About one-fifth of teens will use prescription medicines inappropriately by their senior year in high school, about half will use marijuana, and about two-thirds will try alcohol. Ten percent of alcoholic drinks in the U.S. are consumed by underage drinkers—some as young as 12. How do you know when it’s time for your child to enter a young adult rehab program?
The good news is that most of this teen drug use is limited both in its extent and in the immediate harm it does. Nonetheless, there’s always risk of addiction, overdose, and/or serious accidents from DUI or other under-the-influence behaviors. Teenagers, and even young adults in their early twenties, are already more prone to recklessness than their elders, which multiplies the chances of intoxication and its worst consequences.
When Drug Use Starts Young
Drug use also can literally stunt brain development, which normally reaches full intellectual maturity around age 25. If regular drug use (as opposed to once-or-twice experimentation) begins much earlier, potential long-term consequences include:
Possibility of lasting brain damage. A brain forced to regularly process intoxicating substances, while simultaneously trying to finish “growing up,” may never fully complete the latter process. Many adults who used drugs as teenagers still struggle harder than their peers with self-control and problem-solving.
Increased risk of addiction. The younger someone starts using drugs, the greater the risk that “social” or “recreational” use will turn into substance use disorder. Many addiction-treatment clients recall first trying a drug before they were 15 years old.
Increased risk of severe chronic illness later in life. The earlier the use of harmful drugs begins, the more time it has to do serious physical damage and eventually cause such dangerous illnesses as heart disease, hypertension, and cancer.
Addiction Rehab for Young Adults
In the present, over 400,000 U.S. teens under age 18 are addicted to alcohol. And over 14 percent (plus one-third to one-half as many young adults in the 18–25 age range), have prescription drug addictions.
Help is available. If you’re seeking addiction treatment for your child, look for a young adult rehab program that understands the unique needs of the under-25 demographic:
Younger adults are highly sensitive emotionally. Do counselors know how to respond to outbursts of anger or tears?
Younger adults find long-term thinking particularly difficult. Do counselors know how to explain the pitfalls of instant gratification, and the importance of planning ahead, in ways teenagers can relate to their immediate lives?
Younger adults have different strengths than their elders. Are teen patients encouraged to make positive use of their natural resilience, love of challenge, and capacity for independent thinking?
Younger adults have different physical needs. Remember the saying, “Early to bed, and early to rise, makes a man healthy, and wealthy, and wise”? Well, the opposite holds true for someone who’s not quite a man (or woman) physically and mentally: they need extra sleep to conserve energy for maturing, and they take naturally to late “bed-and-rise” hours. Caring for physical health is vital to addiction rehab: does your chosen young adult rehab program understand teens’ unique needs in sleep and other physical-health areas?
Closing Note to Parents
If you suspect your young adult child has a substance use disorder, don’t pounce on them with a flurry of accusations. This puts them on the defensive and, in their minds, only gives them further reason to use drugs as an escape from a world where no one understands. The first thing you should do is get advice from a professional counselor and an addiction-treatment center (preferably sources experienced in working with young adults) on planning your next move. Expect that next move to include getting long-term counseling for yourself and the rest of the family, whether or not the person with the addiction cooperates immediately.
If your child is over 18, you can’t legally force him or her to get treatment: what you can do is show respect and empathy, assure them you’ll support them through treatment and long-term recovery, and set firm relationship boundaries to avoid enabling the addiction. It’s best to begin with this approach even if your child is still a minor in your custody. Everyone who completes addiction detox has to eventually take personal responsibility for staying sober, and they’ll be less willing if they harbor resentful memories of being bullied into treatment.
Teens do eventually “grow up” in every sense of the word: we can best encourage this by respecting them as the almost-adults they already believe they are.
Young Adult Rehab Program in Hemet, California
HVRC’s Young Adult program is designed for older teens and other young adults, ages 18–25. Using educational and therapeutic approaches this age group relates to, we work with patient and family to eliminate addiction and build a healthy future. If you’re worried that your college-age child has a drug problem, contact us today for more information.