Teenagers can be naïve about many things, and one area that this is most obvious is in their belief that they are indestructible.  They don’t recognize that their behavior has consequences, and that some of those consequences can be to their health, or even their very life.

Using drugs and alcohol tends to be one of the areas where they just don’t see the connection between their behavior and what it could mean to their health.  In the early stages of substance abuse, they just see and feel the enjoyment that they might be experiencing.  By the time they get to the stage of being addicted, they are unable to comprehend the magnitude of the problem.  As a parent you will have to step in and get your child medical treatment.  Oftentimes this means that a teen intervention might be necessary.

Addiction as a Disease

If you have a teenager who is addicted to drugs, but does not recognize their need for help, you will need to take control of the situation as if it were any other disease that might affect his or her wellbeing.  In reality, addiction is a disease and should be treated as such.

Unfortunately, addiction can progress significantly if left untreated.  This can lead to deterioration of the body, cause changes to a teen’s still developing brain (which can become permanent), and even damage their internal organs.  If left untreated, teen addiction can lead to death.

Teenagers typically do not fully understand these risks to their health and welfare.  Part of that comes from their lack of experience, and part of it can come from denial.  Another aspect of their lack of acceptance of the risks is that teens tend to think about right here and right now, with no regard for the future.  This factor often prevents them from recognizing the danger of their situation as a drug abuser.

Reasons for Medical Treatment of Addiction

Because addiction is a disease that affects the body and mind, professionals should medically treat it.  There are many reasons to get your teenager medical treatment as quickly as possible, including but not limited to the following:

  • Abuse of drugs or alcohol can delay the onset of puberty in your child, and can inhibit their reproductive system from developing normally.  The effects could be permanent.
  • It is known that the brain does not fully develop until about age 20.  Teenage alcohol or drug use could delay this development or permanently alter it, leaving lasting damage.  It is known that alcohol abuse can leave your teen with memory loss and permanent brain damage.
  • Alcohol and drugs can damage the lining of the stomach, leading to ulcers, which will need to be treated.  This could leave your teenager with lasting, lifelong stomach problems.
  • It is known that alcohol affects the liver, causing damage to this vital organ.  Enough liver damage can be fatal.
  • Alcohol has been linked to cancer of the mouth and esophagus.  Cancer of the esophagus can be very painful and difficult to treat.  It can also spread quickly to other parts of the body.
  • Some drugs, like cocaine, can cause seizures, panic attacks or even psychotic breakdowns.
  • Ecstasy, which many teens think of as a safe and simple “club drug” that gives them a temporary high, has been shown to cause heart failure in some users.
  • Illegal street drugs come from unknown sources and contain unknown substances that can be poisonous to the body.  These drugs also have varying levels of strength from one batch to the next, so it is hard to know what the impact will be on a person’s body and mind.

Addiction creates changes to the drug user’s body, causing him or her to crave the drug.  It takes medical treatment to detoxify the system of the drug and reduce the cravings.  Often this means that you will need to stage a teen intervention to get your child in for necessary detox and treatment.   This withdrawal process can be difficult, and despite what many drug users claim, they can rarely quit on their own.  It is important to keep this in mind if you have a teenager who is abusing alcohol or drugs.