According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration with the federal government, about 2.8 million young people between the ages of 12 and 17 suffered a major depressive episode during the previous 12 months. The agency further estimates that substance abuse and mental health issues will be the number one reason for disabilities globally by 2020. These serious health problems lead to further chronic issues, such as heart disease and diabetes. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that about 60 percent of all substance abusers, including adolescents, suffer from a mental disorder.
Mental capacity continues to develop as a young person matures, which can continue into the 20s. Substance abuse during this time especially affects the brain. In addition, mental illnesses often arise during this sensitive time frame. When a teen does not know how to cope with mental challenges, she is especially susceptible to self-medicating, increasing the risk for co-occurring conditions
Recognizing the Symptoms of Substance Abuse
The signs of substance abuse often overlap with mental health symptoms, so determining if your teen is abusing alcohol or drugs or if she is suffering from a mental health disorder can challenge even the most attentive parent. You can ask your daughter pointed questions about drinking and using drugs and watch her reaction. While you need to reassure her that you are supporting her and looking out for her best interests, you need to prepare to take action and seek professional help if you notice the following:
- Wearing long sleeves even in warmer temperatures to hide track marks
- A decline in hygiene
- Ashes or burns on lips or fingers from burnt roaches
- Sucking on mints or chewing gum to mask breath odors
- Smell of smoke on clothes or in a vehicle or the presence of alcohol- or drug-paraphernalia.
- Using drops to manage a runny nose or red eyes
- An increase in tickets for driving or dents in the vehicle
- Secretive behaviors
- Increased appetite
- Rowdy behavior
- Emotional roller coasters
- Inappropriate laughter
- Lack of coordination
- Overly tired
- Resentful and defensive
- Lack of motivation
- Changing friendships
- Lack of interest in hobbies, sports or other activities
- Nosebleeds or other nasal issues
- A run-down immune system
- Serious fluctuations in weight
- Missing prescription medications or alcohol and
- Disappearing money.
Recognizing the Symptoms of Depression
Since teen emotions fluctuate, parents might struggle to recognize the signs of depression in their daughter. While some young people mope or seem sad, other depressed teens become angry over minor incidents. More serious indicators of depression include violence, substance abuse or self-harm.
Other indicators of teen depression follow:
- Fluctuating sleep patterns
- Weight changes
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Body aches and pains and
- Difficulty focusing.
Teen Bipolar Disorder and Addiction
Bipolar disorder is characterized by severe emotional swings between extremely happy, productive moods and depressed, inactive moods.
Bipolar disorder means that a teen cycles through extreme mood swings, and the child will act like two different people. She will go through a manic phase, with extreme emotional highs and erratic behaviors and then a depressed phase, with hopelessness, suicidal thoughts and fluctuating sleeping and eating habits.
Managing Depression, Anxiety, Bi-Polar Disorder and Substance Abuse
Since the symptoms for both illnesses overlap, both must be treated together so that the two diseases do not feed off each other, resulting in a vicious cycle. Data shows that just under 13 percent of teens struggle with an anxiety disorder. However, only one in five of these young people are treated.
Anxiety disorders might develop during adolescence. While you might wonder if your teen is just exhibiting normal teen behaviors, an anxiety disorder means that he or she will feel overwhelmed with worry and unable to function. They might drink to calm their nerves, but this will only provide temporary relief. The sooner that a teen receives treatment for their anxiety disorder, the better the results.
Continuum of Care
According to SAMHSA, experts generally recognize the necessity for a continuum of care that addresses these critical public health matters. This model demonstrates increased intervention levels, based on the individual’s personal needs.
- Promotion/Education – At this stage, individuals receive information on the related topics. Classroom education can effectively teach coping strategies, teaching teens to make wise choices or to stop self-destructive behaviors before they spiral out of control.
- Prevention – Sometimes incorporated with promotion strategies, prevention further minimizes the risks of mental health or behavioral health problems. For example, one avenue of prevention might involve group discussions to process feelings after a community loss. Further prevention approaches include community involvement, such as eliminating the sale of alcohol at a convenience store near a local high school, resulting in less alcohol consumption. Since the community focuses on a wider group of individuals, these strategies can impact more people.
Community coalitions effectively address public health concerns, including teen mental health and substance abuse. These diverse groups with separate interests cooperate for the betterment of their communities and generally include grassroots effort. The federal government recognizes the viability of sustaining community coalitions over time.
- Treatment – Treatment addresses personal mental health or substance abuse issues, usually in an intentional setting.
- Recovery – Recovery services help the person maintain sobriety and lead healthy lives as productive members of society.
Addressing Co-Occurring Disorders with Teen Addiction
Treatment facilities that work with teens might not address co-occurring disorders. In others words, they might treat substance abuse or mental health issues but not both. However, both problems should be addressed simultaneously in order to avoid relapse and maintain mental health.
Even when you find a facility that does treat both conditions, many of these use a 12-step program, which focuses on confronting chronic behaviors. However, an aggressive approach might upset teens with mental health issues, causing setbacks and delays in recovery. Instead, look for a facility that uses positive social connections. Teens benefit from emotional support as they learn new coping skills that will eventually help them overcome their struggles.