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Addiction Before 18

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Parents are urged to keep an eye on their kids and to do all they can to keep them off drugs and away from alcohol while they are young. It is a warning that is given all the time, but now science and research show just how important this advice really is.

Kids Who Abuse Substances Become Addicts

Many people, even parents, assume that kids will be kids and if a teen needs to try their hand at drugs or alcohol for a short time, that’s just part of growing up. However, a study published this week by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University, suggests just the opposite. “The combination of adolescence, an American culture that glorifies and promotes substance use, and easy access to tobacco, alcohol and other drugs creates a perfect storm for our teens and for taxpayers,” said Jim Ramstad, of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse . “We no longer can justify writing off adolescent substance use as bad behavior, as a rite of passage or as kids just being kids. The science is too clear, the facts are too compelling, the health and social consequences are too devastating and the costs are simply too high.” (1)

This is because researchers found that people that use substances before the age of 18 are more likely to have an addiction problem as an adult. In fact, 90% of adults with an addiction problem started using before they were 18. Therefore, preventing our teens and young adults from trying drugs or alcohol will have lifelong benefits.

Developing Brains are Vulnerable

The reasons behind these findings have been explained by science. Adolescent’s brains are still developing, and substance abuse has greater effects on their immature brains. “Science tells us that the earlier we start to use, the greater the risk of becoming addicted. Adolescence is the critical period for starting to use drugs and acquiring addictions, [because] the part of the brain that is responsible for judgment, decision-making and impulse control isn’t completely developed. And because the teen brain isn’t completely developed, it’s more sensitive to the impact and damaging consequences of drugs. The drugs increase the chance that kids will take risks and have impaired judgment, and that in turn impairs development and increases the risk of addiction,” according to Susan Foster of CASA. (2)

Treatment for Adolescents

The CASA study makes it clear that we need to be doing more to keep our kids from trying drugs and alcohol. The report also makes it clear how important early intervention is for any parent that discovers their child is abusing substances. Treatment is available and very effective for teens, but parents don’t often think it is necessary. In order to give them the best chance at a healthy adulthood, however, parents should consider getting professional help for their teen.


(1) Addiction and age 21

(2) Teens and Drugs: Rite of Passage or Recipe for Addiction?

Study: Nation’s Teens Easily Falling Victim To Substance Abuse

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Bethany Winkel

This article was written by Bethany Winkel

Joining the TSN online family in 2008, Bethany has used her skills as a writer to reach many people through her blog. Always eager to be a help to others, she is pleased to see her writing become a source of information, encouragement, and hope for those impacted by substance abuse. Bethany is happy to be involved with an organization that is making a difference in the lives of others. Bethany has also held the position of development coordinator for a nonprofit youth center for the past 6 years. With her expertise in grant writing, Bethany has raised over $1 million for programming that benefits at-risk youth. The happy mother of 4 young children, Bethany juggles her writing from home with spending time with her family. If her hours of research for her TSN blog articles have taught her one thing, it is to be an involved parent who takes time to listen to her kids.