treatment & Recovery

Substance use disorder

Addiction, also referred to as a substance use disorder, is a complex disease of the brain and body that is manifested by compulsive use of one or more substances. Addiction has serious, harmful effects on one’s health and personal relationships. People with addiction have an intense desire to use a certain substance, such as alcohol or drugs, to the point that it takes over their life. There’s no simple answer as to why someone becomes addicted and no single factor determines whether a person will become addicted to drugs. However, people can recover from addiction and lead normal, productive lives.

Risk factors that can lead to addiction

Risk factors that contribute to addiction can be biological or environmental, or combinations of both. A person’s genes, age, and gender play a role in their risk of drug experimentation and addiction. Environmental factors that can contribute to someone’s risk of drug abuse and addiction include home and family life, social stressors, availability of drugs, and peer influence.

Drug abuse in teens

Research shows that drug abuse usually begins in adolescence. There are several reasons for this. For one, the parts of the brain that control judgment, self-control, and future planning do not fully mature until young adulthood. As a result, the teen brain is wired for risk-taking and experimenting.

Your teen might have a substance use disorder if they are unable to control their use, it interferes with daily life, or involves erratic behavior. If left untreated, addiction only becomes more severe, disabling, and life-threatening. But know that all substance use disorders are treatable regardless of whether they are mild, moderate, or severe. The earlier you intervene and take the steps necessary to help your teen or other loved one, the better.

Substance use treatment

When it comes to treatment, there is no “one size fits all” approach. Treatment for substance use disorder can take place in inpatient or outpatient settings and at varying degrees of intensity. A doctor might recommend individual counseling with a psychologist, psychiatrist, or addiction counselor. They may also recommend special rehabilitation and/or treatment programs including self-help groups for kids and families. Teens with co-existing mental health disorders will more than likely be given a treatment plan that addresses those conditions as well.

Seeking help for your teen

Whether your teen has just begun experimenting with alcohol or drugs, or they are in the later stages of addiction, it’s never the wrong time to seek help. If you notice signs of substance use or abuse in your teen, it’s important to address them immediately.

For help locating a provider, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) maintains and manages the most comprehensive searchable database of treatment providers across the country. You can reach their helpline at 800-662-4357. 

If you or your teen are struggling with mental health or substance use issues, FirstLink’s 2-1-1 helpline is available 24/7 to connect you to the services you need. Also, be sure to check out our Crisis Roadmap to learn about other community resources available to support you and your family.