Substance abuse impacts the lives of teenagers each year, particularly when teenagers also have a mental health disorder. Recognizing illicit drug use in teens and the risks included can reduce the possibility of a loved one abusing drugs or help identify the signs of substance abuse. When a teenager has ADHD, parents should be aware of the possibility for illicit drug abuse.
Risk of Substance Abuse in Teenagers with ADHD
According to the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, roughly 35 percent of teenagers with ADHD admit to substance use and abuse. Among teenagers in the general population without ADHD, substance abuse rates are roughly 20 percent. Teenagers and children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder have a greater risk of substance abuse when compared to the general population. Furthermore, they are more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol at an earlier age than their peers. The National Institutes on Health reports that teenagers with ADHD abuse drugs or alcohol roughly 1 to 2 years earlier than their peers. Many individuals with ADHD abuse alcohol as early as 13 years old, which is 1.5 years earlier than peers without the disorder.
Although studies have determined that ADHD increases the risk of substance abuse and early use of illicit substances, it has not identified a specific reason for the early experimentation or abuse of drugs. The National Intitutes on Health states that several theories provide some insight into the possibilities, but no single factor is the exact cause of the early abuse of drugs or alcohol.
Theories related to substance abuse in teenagers with ADHD include:
- Risk-taking behaviors associated with the disorder
- Curiousity and impulsivity
- Self-medicating by using illicit substances
- The gateway drug theory
Teenagers with ADHD are more likely to engage in impulsive and risky behaviors. Furthermore, some individuals attempt to self-medicate by using illicit substances or engaging in behaviors that are actually very dangerous to personal health and well-being.
Health Risks of Substance Abuse
Abusing illicit substances impacts the body and mind in a negative way. When a teenager is diagnosed with ADHD, parents should be aware of the risks so that it is possible to recognize substance abuse and encourage treatment before the situation gets out of control.
The physical health risks associated with addiction and substance abuse include:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Organ damage and organ failure
- Risk of cancer
- Contracting a disease like HIV or hepatitis
- Risk of overdose and death
Although the physical health risks raise concerns, it is not the only problem that arises. Individuals also face complications with their mental health and their substance abuse impacts the lives of family members or loved ones.
The mental health risks associated with substance abuse include:
- Making the symptoms of ADHD worse
- Developing depression
- Developing anxiety
- Bringing out underlying mental health disorders
Since the teenagers already have ADHD, the primary problem that can arise in relation to mental health and well-being is the possibility of worsening the symptoms. Illicit substance abuse makes the symptoms more severe and makes treatment more complicated.
The ways that substance abuse impacts the lives of others include:
- Injuries and health conditions in an unborn child
- Increased risk of spreading diseases
- Violent behaviors associated with some substances
- Second-hand exposure to the substance
Substance abuse impacts the entire family in a negative way and it makes the symptoms of ADHD more complicated and difficult to treat. Fortunately, it is possible to encourage a loved one to recover with the right treatment plan.
A mental health disorder like ADHD complicates addiction treatment, so it is important to select the right treatment plan for personal goals. Due to the complexities of the situation, an inpatient treatment program is usually a good choice for many teenagers.
The primary reasons to consider an inpatient program include:
- One-on-one counseling sessions
- Appropriate treatments for co-occurring disorders
- Intensive treatment plans
- Personalized treatments
- Constant supervision
- Appropriate medical treatments are available
An inpatient treatment program is an intensive plan of action that focuses on the needs of each individual. Since the teenager stays in the treatment facility, he or she has constant supervision and medical professionals are available for any problems that arise. The treatment program also provides the opportunity to focus on recovery goals without any distractions.
Treating an addiction is complicated when a teenager has ADHD because several factors contribute to his or her substance abuse. Fortunately, an inpatient treatment program offers realistic solutions that can help a loved one recover and start working on realistic long-term goals.