There is no denying the fact that mental health conditions are present in a significant number of American teenagers. But while some teenagers are able to find healthy ways to cope with their condition—whether it is with counseling, meditation, or taking their medication as prescribed—others experience a much more difficult time.
Having a mental health condition can be incredibly difficult. You might find yourself feeling hopeless, lost, and unable to perform the everyday tasks you need to get by. Depression, anxiety, ADHD, PTSD, and bipolar disorder are among the most common mental health conditions currently affecting American teenagers. Each of these conditions has both healthy and unhealthy treatment mechanisms.
Unfortunately for many teenagers with various mental health conditions, substance abuse can be a very tempting treatment option. According to some studies, as many as 16 percent of American teenagers could potentially be categorized as substance abusers, and these numbers are even higher for those with mental health conditions.
While the risk of substance abuse seems to present itself to every American teenager in some way or another, if your teenager has a mental health condition, they are uniquely likely to suffer. While this does not mean you should assume your teenager has a substance abuse problem, it does mean you ought to keep a careful eye on their behavior.
Teenagers with mental health conditions are more likely to abuse drugs for a number of different reasons. Not only do a variety of mental health conditions impair their ability to use long-term judgment—something that is already underdeveloped in the teenage years—but many individuals view the use of certain substances as a real solution to their problems.
In the short-term, your teenager might see substance abuse as a way to numb or avoid their problems. They also might view the use of illicit substances as something that helps them overcome a condition they are yet to find a solution for. But adding the abuse of substances to an already risky situation is not a viable solution, and in fact, doing so can often make things much worse.
Substance abuse is never a viable solution to any mental health condition. At best, it procrastinates the individual’s need to address their underlying situation. At worst, it can cause a tremendous amount of harm to both the individual and their loved ones.
What should I do if I believe my teenager has a substance abuse problem?
Whether or not your teenager has a pre-existing mental health condition, if you believe they might have a substance abuse problem, it is important to take action. Substance abuse isn’t something that typically just “goes away” on its own. It is a uniquely dangerous condition that is very difficult to combat by yourself. If left ignored, substance abuse can often escalate in severity.
In order to combat any sort of substance abuse disorder your teenager may be experiencing, it is important to reach out to a licensed professional. These individuals have been specifically trained to conduct a substance abuse screening and recognize any potential substance abuse triggers that may be affecting your teenager.
A substance abuse screening is a series of questions designed to gauge the severity of an individual’s condition and try to uncover possible solutions to their problems. Substance abuse triggers are particular conditions that make your teenager more likely to fall into patterns of substance abusive behavior.
Some common triggers include genetics, problems with school, social problems, and the various mental health conditions mentioned above. Some of these triggers may not be able to completely avoided, but they are indeed something your teenager can better learn to live with. With the right help and proper guidance, even the most severe instances of substance abuse disorder can be overcome. But nothing will be accomplished until at least one of you chooses to take action.
Polaris Teen Center is a residential treatment facility for teens and adolescents suffering from severe mental health disorders. Our highly accredited facility is fully licensed and certified in Trauma Informed Care and is a part of the Behavioral Health Association of Providers (formerly AATA).