How Adolescent Abuse Becomes Adult Addiction

Highest Standards, Nationally Recognized:

adolescent looking away from camera

A person’s teenage years are a primetime of potential influences. A supportive teacher can inspire students to achieve their dreams. Participating in a sport or extracurricular program can foster a needed sense of teamwork. A life-changing experience could occur at any moment. Unfortunately, this significant situation could be the invitation to experiment with drinking or using drugs.

Direct damage to adulthood

In a 2005 study conducted by Julia D. Grant, Ph.D., and fellow researchers from Washington University, Boston University, and Saint Louis University, results show that the substance-related decisions made in adolescence can predict future disordered behavior. Observing twins before and after adulthood, the team found that early and regular drinking in youth was associated with marijuana use, alcohol dependence, and the abuse of other drugs as adults.

Other indirect consequences

In addition to direct correlations, substance use as a teenager can cause a slippery slope of detrimental decisions and behaviors. As these consequences begin to build over time, they can also lead to similar challenges decades down the line. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, these related ramifications include:

  • Academics: As a child or teen begins to spend greater amounts of time abusing substances, his or her performance in school will suffer. Getting a well-paid job is based on completing higher levels of education. If drug or alcohol use prevent this form happening, a troubled teen will most likely struggle financially as an adult
  • Physical health: Many complications could arise from teen substance abuse. Prolonged or extreme alcohol consumption is linked to liver damage and opiate use has a significantly high rate of overdose. Furthermore, intoxication and other mind-altered states caused by substance use are heavily correlated with risky behavior. One car accident could prevent a teen from reaching adulthood.
  • Delinquency and criminal activity: Along with engaging in high-risk activities, substance use is also tied to illegal actions. Research conducted by the National Institute of Justice determined that positive drug tests in teens were strongly associated with drug-related arrests and even other crimes involving violence and property damage. Due to the stigma attached to both drug use and crime, those incarcerated at a young age can start a cycle of unemployment, recidivism, and addiction.

It is never too late for treatment

Effective education by both parents and schools about addiction is a strong preventative measure against these various consequences. However, even if an adolescent has begun a self-destructive habit, there is still hope to get back on track. A 1994 study from the University of San Diego examined 142 teens two years after completing substance abuse treatment and found that teens who remained abstinent and were less involved in substance use displayed markedly better functioning.






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