Youth and Substance Use
Teenagers are one of the most at-risk groups for experimenting with drugs and alcohol. The ages between 15 and 25 years of age are when people begin to experiment with drugs, new social groups, music and their sexuality. It is also during this time that young people are influenced most significantly by their peers, media, music and culture and when they establish themselves in the world. Young people primarily indulge in alcohol, marijuana, ecstasy and other club drugs, although legal highs and synthetic research chemicals are also becoming more popular. Research suggests that over 20 percent of young people in the United States have used marijuana in the past 30 days, up to 8 percent have used prescription medication for non-medical purposes and up to 4 percent have used ecstasy and other club drugs. Surveys from Australia suggest that up to a third of all young people have tried illicit substances, with marijuana and ecstasy being the most popular. This figure is similar to youth drug use trends in the United Kingdom.
Teenagers are considered an at risk group for experimenting with drugs and alcohol as they face significant personal and social pressures at this time. Most experimentation is harmless and a young person will grow out of being interested. However, if a young person meets the criteria for other risk factors such as mental illness, history of abuse or trauma, family vulnerability, they may begin to use substances in a higher and more frequent dose. Young people can cause long lasting health problems to themselves if they use drugs such as impeding on brain development, affecting social skills, unwanted pregnancies and even injury from being involved in harmful activities while under the influence.
Recovery and Teenagers
Teenagers who struggle with an addiction to drugs or alcohol and enter a treatment program face a number of unique hurdles and benefits. Undergoing treatment at such a young age can have positive and negative implications. On the one hand, a teenager has the opportunity to stop the addictive lifestyle early on, develop positive behaviors and attitudes towards drugs and alcohol and they have the support of well established school and social life. The future outcomes can be very rewarding. However, teenagers also are faced with a more severe type of peer pressure and social influence. Young people are easily lead into a life of experimentation, discovery and harmful drug use. Binge drinking is common behavior during teenage years and this can impact on health, injury or involvement in criminal activities.
Teenagers in recovery have a very good opportunity to change their lifestyle of drug and alcohol abuse and benefit from being in a very social, supportive and progressive age. Young people have the chance to be involved in many different active social groups including those at school, youth work programs, church youth groups and many more. There is the added benefit of well developed programs for peer support, access to health programs that understand the problems and issues young people face and also though a strong school network. In other age groups, individuals do not have the benefit of these established groups and may struggle to overcome their addiction more. Teenagers in recovery may find that the following treatments can provide help:
* Motivational Enhancement Therapy – Therapists work with clients to establish goals, encourage self motivation for change and educate about the risks of substance abuse.
* Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – This treatment involves systematic engagement with a client and development of clear goals in behavioral changes, actions and attitudes for the future.
* Group Therapy – Support groups offer the benefit of sharing experiences, challenges and achievements throughout the recovery process as well as the formation of relationships with others who are going through recovery.
* 12 Step Program – Self-motivated program that works through a defined set of steps: acknowledging a problem with drugs or alcohol, working on overcoming a life of addiction and developing healthy attitudes and behaviors for long-term recovery.
* Behavior Therapy – Therapists work with those in recovery to reinforce positive behaviors such as healthy attitudes and relationships and eliminate negative behaviors like drug or alcohol use, antisocial behaviors or aggression.
Research suggests that there is an under-representation of teenagers in recovery with only 10 percent of those who need rehabilitation getting treatment. This study found that there was a gap in treatment demands and treatments offered in the United States for young people. However, the services that were offered were available primarily in an outpatient situation. This may suggest that the treatments appreciate the added stresses that school has on a young persons’ recovery and the services are tailored to meet this situation.