Contributed by Bayside Marin clinical team member Kathryn Taylor, MA, LPC/MHSP.
There are several myths of addiction. One such belief is that only the “bad kids” become addicted to substances. This thought abdicates the responsibility of helping all youth say no to drug abuse.
Across the nation, young people are more affected by addiction than any other age group. As the brain is still developing (particularly the prefrontal cortex), abuse of substances such as drugs or alcohol at a young age can severely impact mental and physical health in later years.
Addiction: Who’s At Risk?
A young person that abuses alcohol before the age of 21 is statistically proven to be five times more at risk for alcohol dependence or use issues compared to someone who uses alcohol for the first time after the age of 21. Drug abuse in early years produces a similar outcome.
The initial choice to use addictive substances is usually a voluntary one. Some youth are better equipped to take a good stand to say no to alcohol and drugs, while others are somewhat disadvantaged in the decision-making process. Of course, regardless of the circumstances, due to the voluntary actions associated with initial substance abuse, even a young person can bear a serious level of responsibility.
Addiction does not develop the same way in every person. It is true that some youth are genetically hardwired to be more at risk of addiction. One young person may experiment with a certain drug with no long-term devastating effects, while a peer could use exactly the same amount and type of substance and come out addicted. Often, a family history of addiction is a strong indicator of a higher risk level.
Moral Myths Of Addiction
Substance abuse is not a moral decision. Yes, the initial use may have started with poor decision making. Though, once a young person is addicted, the guilt aspect needs to be thrust aside, and legitimate medical and mental health treatment is what ought to be pursued.
Parents often find it easy to blame their child’s initial drug abuse on the excuse that he or she simply made friends with a bad crowd of people. Addicted youth do exert an influence on the other young people around them. No young person who is suffering from addiction, however, should be automatically labeled a morally deficient person.
The Background Of Addiction
Taking a look at the background of addiction will shed some light on the causes of addiction in some youth. Interestingly, 80 percent of teenagers in high school admit to illegally partaking in the consumption of alcohol. Of course, not that many of the students will become addicts, but those who are genetically predisposed to addiction, those with a family history of addiction, and those with unresolved trauma may become hooked.
The Myth Of Letting Children Take Substances Under Your Supervision
Adults who promote the idea that alcohol can be used in moderation under the legal age of drinking are in reality promoting alcohol abuse among youth. The same is said with any adult who allows young persons to use illicit drugs in any sort of “controlled” environment. No amount of such activity ought to be tolerated, even if the use is what some might consider simply “experimental” or “normal for this age.”
Talking with young people regarding the harmful effects of drugs and alcohol may prevent abuse. Young ones who develop the sincere notion that substance abuse is dangerous are less likely to partake in it.
Some youth think that prescription medications are not as harmful as illicit drugs. Adults who allow prescriptions in the home bear the responsibility of informing children and adolescents never to touch a prescription drug that has not been prescribed to thme. It should be clear that the pills are monitored and not left to be taken freely by anyone except for the one to whom they were assigned.
The Mental Health Connection
Sometimes, addiction results from co-occurring mental health conditions. Mental illness oftentimes leaves a person susceptible to addiction, because the one who is suffering will look to drugs as an emotional outlet.
Simply providing a sincere and caring outlet for personal expression can prevent personal feelings from reaching such a dire point in a young person. In many cases, legitimate medical treatment and therapy are necessary. There is no reason that a young person who is in need of depression or anxiety counseling and medical attention should fail to receive it.
Addiction can impact anyone, but treatment can bring about amazing results. The best of children can make a bad decision regarding drug use, and even the most unreasonable and stubborn child can be helped to recover from alcohol and/or drug addiction. No child should be overlooked as a lost cause.
: Mental Health. (n.d.). http://youth.gov/youth-topics/youth-mental-health
About the author:
“Shattering the Myths of Addiction Among Adolescents” was written by Bayside Marin clinical team member Kathryn Taylor, MA, LPC/MHSP. Kathryn has several years of experience working in dual diagnosis addiction treatment, women’s issues and trauma treatment as a licensed mental health counselor.
About Bayside Marin:
Bayside Marin, located in San Francisco, California, is dedicated to treating not just the substance use disorder, but the whole person. Staffed by a wide range of clinical professionals, including physicians, psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, dieticians, personal trainers, acupuncturists, massage therapists, and physical therapists, Bayside Marin offers comprehensive, evidence-based treatments and boasts a record of successful treatment.
We provide a full spectrum of care, from intake and detox to discharge planning and aftercare.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from multiple physical, emotional, environmental, and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Published on July 12, 2016
Reviewed and Updated by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on January 4, 2021
Published on AddictionHope.com