, don’t be afraid to establish boundaries, and use tough love when necessary.
Most of all, always keep lines of communication open.
Treating substance abuse in a young person has its own set of challenges, but help is available. Don’t give up hope.