Addiction Before 18
Parents are urged to keep an eye on their kids and to do all they can to keep them off drugs and away from alcohol while they are young. It is a warning that is given all the time, but now science and research show just how important this advice really is.
Kids Who Abuse Substances Become Addicts
Many people, even parents, assume that kids will be kids and if a teen needs to try their hand at drugs or alcohol for a short time, that’s just part of growing up. However, a study published this week by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University, suggests just the opposite. “The combination of adolescence, an American culture that glorifies and promotes substance use, and easy access to tobacco, alcohol and other drugs creates a perfect storm for our teens and for taxpayers,” said Jim Ramstad, of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse . “We no longer can justify writing off adolescent substance use as bad behavior, as a rite of passage or as kids just being kids. The science is too clear, the facts are too compelling, the health and social consequences are too devastating and the costs are simply too high.” (1)
This is because researchers found that people that use substances before the age of 18 are more likely to have an addiction problem as an adult. In fact, 90% of adults with an addiction problem started using before they were 18. Therefore, preventing our teens and young adults from trying drugs or alcohol will have lifelong benefits.
Developing Brains are Vulnerable
The reasons behind these findings have been explained by science. Adolescent’s brains are still developing, and substance abuse has greater effects on their immature brains. “Science tells us that the earlier we start to use, the greater the risk of becoming addicted. Adolescence is the critical period for starting to use drugs and acquiring addictions, [because] the part of the brain that is responsible for judgment, decision-making and impulse control isn’t completely developed. And because the teen brain isn’t completely developed, it’s more sensitive to the impact and damaging consequences of drugs. The drugs increase the chance that kids will take risks and have impaired judgment, and that in turn impairs development and increases the risk of addiction,” according to Susan Foster of CASA. (2)
Treatment for Adolescents
The CASA study makes it clear that we need to be doing more to keep our kids from trying drugs and alcohol. The report also makes it clear how important early intervention is for any parent that discovers their child is abusing substances. Treatment is available and very effective for teens, but parents don’t often think it is necessary. In order to give them the best chance at a healthy adulthood, however, parents should consider getting professional help for their teen.