Addiction in Adolescents and Emerging Adults

Our Program for Adolescents and Young Adults

Doctors Glazer, Megwinoff, and Bassett have collaborated to develop a special program for chemical dependency in teenagers and young adults. Individual and family therapy are integrated in a way to help treat the addiction and reinforce the family unit. Medications may be prescribed for withdrawal symptoms and to help treat underlying symptoms of depression or anxiety if present. Groups can be highly effective in this population, our groups and psychotherapy use evidence-based therapies including Supportive, CBT and DBT techniques.

Traditional treatment models for adults which are based on breaking down defenses, "the disease model" and "humility" can be ineffective and even destructive in this vulnerable population. Adolescents and young adults are just forming their identities and do not respond well to being told there is something defective about themselves. Our unique program helps to stop the self-destructive behavior of addiction, while at the same time emphasizing our patients' strengths and reinforcing the positives of their developing selves.

 

What are the risk factors for addiction in teenagers?

It's common for teens to experimentation with alcohol and drugs. However, most teenagers don't often see the link between their actions today and the effects later on in life. They also tend to feel indestructible and immune to problems. Studies have shown that using alcohol and tobacco at a young age has negative health effects. Some teens will experiment and stop, or use occasionally, without a problem. But others will develop an addiction that requires the use of more dangerous drugs. These can cause significant harm to themselves and others. 

It is hard to know which teens will only experiment and which will develop serious addictions. 

Those teenagers at risk for developing serious alcohol and drug problems include those:

  • Who are depressed
  • Who feel like they don't fit in 
  • Who have low self-esteem
  • With a family history of substance abuse 

What types of substances do teenagers abuse?

Teenagers abuse a variety of legal and illegal substances. Legally available drugs include alcohol, prescribed medications, inhalants (fumes from glues, aerosols, and solvents) and over-the-counter cough, cold, sleep, and diet medications. The most common used illegal drugs are marijuana, cocaine, crack, speed, LSD, PCP, opiates, heroin and designer drugs (Ecstasy). Illegal drugs are on the rise, especially among younger teens. The average age of first marijuana use is 14 and alcohol use may start before age 12. The use of marijuana and alcohol in high school has become very common. Drug use is associated with many other negative consequences, including school failure, poor judgment, which may put teens at risk for accidents, violence, unplanned and unsafe sex and suicide. 

What are the warning signs of teenage substance abuse?

The warning signs may include:

Physical: Fatigue, health complaints, red/glazed eyes and a lasting cough. 
Emotional: personality change, sudden mood changes, irritability, irresponsible behavior, low self-esteem, poor judgment, depression and a general lack of interest. 
Family: inciting arguments, breaking rules or withdrawing from the family. 
School: decreased interest, negative attitude, failing grades, absences, truancy and discipline problems. 
Social problems: new friends who are not interested in home and school activities, problems with the law and changes in dress and music. 

How can parents help their teenagers overcome an addiction?

Parents can help prevent their children from substance abuse by talking to them about drugs, enabling open communication, role modeling for responsible behavior and recognizing potential problems. The first step is to discuss the use and possible substance abuse with their teenager. A parent with concerns should consult a physician to rule out physical causes of the warning signs. This should be followed by a comprehensive evaluation by a child/adolescent psychiatrist or mental health professional. 

Contact Fifth Avenue Psychiatry

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3 East 85th Street
New York NY 10028
T. 212-734-0506

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