Muir Wood therapist, David Laing

Most Common Teen Mental Health Problem: Addiction

The addiction epidemic in the United States is not just a headline-grabbing phenomenon. It’s a very real, widespread medical problem. The average American teen is more likely to deal with drug use and subsequent addiction than to be diagnosed with any other mental health problem, according to a new study.

Experts estimate that more than 1 million American teens are addicted to drugs or alcohol. If one of them is your teen, the message is this: You are not alone. A million other families are in the same boat, and the good news is that intensive, teen-focused treatment is available to help you and your teen heal.

Recent Study Findings

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) published the results of a study that was conducted in the United States between 2005 and 2011. This study was a massive undertaking, representing millions of pieces of data and a myriad of variables. The study indicated not only that the most common teen mental health problem in the United States is addiction but also that the addiction epidemic represented itself in various forms, including drugs, alcohol, and tobacco as well as combinations thereof. Although there was a significant dual-diagnosis population represented (e.g., when a teen is diagnosed with both a drug dependence and an alcohol addiction), it was not the majority.

Dr. Tom Frieden is the CDC director. Said Frieden, “This first report of its kind documents that millions of children are living with depression, substance use disorders, ADHD, and other mental health conditions. No parent, grandparent, teacher, or friend wants to see a child struggle with these issues. It concerns us all. We are working to both increase our understanding of these disorders and help scale up programs and strategies to prevent mental illness so that our children grow to lead productive, healthy lives.”

The Importance of Immediate Action

If your teen is suffering from addiction, the worst thing you can do is nothing. Taking action as soon as an issue with drug or alcohol abuse is identified is always recommended. Action can take different forms, including:

  • Continued education and communication. Educating your child on the dangers of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco is key to prevention. The educational piece of your communication does not need to stop when and if you find that your child is experimenting with drugs. This is the time to engage them more actively. It is not enough to simply say, “Drugs are dangerous.” Instead, you can teach your teen what specific drugs do to the brain and how they can impact their lives mentally, physically, and emotionally.
  • Treatment. Some level of treatment intervention is appropriate if your child is using drugs or alcohol in any amount. The more serious their drug issues, the more intensive their treatment should be.

Learn more about how we can help your child win his or her battle against drug abuse when you contact us at Muir Wood today.