Adolescent Mental Health Issues and Substance Abuse

Adolescent Mental Health Issues and Substance Abuse

The relationship between mental health issues and alcohol/drug abuse in adolescents is often overlooked as most incidents that involve harmful behavior are typically blamed on emotional difficulties or intoxication but rarely both.

While mental health issues can present in the absence of substance abuse it is less common for substance abuse to appear without related emotional stressors.

Childhood and teen years are formative, filled with challenges that require adaptation and growth yet the skills necessary to manage those difficulties may not be developed. As a result, emotional pain can be experienced as depression or anxiety and results in lack of confidence and poor self esteem. Inability to manage feelings often results in behavioral problems in children and adolescents and directed toward self or others. Like adults, teens may turn to substance to cope with those feelings.

Adolescent drug use may start as learned behavior through observation of parent alcohol and drug abuse, result from peer pressure that encourages experimental use, and utilized to numb feelings as a way to escape. Intoxication causes poor perception and impaired judgment that result in conduct problems, poor choices and dangerous behaviors. Is the use of alcohol and drugs strictly substance abuse issue or is it more complex?

Accidents that involve intoxication are tragic and often result in the premature loss of life. Dr. Gerald Grosso, Clinical Director at NSIGHT Psychology and Addiction questions “Is substance dependence solely a chronic problem with alcoholism and drug use or was the addiction preceded and reinforced by emotional issues that began at an earlier time?” It is essential to look deeper into causes when it comes to alcohol and drug abuse/dependence.

Addiction is a significant problem and may be a symptom of a larger problem that needs to be addressed for complete recovery. Judgmental behavior and social stigmas make it difficult for many to acknowledge that life stressors are triggering dysfunctional behavior. Those who are struggling typically do not recognize the impact their behavior has on others. Acceptance of the problems along with recognition that treatment is beneficial can be anxiety provoking prevent one from getting the help they need. Empathy, understanding, and support expressed in a non judgmental way will help to reduce defensiveness and encourage participation in treatment that change one’s life.

Increased focus on the emotional difficulties that contribute to addiction, those that stem from conflict, dysfunctional relationships, and trauma need to be addressed to stop the pattern of destruction that shatters lives. Insight and awareness are the foundation that lasting changes are built upon. Dr. Grosso recommends Alcohol and Drug Treatment centers that utilize licensed mental health professionals who specialize in emotional and mental health issues that co-occur with addiction.

Additional information can be found by visiting the National Institute on Drug Abuse and reading the Principles of Adolescent Substance Abuse Disorder Treatment: A Research Based Guide.

NSIGHT Psychology and Addiction is an emotionally focused treatment program that emphasizes the underlying mental health and emotional issues that precede and reinforce addiction in order to create lasting change.