Muir Wood therapist, David Laing

Dangers of Going Untreated

Obtaining help for a teen’s substance abuse issue isn’t easy. Parents might worry about what friends, neighbors and family members might say when the news of the addiction comes to light. Parents might also worry about the cost of care, and the impact that treatment for the addiction might have on other members of the family. It might be tempting to simply ignore the problem and hope that it’s something the child will outgrow in time. Unfortunately, a wealth of evidence suggests that addictions don’t tend to abate on their own, and that ignoring an addiction issue could lead to serious problems for teens. These are just a few of the consequences a teen might face if the issue isn’t handled in the proper fashion.

Social Dysfunction

Teens can be impulsive, taking risks and pushing the boundaries in ways they might never consider in adulthood. Addictive drugs can make an already impulsive teen all the more willing to take a chance, and tragedy could quickly ensue. Teens might engage in risky sexual behaviors, get in fights, or stumble into nasty neighborhoods and become victims of crime. Teens might also hop into cars with others who have been drinking or using drugs, and they could get into life-threatening car accidents as a result.

Using alcohol prior to age 21 and using drugs at any age are illegal activities, and teens who are caught with these substances could face stiff prison sentences and other intense legal consequences. These kinds of interventions could significantly derail a teen’s plans for the future, and it could be hard for them to get back on track.

Health Consequences

Addictive drugs fight against the body’s natural defenses, and in time, addicted people need to take very large quantities of the substances they’re addicted to in order to feel the changes they once could experience with very small doses. During the late stages of an addiction, a teen could be walking a fine line between feeling intoxicated and taking a fatal dose of drugs. According to the Department of Justice, drug overdose deaths among those ages 15 to 19 rose 91 percent in last decade. Teens who don’t receive care for an addiction could be part of this alarming statistic.

Addictive drugs and/or alcohol can also cause damage to vital organs including the:

  • Lungs
  • Heart
  • Digestive tract
  • Kidneys
  • Liver

Some types of drugs can cause damage due to the method in which they enter the body. For example, teens who abuse drugs via needle might find it hard to obtain needles in the community, and they might begin to share with other addicted teens they know. This sharing could put them at risk for blood-borne diseases, such as hepatitis or HIV/AIDS. According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 10 new HIV infections worldwide is caused by injecting drugs, showing just how dangerous this method might be.

Mental Dysfunction

Drugs and alcohol can cause intense pain and despair, as teens might feel unable to control their behaviors and unable to discuss the issue with the people they know and love. They might feel isolated, alone and unable to handle their problems. They might also feel desperately unhappy, as the chemical changes caused by addiction make it difficult for teens to produce their own feel-good brain chemicals. Teens like this might be desperate for a solution, and suicide might begin to seem like a reasonable option. According to an article in the journal Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, there is a clear connection between teen drug use and suicide, and research might even suggest that using drugs could be considered suicidal behavior. This link could be of particular concern as teens who abuse drugs have the means by which to end their lives. By taking a slightly larger dose, they could just make the pain stop.

Teens who aren’t tempted to end their lives might still face mental health consequences as their drug use robs them of vital learning opportunities. Teens who use drugs aren’t learning how to navigate the adult world and they’re not developing a sense of independence. They’re trapped by their use, and they’re unable to move forward. It’s hard for teens like this to move into healthy and happy adulthood.

Getting Started

Reading about the consequences of teen addiction can be frightening, and it’s reasonable for parents to feel motivated to act and help their teens to move out of addiction. We’d like to help. At Muir Wood, we provide proven therapies that can help adolescent boys overcome addiction, and our therapies can help to heal the mental and physical damage substance abuse can cause. Please call us to schedule an admissions appointment for your son.