Adolescent substance results in a child’s inability to control emotions and impulses. Teens are particularly susceptible to substance use because adolescence is the stage of the greatest vulnerability to addiction. During adolescence, the parts of the brain that are so critical for judgment and self-regulation do not fully mature until people reach 21 to 25 years of age.
Factors that increase vulnerability to addiction include family history (presumably through genes and child-rearing practices), early exposure to drug use, exposure to high-risk environments (typically, socially stressful environments with poor familial and social supports and restricted behavioral alternatives and environments in which there is easy access to drugs and permissive normative attitudes toward drug taking). Certain mental illnesses (e.g., mood disorders, attention deficit–hyperactivity disorder, psychoses, and anxiety disorders) can also contribute to substance abuse.
After centuries of efforts to reduce addiction and its related costs by punishing addictive behaviors failed to produce adequate results, brain research has helped us better understand appropriate ways to address substance abuse in children ages 15-18.
Excessive absenteeism and tardiness
Withdrawal from friends and extra-curricular activities
Violent outbursts, fighting
Poor relationships with teachers and peers
Little motivation to pursue school success and/or graduation
Poor decision making, control, and self-regulation
Poor friendship choices
Poor eating habits
Seek therapy for child and family
Reduce stress and stressful environments
Allow child time with loving, caring adults
Limit access to drugs and alcohol
Encourage exercise and participation in age appropriate healthy social interactions
Change circle of friends
Meet with a trained/certified pediatric mental health care provider
Have pediatrician conduct a full physical
Meet with school to develop a plan that supports interventions
Continue to encourage and participate in child’s and family’s therapy
Advocate for public and school policies that promote prevention, intervention, and education
Take care of your health and limit your stress
Work with child to set and track progress of personal goals