The teenage years can be challenging. Navigating through puberty, peer pressure and tackling raging hormones in addition to balancing school and home life can seem very stressful in the moment. Teenager’s brains are not fully developed and they are more at risk for rash decision-making, which partially is the reason why teenagers engage in risky behaviors such as drug use during this time. Studies have shown that by the 8th grade, 28% of adolescents have consumed alcohol, 15% have smoked cigarettes, and 16.5% have used marijuana. Anabolic steroids, marijuana, opioids and Adderall are commonly used in the teenager population and studies have shown that more teens die from prescription drugs than heroin/cocaine combined. Prescription drugs include opioids, benzodiazepines and Adderall and 60% of teenagers who abuse prescription drugs get them free from friends and relatives.

Addiction is a chronic disorder and teenagers are more prone to drug addiction due to their developing brains, genetic predisposition and peer pressure. Behavioral tendencies, such as impulsivity, neurosis​​ or thrill-seeking traits, can prove to be early indicators of potential substance abuse in teenagers. Seeking professional treatment for substance abuse has been shown to have high success traits in the teenage population however there are many potential barriers to treatment, especially in the teenage population.

Peer Pressure

Teenagers are in a stage of their life where they are trying to find out who they are. They are constantly learning about themselves and are trying to determine where they fit in with society. Battling between gaining independence and living under their parents’ rules can be a difficult middle ground. Pressure from peers to look and act a certain way can create major interpersonal conflicts potentially leading to unhealthy behaviors such as unsafe sexual practices, substance abuse and eating disorders. Peer pressure can have a large impact on drug addiction treatment in a teenager. The impact of peer pressure during treatment is more profound in an outpatient setting than an inpatient one. In an outpatient program, the teen continues to live at home and interact with school, friends and family, while simultaneously working toward recovery through therapy and support group meetings. Teenagers may slip up at parties, at school or around their friends and the responsibility lies on the parent to make sure their teenager does not relapse that can create many challenges and stress at home.

Social isolation

Drug addiction treatment can create a lot of alone time resulting in social withdrawal and loneliness, which can trigger feelings of isolation and depression. This is especially true for inpatient treatment where teenagers are confined to the inpatient treatment center and are not able to have regular outside contact with their friends and family. Stepping away from a social life to enter a drug treatment program can create many initial problems in teenagers especially since they heavily rely on their friends during this life stage. Social isolation can result in lashing out and engaging in unstable emotions and behaviors however overtime with treatment, these feelings can change to optimism as they learn new healthy coping skills in recovery.

Lack of Parental Awareness

Many parents carry the mindset of “that will never happen to my child” as parents see their children as almost perfect beings. Additionally many parents are unaware of the signs and symptoms associated with addiction and they even keep bottles of prescription painkillers and anxiety medications in accessible areas around the house. Studies have shown that most parents lack the appropriate amount of concern and knowledge about drug use among their teenagers and as a result, professionals advise parents to be prepared, educated and overly cautious. Speaking to teenagers about drugs and alcohol at an early age has better outcomes and is advised among mental health professionals.