Are Teen Addiction Rates Really Rising?

Yes, addiction rates are on the rise across the U.S. Still, conflicting information in recent months might underscore the risk of addiction for teens. More on how to put addiction statistics in perspective here. Plus, what every parent should know about protecting their teen’s health.

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Teen Addiction Rates: What Every Parent Should Know About Protecting Their Teen’s Health

As a parent, you have likely come across conflicting information in recent months that leaves you confused about how serious the risk of addiction is for teens. Recently, the National Institute on Drug Abuse released the results of a study that shows a continued long-term decline in teen drug use that could cause you to feel a false sense of security. Indeed, the 2017 Monitoring the Future survey results show that drug use trends seem stable and have dropped slightly.

The downward trend in teen drug abuse is excellent news, but you must understand that addiction rates for teens are still continuing to rise. You can do your part to help reduce the risk of your teenager developing an addiction by understanding this information about the trends affecting your teen’s mental health. Here are six steps that you take to start protecting your teen from developing an addiction.

1. Filter Through the Data

While it is true that fewer kids are reporting that they have recently used drugs such as cocaine or opioids, these results do not necessarily shed any insight into how many kids who do use drugs might fall prey to addiction. You should also be aware that certain drugs are reported to have a higher rate of abuse among teens.

For instance, the survey conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that marijuana use increased among high school seniors, and those living in states with some form of legalization were at higher risk for trying the drug for the first time. Unfortunately, people who begin using marijuana at an early age are at greater risk for developing an addiction. You should also be aware that the rate of kids using marijuana on a daily basis remains relatively stable. This means that those who do choose to use the drug are using it on a regular basis.

2. Look Beyond the Drug Statistics

Today’s teenagers are also at risk of becoming addicted to behaviors or items that go far beyond just drugs and alcohol. For instance, smartphone addiction rates are on the rise, and Medical News Today reports that over 90 percent of teenagers report using their smartphone daily. Addiction rates for teens also reflect growing numbers of kids being addicted to other forms of technology abuse.

For instance, teenagers who spend more than an hour or two playing video games and begin to limit their real life social activities may have a gaming addiction. Alternatively, young teens are now finding it difficult to curtail their social media habits. Although it can be hard to accept as a parent, teenagers may deal with gambling, sexual and self-injury addictions that all slip under the radar when you read reports about drug abuse statistics.

3. Reduce the Risk Factors

With so many different types of addiction today, parents face serious challenges when it comes to protecting their child’s safety. However, you can retain some control over your child’s health by knowing the risk factors that often lead to teens falling prey to addiction.

For example, teens with low self-esteem are more likely to try drugs for the first time or engage in behaviors such as self-injury. Help your child build a strong sense of self by providing them with wholesome activities that build their confidence. For instance, you could get them involved in sports or encourage them to join the drama team at school. When your kid has a healthy outlet for handling negative emotions they are less likely to turn to addictive behaviors for relief.

4. Set Healthy Boundaries

Your teen learns what constitutes a healthy lifestyle at home. Spend time talking to your teen about the importance of not using drugs or alcohol, and let them know what the consequences are if they are caught engaging in illicit behavior. You may also find it helpful to give your child a way out of difficult circumstances where peer pressure occurs. For instance, you can tell your teen that you will pick them up anywhere and anytime that they need to get away from other kids who are using drugs.

To prevent other addictions from developing, set boundaries that pertain to your child’s online activities. Limit how much time your teen is allowed to spend on the phone, and consider setting up a place for them to leave their electronics overnight so that they are not tempted to go online when they should be asleep.

5. Recognize the Signs of Addiction

Early treatment is essential for teens that do develop an addiction. For this reason, you should be alert for signs of addiction that you might see in your teen or one of their peers. Typically, the signs of addiction may vary depending upon the type of activity or drug that your teen is engaging in or using.

For example, a teen that uses cocaine may exhibit excitability or extreme mood swings, while teenagers who abuse opiates may be more lethargic or begin to steal pills to avoid withdrawal symptoms that occur when they cannot obtain the drugs on their own. Teenagers who struggle with technology addictions may begin to spend more time online or drop friends that they used to spend time with in person.

While each type of addiction has specific symptoms, you will also find that certain signs of a problem go across all genres. For instance, kids who struggle with addiction may experience trouble at school such as skipping class or receiving lower grades. Trouble with the law may also occur if your teen is caught using drugs or stealing things to feed their habit. As addiction takes its toll on your teenager, you may also notice signs of other underlying mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.

6. Know How to Seek Help

When you notice that your teen may be dealing with addiction, it’s important to take action right away. Reach out to a treatment center that specializes in helping teens to arrange for an assessment. Often, professional assessments find that teens are dealing with more than one addiction, or your teen may be diagnosed with an underlying mental health condition. For the best chances at recovery, each addiction and coexisting mental health condition should be treated together.

Although teen drug use rates are stabilizing or declining in some cases, this should not cause you to believe that addiction rates are reflected in these figures. Sadly, teen addiction rates are continuing to rise, but you can prevent your teen from falling into these statistics by maintaining a watchful eye and knowing how to get help at the first sign of a problem.

About the author
Dr. Nalin is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist (PSY17766), a Certified Chemical Dependency Intervention Specialist and a Certified Youth Residential Treatment Administrator. Dr. Nalin is the Founder and Clinical Director of Paradigm Malibu and Paradigm San Francisco Adolescent Treatment Centers. He has been responsible for the direct care of young people at multiple institutions of learning including; The Los Angeles Unified School District, the University of California at San Diego, Santa Monica College, and Pacific University. He was instrumental in the development of the treatment component of Los Angeles County’s first Juvenile Drug Court, which now serves as a national model.
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