Home Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy How Teen Addiction Occurs and What You Can Do?

How Teen Addiction Occurs and What You Can Do?

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Addiction affects millions of teens. It is not a failure of will or character, but a disease of the brain. When people think of addiction they have the assumption it has to do with alcohol or drugs. The truth is that more and more teens are becoming addicted to things that aren’t actually considered drugs such as caffeine, food, tobacco, as well as becoming addicted to certain activities like gambling, sex, browsing the internet, and shopping. Addiction is diagnosed by considering people’s behaviour. It is a serious condition and involves more than one behaviour.

Symptoms of addiction

  • Developing a tolerance for the substance
  • Enduring withdrawal symptoms
  • Losing control of the situation
  • Ignoring social, professional, or educational activities

Addiction changes the human brain. Each substance can cause different changes and affect the information channels that tell the brain when something is pleasing. It also affects the parts of the brain that control memory encoding, judgement, aspirations, decision-making skills, and inspiration. Even after the individual stops using the substance, these changes in the brain function and structure can last a long time. 

The addiction connection

There is a connection between addiction and mental health. If a teen suffers from anxiety, bipolar disorder, ADHD, depression, schizophrenia, an eating disorder, or posttraumatic stress disorder it is more likely for addiction to become a problem.

Teens that are dealing with a mental illness are taking in much more substances, which is likely in an effort to ease their hurt. Substance abuse has been shown to worsen symptoms of mental illness. An example of this would be how an individual with heroin addiction is managing with an anxiety disorder may experience more recurrent and severe panic attacks when they’re wanting the drug but don’t have access it.

Likewise, alcohol can intensify depression and even guide someone who’s intoxicated to become suicidal. Treatment can become difficult to manage when a teen has received a dual diagnosis of addiction and a mental disorder. 

And here is what you can do:

1. Talk to your teen. Whether you choose to speak to your teen one-on-one or through an experienced interventionist you will need to confront your teen’s drug abuse problem. Many teens are screaming for help in ways you may not be aware. Others are blind to the negative impact of being addicted and require an intervention to set things straight.

2. Do your research. When you find out about your teen’s drug addiction, your first course of action is to do your research. Find out all you can about your teen’s drug problem as well as his or her drug of choice. You also need to go online and search for treatment centres. When you find some that seem to fit your needs don’t stop your research. Check out the drug rehabilitation centre’s reviews from Google, Facebook, or dedicated industry sites like Cite Health.

3. Seek out help. Now it’s time to use all the information you have found and pick up the phone or perhaps start a chat on an addiction treatment centre’s web site. When you actually speak with treatment centres and professionals make sure to ask them about the type of treatment plans they offer as well as their aftercare plans. Also, ask the treatment centre for a list of references. If you are buying a car you would apply the same due diligence and this is your son or daughter we are talking about, so the stakes can’t be any higher. Remember a car can be replaced and a teen can’t be.

4. Does your teen need an intervention? If your teen is adamantly against treatment then the next course of action should involve staging an intervention or hiring an interventionist to escort your teen to the drug rehabilitation centre. And you may have to tell your teen a white lie to get them there. It may seem wrong to mislead your teen, but this could be a life or death situation.

5. Get them help. While talking to your teen you should have a treatment plan prepared. Once their drug abuse has been addressed inform your teen of their treatment options and together choose the one best suited for their needs. For teens that are still in denial about their addiction choose the best treatment option and have them admitted. Don’t forget to look into treatment programmes that offer aid to your teen even after they’ve been discharged.

6. Be an active participant in their treatment. While your teen is receiving treatment as a parent you should be fully involved in the process. There are too many facilities who offer teens help but neglect their family in the process. Addiction affects everyone not just the person with the substance abuse disorder. Take this time to work together as a family and gain a better understanding of the addiction.

7. Provide continued support throughout their recovery. Once your teen completes treatment, their job has only just begun. Recovery is a long-term commitment that requires unconditional support. Make sure your teen goes to 90 Alcoholic Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings in the first 90 days after rehabilitation, have a therapist that connects with him or her, and take one day at a time moving forward in their journey to an everlasting recovery.

8. Enrol in an alumni programme. Another key tip is to enrol your teen in the rehabilitation aftercare or alumni programme. An alumni programme serves as a platform where your teen can still receive help and care from the staff they already know and love. Alumni programmes create positive communities for those who have successfully completed treatment. These programmes allow those in recovery to share their story, ask for help and gain support. Check out Inspirations awesome alumni programme and what we have to offer.


The road to recovery can be long and challenging. If you are concerned that you or someone you know may have an addiction problem or an undiagnosed mental illness, encourage them to visit a doctor, health professional, or contact a substance abuse treatment consultant.


Image credit: Freepik

Scott Brand works with Inspirations for Youth and Families teen treatment centre as well as its adult counterpart Cove Centre for Recovery

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