Ninety percent of addiction begins in teen years.
Everyone has a different situation in regards to addiction. Therefore it is important consider that there are risk factors in teens to keep an eye out for. Risk factors can determine addictive tendencies and act as warning signs that may help identify and treat issues before they escalate. Paying close attention to your child’s behavior increases your chances of intervening early on.
We put together a list of common risk factors for teen drug use that can place an adolescent at a higher risk for developing addiction. Remember that these are only risk factors not definite causes of addiction.
A family history of addiction can place a teen at an increased risk for developing problems such as;
- Legal issues
If you believe addiction may run in your family, have a conversation with your child during their pre-teen years at the latest. Be open and honest with them about the effects it had on your loved one and how it affected your family.
You can discuss it in the same fashion you would discuss any other genetic disease, like heart disease or various forms of cancer. Talking about addiction can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be!
Children who have witnessed traumatic events such as the sudden death of a loved one, a form of abuse, or even a car accident are more at risk for substance abuse disorder later in life. In result, it’s crucial to recognize the signs, work through the pain, and develop healthy coping skills.
Therapy can be an effective way to help with understanding and connecting with past events. A counselor can help you and your child develop strategies for managing emotions in a positive and constructive way.
Children who take risks more frequently or have difficulty inhibiting their impulses are at higher risk for teen drug use. Most teens are drawn to the adrenaline rush of taking risks. However, it is important to know the difference of typical teenage behavior and taking something too far.
Mental Health Issues
Teens who struggle with regulating thoughts, emotions, and mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, or ADHD pose a risk for also developing a substance use problem. A good suggestion is to discuss this concern with a health professional to gain more insight.
Teens who feel they have nothing to do crave excitement or hate being alone are at risk for teen drug use. These are prime examples of those who can turn to substance use. Substances can give them something to do, fill a void, and provide instant gratification. If you feel your teen is not active enough, talk about what interests they have to help them be free of boredom.
Lack of Confidence
Teens on the shy side or who have low self-esteem report they are more likely to do things under the influence. Substance use provides them something in common with peers, and the pressure of doing or saying something stupid is not there because everyone will think they had too much of whatever they were using. When talking with your teen, remember there’s a difference between being shy and social anxiety.
A common risk factor for teen drug use is misinformation. The most avoidable (and most common) cause for substance use is when inaccurate information has been provided. There are always peers who claim they are an expert on certain substances and the effects of them. This false information can be quite dangerous because more often than not, the effects of these drugs are downplayed.
The best thing you can do for your child is to have a conversation with them about addiction and drugs.
First and foremost, foster an open and honest relationship so that your child feels comfortable enough to come to you with questions or concerns they may have about substances or mental health issues.
Next, teach them their family history and life experiences that make them more at risk early on. This information will always be in the back of their minds. Be mindful of possible outside influences that may be tempting your child to experiment with substances.
In summary, getting help early is key to making sure these influences and risk factors do not turn into a lifelong struggle with addiction. A therapist familiar with issues teens face is a great place to start.
Not all counselors specialize or can relate to teen and young adult challenges so be sure your counselor is the right fit. Forming a solid professional relationship with your chosen therapist is important so you can work together to help your child the best you are able.