National Recovery Month: Teens and Young AdultsHeidi Trow
September is National Recovery Month: a time for communities to spread awareness about the widespread issue of substance use disorder (SUD). Since the 1980s, this observance has educated the public, reduced stigma, and celebrated those who have recovered. This topic is especially important to discuss with teens and young adults, a demographic at particular risk for the long-term ramifications of substance use. Why are young people at risk, and what can you do to protect your child as he or she matures?
Pressure to Use and the Developing Brain
Due to a number of factors (including highly targeted alcohol and nicotine product marketing, peer pressure, and the urge to experiment), teens and young adults are at a greater risk of developing SUD. Environments where heavy substance use is normalized and expected, such as high school and college social gatherings, can have an especially significant influence on the emergence of SUD.
The pressure to binge drink and try addictive drugs can be a powerful force for young people. This becomes more understandable when one considers the underdeveloped prefrontal cortices of young people’s brains. According to the National Library of Medicine, the prefrontal cortex does not reach full maturity until age 25. This means the vast majority of high school and college-aged young adults navigate social situations without the complete cognitive ability to make wise decisions with regards to dangerous substances.
Long Term Effects of SUD on Young Brains
SUD can cause several cognitive and behavioral issues for teens and young adults later in life. Examples of observed ramifications include poor decision-making skills, trouble remembering things, impaired emotional development, lower motivation, and disruptive or even violent tendencies. These behavioral issues can lead to any number of other struggles in life, including difficulty maintaining relationships, jobs, and personal finances.
Signs of Substance Use in Teens and Young Adults
It’s always better to prevent addiction early on than to treat it after it has taken over a young person’s life. A few signs of a developing substance use disorder are heavy and regular drinking or drug use, personality changes such as lower motivation, higher-than-normal anxiety levels, and engaging in out-of-character or risky behavior.
“How Do I Talk to Them About Drugs and Alcohol?”
If you notice these signs in a teen or young adult in your life, remember to have compassion and approach them without anger or malice. Educational information and respect are both key to productive conversations. For example, many young people are unaware of the interaction of different alcohol percentages; they may not know how to moderate their alcohol intake or drink responsibly. Early education about topics like this can prevent young people from developing risky habits that can lead to a path of substance abuse.
Recovery for Teens and Young Adults
Because most people think of SUD as only affecting grown adults, teens and young adults might struggle to come to terms with their reliance on substances. This is especially true when it’s so normalized for young people to consume alcohol or drugs regularly. While those perceptions may be obstacles to recovery, parents should feel comforted that there are many facilities and programs designed with the particular struggles of teens and young people in mind.
If you know a young person who is exhibiting signs of SUD, contact R&A Therapeutic Partners to learn about the family counseling and parenting resources we offer, as well as the outpatient programs we specialize in. We look forward to helping your family recover.
At R&A Therapeutic Partners Raymond Estefania and Ana Moreno specialize in substance use and mental health disorder evaluations, treatment, intervention and therapeutic/educational consulting for clients throughout the greater South Florida area, as well as nationally and internationally. For more resources and information please visit Therapeutic-Partners.com or on Facebook.