Getting help for your child right away is the most important thing you can do to reduce their risk of developing an addiction. The vast majority of people who suffer from an addiction encounter problems when they are teenagers. Ninety-five percent of people with an addiction start using drugs or alcohol before they are 20 years old.
- Children with family history of addiction or mental health problems are more likely to develop an addiction.
- Adolescent brains are not fully developed, and therefore are at higher risk for developing an addiction.
- Early intervention is key.
Children who have significant mood or behavior problems, such as ADHD, depression or anxiety are at a higher risk for developing drug and alcohol problems.
A family history of addiction increases the risk that a child will develop an addiction as well. Children who have a parent with alcoholism are four times more likely to be an alcoholic.
If an older child begins drinking a lot, younger siblings are more likely to do so as well.
Children who have suffered emotional, physical, or psychological abuse are at a higher risk for developing an addiction.
The most obvious indications of drug or alcohol abuse are signs of intoxication, smelling alcohol or drugs on their breath or clothing, or finding alcohol, drugs, or drug paraphernalia. Changes in your child’s previous behavior can be another important sign:
School performance such as decline in grades, decreased motivation to complete assignments, lack of interest in school activities, or skipping classes.
Personal habits such as sleeping much more or much less, change in activity level, increase or decrease in appetite, or hygiene.
Behavior and/or mood changes such as increased irritability, aggression, disregard for rules, mood swings, depression, decreased motivation, expressing suicidal thoughts or behaviors.
Decreased involvement in positive social activities such as team sports or school activities, and/or loss of interest in a favorite hobby.
Association with a new peer group, gang involvement, or legal problems.
Substance Use and the Adolescent Brain
The adolescent brain is different from that of an adult which leads them to behaviors that put them at much higher risk. Early intervention upon drug and alcohol use is crucial to ensure healthy adolescent brain development.
The part of the brain that is located above the eyes, the brain’s “stop system” is responsible for controlling impulsive behaviors. It weighs the consequences of actions so that a person can make rational decisions.
This part of the brain is one of the last parts to fully develop, and doesn’t reach maturity until the age of 25. Therefore, adolescents lack the wiring in their brains to reconsider behaviors that are too risky.
Drugs and alcohol further impair a person’s ability to make decisions. Combining these chemicals with an adolescent brain that is not able to weigh consequences can be harmful.
Late adolescence, before the brain is fully matured, is the peak time for developing a dependence to these chemicals.
Heavy drug and alcohol use during times of critical brain development may cause permanent changes in the way the brain works and responds to rewards and consequences.
Therefore, it is critical to address a developing substance use problem as early as possible.
What Can I Do?
It is not your fault that your child may have a problem, but you can get them help so their problems do not result in something more serious. Jackson has a variety of programs available for children, including classes, outpatient treatment, and residential treatment. Call us today and we can help you determine what’s best for you and your child.
Here are a few things you can do to reduce the risk:
Be an involved parent—Research shows that parental support, monitoring and involvement in a child’s life is an important protective factor against adolescent drug and alcohol use. Involvement in a child’s school reduces behavioral and academic problems and also helps parents know their children’s friends and their friends’ parents. This helps parents connect and network with other parents in monitoring their own children’s activities as well as those of their peer group.
Open and honest communication—Open, honest, and respectful family discussions about behavioral expectations and consequences can reduce the risk of adolescent drug and alcohol use. These conversations should include attitudes and family rules about drugs and alcohol.
Get the help you need—The majority of us have had a family member or a close friend who suffers from addiction. You may be suffering yourself. When this happens it is important to get professional help.
Early access to help—Early evaluation and treatment can help reduce the risk of your child developing more serious problems.
If there is a teen or child in your life that you are concerned about, please call us today at 712-234-2300 or 1-800-472-9018 to get them the help they need.