Is Your Teen at Heightened Risk for Addiction?
Imagine this. You are watching 20 teenagers studying in a classroom, or athletes playing on a field, or cheerleaders tumbling in a gym, or club members participating in any other extracurricular activity.
According to national statistics, at least four of them are using illicit drugs or drinking alcohol. However, only one of them is addicted to or dependent upon these substances.
You may be thinking, why can some adolescents use drugs without becoming addicted, while others cannot? There is no cut-and-dried answer to this question, but researchers have discovered numerous risk factors which increase the chances of a teen becoming an addict.
Here are 13 such factors:
- Family history. There is a distinct genetic component to the probability of addiction which scientists are still trying to figure out, but a family history of substance abuse is a red flag when trying to predict teen addiction.
- Prenatal exposure to drugs. Pregnant women who use illicit drugs run the risk of passing that habit onto their offspring, who in turn are more likely to abuse drugs themselves once they reach adolescence.
- Early aggressive behavior. Toddlers who frequently exhibit behaviors like biting, kicking, pushing, grabbing, or hitting when they become frustrated may be more susceptible to falling victim to drug abuse later in life.
- Childhood trauma. Many teen addicts experienced some type of severe trauma when they were younger – anything from witnessing a car crash to suffering from physical or sexual abuse by an adult.
- Early introduction. Kids who first start smoking, drinking, or using illicit drugs prior to their teenage years are more apt to become dependent on those substances when they reach adolescence.
- Impulse control issues. Much like early childhood aggression, teens who have trouble managing their impulses and/or acting without thinking are liable to succumb to the temptation of illicit substances and become addicted.
- Economic hardship. Teens do not become addicted because they live in low-income households. In contrast, substance abuse correlates with many aspects of poverty, such as being homeless, receiving welfare, and/or living in households earning less than $20,000 a year.
- Peer pressure. It is a cliché because it is true. If your teen hangs out with other kids his or her age who are drinking or consuming drugs, he or she is more likely to experiment with these substances and become dependent on them.
- Poor parent-child relationships. This can run the gamut from little parental supervision or not spending time with a divorced parent to a parent-teenager relationship that is characterized by ambivalence, mistrust, confrontation, or abuse.
- Stress. Even highly-motivated teens who may be worrying about grades, achievements, or college can become addicted to drugs; this also applies to adolescents who are struggling in school either academically or socially.
- Abundant availability. Though hard to control, simply living in a household or neighborhood where drugs can be easily accessed (or in an area with a drug-infested school or few recreational options for children) can raise the odds of teen addiction.
- Mental health problems. Teens who are suffering from depression, ADHD, anxiety, or any other psychiatric, psychological, or emotional disorder are more disposed to becoming addicted than adolescents who do not deal with these issues.
- Sexual orientation. Teenagers who are gay, lesbian, or transgender have higher rates of substance abuse and addiction than their heterosexual peers.
It is important to remember that the presence of one or more of these risk factors does not automatically mean that a teenager will become dependent on alcohol or drugs, nor does their absence completely insulate the teen from becoming addicted. However, identifying these risk factors can be helpful for parents, teachers, school administrators, and other adults in designing customized strategies to help prevent adolescents from becoming that one teen in 20 who falls victim to substance abuse addiction.
If you are worried that your teenager might be having problems with drugs or alcohol, do not wait. Contact us today to see how we can help.