At Lakeside we deal with teenagers who have a number of emotional and behavioral challenges. Often, we find that substance abuse is part of their coping strategies. We know that this is not healthy and recent research also suggests that it is extremely risky.
In a recent article on the Child Mind Institute website, Caroline Miller explores some of the liabilities of our kids using drugs and alcohol to help the cope with some of their emotional challenges. Here are some excerpts from this article:
When teenagers are struggling with emotional problems, they often turn to alcohol or drug use to help them manage painful or difficult feelings. In this they are not different from adults. But because adolescent brains are still developing, the results of teenage “self-medication” can be more immediately problematic.
In the short term, substance use can help alleviate unwanted mental health symptoms like hopelessness, anxiety, irritability and negative thoughts. But in the longer term it exacerbates them, and often ends in abuse or dependence. Substance use escalates from experimentation to a serious disorder much faster in adolescents than it does in adults, and that progression is more likely to happen in kids with mental health disorders than in other kids.
“The rule of thumb is that almost half of kids with mental health disorders, if they’re not treated, will end up having a substance use disorder,” explains Sarper Taskiran, MD, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at the Child Mind Institute. A 2016 study of 10,000 adolescents found that two-thirds of those who developed alcohol or substance use disorders had experienced at least one mental health disorder.
Substance use also interferes with treatment for mental health disorders and worsens the long-term prognosis for a teenager struggling with one. How can we help these young people avoid the substance use trap when the deck seems to be stacked against them?
This article explains why it is easier for kids to become addicted and how substance abuse is detrimental to their treatment and recovery. The volatility of drug use for kids can have significant impact to their ability to deal with their mental health issues and makes it difficult for those who are attempting to provide treatment for them.