Healthbeat 4: Treating addiction in adolescents

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, almost 70 percent of high school students will have tried alcohol, half will have taken an illegal drug and nearly 40 percent will have smoked a cigarette by the time they are seniors.

"A kid could be hanging out with someone at school, and says hey try this, and someone says O.K.," said Brenda Cain, nursing supervisor at Jackson Recovery Centers, "And then they’re addicted. It could happen that quick."

Joy Gonnerman, a prevention specialist at Jackson Recovery Centers, says there are a lot of reason why teens try alcohol and drugs.

However, she says there’s one misconception.

"…everybody is doing it," said Joy Gonnerman, prevention specialist at Jackson Recovery Center, "Because they’re not." 

Gonnerman says teaching kids about critical thinking skills is key — including passive, assertive and aggressive voice. 

"We talk about the idea that you’re a person," said Gonnerman, "Your thoughts [and] ideas have value, so don’t let someone tell you what you should be doing. If they’re asking you to do something that you’re uncomfortable with, it’s O.K. to say no."

Since the brain isn’t done developing till our mid-20s or even early 30s, experts want to intervene with addicted teens as soon as possible before there’s any cognitive damage.

"So with adults sometimes when they start using as adolescents they kind of get stunted emotions at that age," said Cain, "And they have a lot more physical cormorbidities that go along with the addictions. The adolescents have more legal consequences, sometimes doing poor in school and not graduating on time and things like that."

Gonnerman says there are high and low risk choices associated with becoming an addict.

And since addiction is a brain disease, knowing what those choices are and what happens if you cross that line is critical. 

"Once you’re hooked on it you’re always going to be an addict," said Gonnerman, "That’s where you live. You live in recovery. But it’d be really better to not get to that point."

Jackson Recovery Centers offers impatient, outpatient and impatient crisis stabilization programs. 

Cain says if you notice a change in your child’s behavior, interests, or peer groups give them a call and they will set up an evaluation.

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