Substance Use Treatment For Youth
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has found that substance abuse is more dangerous for youths than it is for adults. Additionally, the age at which people begin substance abuse affects the intensity of short- and long-term effects.
The younger a person begins to use a substance, the more likely they are to do damage to their developing brains and bodies, increase their risk for addiction, behavioral issues, and social development disorders. This causes many short- and long-term problems during a time of rapid maturation such as a loss of productivity, damage to neurotransmitters, the cardiovascular, central nervous, respiratory and digestive systems and negatively affects relationships and social, school, home, or work life.
Mental health and substance use disorders (SUDs) affect all demographics, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association (SAMHSA) reported that 43.6 million Americans adults had a mental illness 20.2 million had a SUD, and 7.9 million had a co-occurring mental and SUD.
Approximately 60 to 75 percent of youth with substance abuse problems have a co-occurring mental health disorder. Preventing mental and/or SUD and related problems in children, adolescents, and young adults are critical to Americans’ behavioral and physical health.
According to a survey of adolescents aged 12 to 17 by SAMHSA:
- Approximately 6.1 percent reported alcohol use
- Approximately 7.4 percent reported marijuana usage
- Approximately 4 to 5.4 percent reported the nonmedical use of prescription drugs
- Approximately 4.9 percent reported cigarette use
- Approximately 11.9 percent reported having depression
It’s important to prevent usage from escalating, a report by NIDA found usage dramatically increases among high school seniors compared to younger adolescents:
- Approximately 70 percent indicated alcohol use
- Approximately 50 percent indicated the illegal drug use
- Over 20 percent indicated the nonmedical use of prescription drugs
- Nearly 40 percent indicated smoking a cigarette
NIDA reported that youth who abuse substances at an early age are at an increased risk for developing an addiction. 15.2 percent of youth who consume alcohol before age 14 become alcoholics compared to 2.1 percent of those who start drinking after the age of 21 and 25 percent of youth who misuse prescription drugs by age 13 will develop a SUD compared to 7 percent of those who misuse prescription drugs after 21.
What signs to look for in your youth:
- Sudden changes in personality
- Irritability, nervousness, or giddiness
- Aggressive behavior, violence and fighting
- Sudden decline in performance or attendance at school or work
- Changes in friends and reluctance to talk about new friends
- Change in appetite and weight
- Change in sleeping patterns
- Change in or lack of personal grooming habits
- Difficulty paying attention, forgetfulness, memory loss
- Indifference to once favorite hobbies, sports, or other activities
- Increased secretiveness, heightened sensitivity to inquiry
Interventions for combined substance abuse include:
- Digital platforms
- Family or community-based interventions
- Individual interventions
- Multicomponent interventions
- Policy interventions
- School-based interventions
Studies targeting substance abuse and mental health for adolescents have found that the social influence of school-based programs is essential for prevention, intervention, recovery, and society. School-based programs effectively reduced the number of adolescents who smoke, drink, use of drugs or cannabis or a combination of drugs and alcohol. After school-based programs, family-based interventions and internet-based interventions have proven to be effective at reaching their target.
Treatment is a long and complex process and must be tailored to meet the developmental needs of adolescents, which vary with the age of the client. If you, a friend or loved one is suffering from a mental or SUD, the first step to recovery is asking for help. The road to recovery is achievable for anyone and usually begins with a medication-assisted detox.