Do Adolescents Use Substances to Cope With Difficult Emotions?

Teen boy abusing substances to cope with difficult emotionsTrauma and difficult life circumstances are an unfortunate reality for many of our teens; the National Child Traumatic Stress Network states that adolescents who have been exposed to these types of events are more likely to abuse substances in an attempt to alleviate some of their distress. Self-medication is a common factor in adolescent substance abuse – especially if friends, parents or other family members are seen self-medicating as well. Some of the risk factors for adolescent substance abuse are:

  • Poor academic performance
  • Skipping school
  • Isolating themselves from friends or family
  • Becoming defiant or hostile at school and/or home
  • Acting secretive
  • No longer having an interest in hobbies they once used to enjoy
  • And more

A 2017 study published in the journal PLOS One found from a survey of 6,266 students from 99 primary, middle and high schools that self-medication occurs amongst 45.8% of adolescents. For many of these students, pain relievers, cold or cough medicines, analgesics and antacids were the most prevalent substances abused – and at this age, many teens do not properly read drug labels or instructions appropriately, which place them at increased risk for dependency and overdose.

Adolescents are at a unique time period where they’re likely to go through hormonal changes which could raise feelings of depression, anxiety, confusion and more. Rather than your teen struggling with these changes alone, they should have a safe space where they can work through their concerns. Practice open communication with your teen. If you can see that they’re struggling, provide them with resources for them to go to for additional support. Show your teens what it means to work through difficult emotions in healthy ways rather than through self-medication. If your teen is abusing substances, contact the Adolescent Recovery of Cumberland Heights today.

Adolescent Recovery of Cumberland Heights (ARCH) originally began in 1985 when there were few other adolescent programs like it in the country. In 2019, we’re expanding our continuum of services with ARCH Academy, a unique program that offers 60 days to 6 months of residential care to adolescent boys ages 14-18 who are struggling with alcohol and/or drug addiction. This new program stems from Cumberland Heights, which has been around since 1966, and is located in Kingston Springs, Tennessee. The adolescent age is a critical time for development, making this a crucial time of positive influence. For more information, call us today at 1-800-646-9998.