Read about teenage drug and alcohol addiction, risk factors, signs and symptoms, and prevention. Find out how childhood risks and co-occurring disorder relate to addiction and how you can help your teen achieve sobriety.

With 2,500 teens abusing prescription drugs daily and another 1 in 9 teens abusing alcohol, some think that drug and alcohol addiction is ruining our teens. If our kids are losing it to addiction, is there a solution?

In its 2014 survey, NIH reveals that 23.7 percent of 10th graders are using illicit drugs while the 37.4% are drinking alcohol. Sixty-four percent of high school seniors also think that marijuana is not harmful. About 35.1 % of 12th graders abuse marijuana, 6.8% use Adderall and the other 5.8% use synthetic marijuana.

Signs to watch out for

According to NIDA, one bottle of 12-ounces beer, or 5 ounces of wine or a shot of liquor is the standard drink. Your teen is already an alcoholic is he is drinking more than that amount and he cannot control himself from craving for the next drink. He neglects responsibilities at home and school, drinks to de-stress and continues drinking despite the problems it caused him and after being told not to. He suffers from withdrawal signs like tremors, nervousness, headache, vomiting, sweating and more after a few hours of not drinking.

Drug addiction works in the same way as alcoholism. Using drugs becomes your child’s priority and getting high is the ultimate goal for the day. That’s why he may steal, lie or hide from you just to get the money to buy or obtain drugs.
The longer they take the drugs, the higher the dose becomes because they already develop tolerance. If they started with one pill of sedative, they may end up popping 3 or more pills just to get the same high.

The risk of overdose is very high for drug addicts because they tend to crave for higher dose each time. Teens with addiction may also suffer from withdrawal symptoms similar to alcoholics. Sometimes it can be life-threatening like having a seizure, or falling into a coma, depending on the type of drug they abused.

Risk factors: Why do teens get hooked to drugs and alcohol?

“Many factors can add to a person’s risk for drug abuse…The risk factors can increase a person’s chance of using drugs, while protective factors decrease it. An important note is that teens that are at risk do not start using it or become addicted…A risk factor for one teen may not be for another” says Dr. Howard Liddle of Multidimensional Family Therapy.

Let’s take a look at the risk factors or the things that make you prone to drugs and alcohol abuse and how you can prevent them. These two factors affect kids as they grow older.

How childhood risks relate to addiction

These are the things that happen when your kids are young. A good example of this is having aggressive behavior or becoming hot-tempered. If your child is more irritable than normal kids, they always get into fights or throws tantrums when they don’t get what they want. Now, to reduce the risk you have to change your child’s behavior.

Dr Lidell said that these risks can be changed with proper intervention. “Early childhood risks such as aggressive behavior can be altered with family school and community interventions” he added. The intervention should focus on helping kids developmentally healthy behaviors.

What behaviors are considered as mentally healthy?

A person is mentally or emotionally healthy if he is able to control his emotions. When bad things happen you don’t lose it. You can handle problems, get back on your feet after setbacks and still build strong relationships with family, friends or loved ones.

Why parents are to blame for their child’s emotional health

Doctor John Gottman of theUniversity of Washington says, “The real cradle that the baby is nursed in is the emotional climate between parents”.

In a study that they conducted, Dr. Gottman found out that how you get along with your partner or spouse changes the way you relate to your baby and into his or her emotional and intellectual abilities.

When you are sensitive to your baby’s needs, like you know when they’re hungry, cold or wet and you immediately go to them, they become more confident in exploring their environment. But, if the kids grow in a hostile situation where you and your spouse always fight and you are not responsive to your baby’s needs, they tend to withdraw from the world. So when they enter preschool they don’t have the strong emotional foundation to cope up with the changes.

Dr. Gottman’s study also shows that children whose parents talk to them politely and shows compassion and understanding to them and give them choices are more likely to speak better and learn more words than kids who don’t. He said that it only shows that the way you treat your child while they are still kids has a huge impact on their ability to control their emotions or build strong emotional health and to develop their intelligence as well.

How do you build your teens’ emotional health?

Dr. Gottnam suggests that you must try to get close to your teens, make them feel understood and be compassionate to them. Help them understand their feelings, and explore where these emotions came from and set limits for their bad behaviors. So if they’re throwing flustered and angry, help them understand why they feel that way. Instead of just telling them to stop, take time to help them understand themselves and tell them in a nice way if what they’re doing is acceptable or not. You must also encourage healthy activities that match their interest. If they love music, dancing, painting or any hobby which can boost their self-esteem then support them.

How does Co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis relate to addiction?

6 out of 10 individuals with substance abuse disorder have co-occurring disorders or dual diagnosis. It means that there are many drug addicts and alcoholics with mental disorders.

What is substance abuse disorder?

It includes abuse of alcohol, cocaine, prescription drugs, methamphetamine, sedatives, nicotine, and other addictive substances.

Mental disorders, on the other hand, refer to the following conditions:

Anxiety: It’s not just having anxious thoughts but physical symptoms as well like dry mouth, chest tightness, shaking legs, dizziness and butterflies in your stomach. You can’t control the symptoms, in a sense that you could not switch out of it. Sometimes, you may still feel it in your sleep and the anxious feelings are still there when you wake up.

Schizophrenia: You have schizophrenia if you are hallucinating, hearing voices and seeing things that aren’t there, and you’re being suspicious of others. You don’t like to spend time with other people and you have difficulty in differentiating reality from fantasy.

Bipolar disorder: It means you are extremely happy one time and you are extremely angry or sad the next. If you are blasting to anyone in the room or pacing back and forth while itching to destroy stuff or hulk out anyone or anything around you and afterward you are feeling great and being everybody’s friend, you may be bipolar. People with this disorder have manic (or hyper excited/energetic/happy) and depressive (feeling miserable, depressed, guilty, weak) episodes.

Eating disorders. It has two kinds. Anorexia nervosa, or the extreme fear of getting fat and bulimia nervosa. Anorexics tend to starve themselves and exercise a lot. They purge or drink laxatives after eating. Bulimics, on the other hand, are eating a lot but purging or induced vomiting right after. It’s because they feel guilty for eating so they want to take it out.

Impulse control disorders. It includes-

  • Kleptomania: The person cannot control the urge to steal and he does it repetitively though he knows it’s wrong and there’s no reason to do so.
  • Pyromania: Setting things on fire simply because they want to or they want to relieve tension.
  • Compulsive sexual behavior: Thinking a lot about sexual activities,
    watching or reading porn, etc.
  • Intermittent explosive disorder: They cannot control their anger. They tend to attack people or damage property and sometimes they also hurt themselves. After their outburst, they feel guilty or embarrassed.

Personality disorders: Something is not right with the person’s personality. They cannot build and sustain interpersonal relationships, and once they do, they always put in problems and break it apart. They cannot enjoy meaningful relationships. Since symptoms vary, only licensed doctors and psychologists can finally determine if the person has a personality disorder or none.

How HIR treats dual diagnosis

HIR is having success in dual diagnosis treatment.

“When a client has a substance abuse disorder usually they have a mental health disorder. We do an assessment and determine what kind of treatment plan we have for them and then we use this holistic approach which helps with the mind, the body and the spirit” says Eliza Wille, the Program Director of HIR.

Hawaii Island recovery is located on the beautiful coast of the Big Island. It has well-designed amenities that promote healing and recovery.

Teenagers with addiction can benefit well from Hawaii Island Recovery’s holistic approach which is so-typical of the Hawaiian culture. They can enjoy locally-grown fruits and vegetables, and other nutritious foods to nourish their body. There are also pool and ocean exercises, dolphin therapy, massage, acupuncture and other programs.

Call Hawaii Island Recovery at (866) 390-5070 to learn more about our holistic, one-to-one, addiction treatment program for teens!