Coping with the Emotional Toll of Teen Addiction: Supportive Solutions for Behavioral

Teen substance use causes pain beyond the user as addiction affects...

James Ekbatani
April 2, 2024

Drug abuse during the teenage years correlates with substance abuse problems later in life, with older teens and young adults seeing the most significant increases in destructive behavior. While drug addiction is a physical disorder, it coincides with profound emotional ramifications that can spiral out of control without behavioral health treatment.

Early drug abuse is a notorious public health concern in the US. According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics (NCDAS), at least one in eight teenagers abused an illicit substance in the last year nationwide, with 2.08M (or 8.33%) of 12- to 17-year-olds reporting using drugs in the last month.

Teenage substance use and subsequent addiction can cause pain beyond the user, as addiction affects everyone in their social and family circles. Teen addicts experience the most direct and acute emotional devastation that occurs with substance use while inflicting their families and friends with pain, stress, and discouragement.

As a teenager, substance use can be seen as a way to alleviate unwanted mental health symptoms that include hopelessness, anxiety, irritability, and negative thoughts. When teenagers struggle with emotional problems like these, they believe they are using these substances to help manage difficult feelings. Since the adolescent brain is still developing, the results of self-medicating can be more problematic and occur at a faster rate, leading to a serious disorder, abuse, or dependence.

If your teen is struggling with substance addiction to numb pre-existing emotional pain, don’t wait for their addiction to worsen - begin a new journey with Lotus Behavioral Health and see how our care can help your adolescent or teen.

Understanding Teen Addiction

When trying to understand your teenager’s substance use, it can be hard to determine the difference between abuse and addiction. While the difference is very slight, substance abuse is defined as using an illegal substance or misusing a legal substance. Teens can abuse a substance without having an addiction, but it could lead to one, as addiction begins as abuse.

Many factors can feed into teen substance use and misuse, such as your teen’s personality, your family’s dynamic, and your teen’s comfort with peers who use substances. Teens want to fit in and be confident, and with newfound freedom, they can find themselves in risky situations. Teens are also curious, may want to rebel against family conventions, or feel like nothing bad could happen to them.

Teens are often driven to excessive use and abuse of drugs by a desire to distract themselves from emotional problems. Some teens may be suffering from past trauma or undergoing trauma presently, leaving them plagued by stress and anxiety.

Risk Factors for Substance Use

Common risk factors for teen drug use include a family history of substance abuse, a mental or behavioral health condition, impulsive or risk-taking behavior, traumatic events, low self-esteem, and more. Emotional risk factors for teenage drug addiction can include being a victim of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse in childhood; exposure to distant or neglectful parenting styles; multiple instances of being bullied; suffering through a natural disaster; or the loss of a loved one.

Addiction is the need for drugs or substances, regardless of the consequences that come with use. Drug addiction causes users to develop a tolerance, driving addicts to use more and more of the substance to experience the same effects and further fueling their addiction. Some substances like crack or heroin are more addictive than others, and might only need to be used once or twice before addiction starts.

Types of Addiction

Addiction can have physical or psychological symptoms or a combination of both. Physical addiction means that a teen’s body has become dependent on a substance and has built up a tolerance to that substance. When teens stop using substances that cause physical dependence, they can experience withdrawal symptoms like diarrhea, shaking, and general malaise.

With psychological addiction, teens feel overcome by the desire to have a substance and they may resort to lying or stealing to get it. Those with psychological dependence need to have a particular drug or substance, as their whole life is centered around it; they no longer feel like they have a choice about using substances.

Symptoms of Substance Addiction

Teens may have a substance addiction if they show the following symptoms:

  • They use drugs or alcohol to relax or forget problems
  • They spend extensive time sourcing drugs
  • They steal or sell possessions to afford drugs
  • They have tried but failed to stop taking substances
  • They feel shaky or sick when attempting to stop
  • They experience changes in sleeping and eating habits or mood
  • They develop problems in relationships with family and peers
  • They lose interest in activities they used to enjoy
  • Their school performance suffers

Adolescent alcohol or drug use accelerates faster than adult use as the pathways between regions in teenage brains are still developing, giving teens the ability to learn new things quickly. When the brain is habituated to substances, addiction is quick to follow. If a teen has a behavioral disorder like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), drugs and alcohol can affect the same brain regions, giving teenagers more satisfaction from the substance, and increasing the likelihood of addiction.

Supporting Your Teen Through Their Recovery Journey

Dealing with a teenager who is struggling with substance addiction can be a difficult, scary, and daunting time for parents. Your emotional support and reassurance as a parent plays an incredibly important role in your adolescent’s recovery, as it can help your teen feel more motivated and encouraged to continue treatment.

As a parent, there are many different ways you can support your teen through their recovery journey, including:

  • Setting boundaries and expectations
  • Developing strong communication skills with your child
  • Teaching your child healthy coping mechanisms
  • Attending therapy sessions with them
  • Actively participating in family counseling
  • Listening carefully and avoiding being judgmental
  • Understanding your teen’s individual needs
  • Providing constant encouragement and positive reinforcement
  • Being patient
  • Encouraging healthy habits
  • Creating opportunities for positive activities

Seeking Professional Help Through Our Services and Programs

If you’re finding supporting your teenager in recovery overwhelming and challenging, it may be time to seek professional help. At Lotus Behavioral Health, our clinical expertise can provide the guidance needed to navigate this process successfully.

Our addiction treatment center in Florida employs an individualized treatment plan to target the underlying factors contributing to maladaptive and high-risk behavior, with evidence-based techniques to assist clients with achieving their stated goals. We address the emotional challenges of teen addiction treatment with a family-systems approach throughout the recovery process to integrate family involvement.

Don’t Lose Hope

At Lotus Behavioral Health, we’re committed to creating a nurturing and therapeutic environment to foster a healthy lifestyle for teen clients. Our teen residential treatment program can help your adolescent achieve sustainable healing.

If you are a parent of a teenager with a substance use disorder, reach out to the Lotus Behavioral Health team for additional information on our services and the different levels of care we offer at our adolescent treatment facility. You can start the process by visiting our Admissions page, where you can view more information about a complimentary brief assessment to determine eligibility.

For more information, call Lotus Behavioral Health for an intake consultation at (833) 948-2273 or visit our website.