Teen drug abuse is often viewed as a way to rebel or to fit in with peers, but many times teens turn to drugs or alcohol in order to relieve symptoms of an undiagnosed emotional or behavioral problem. As many as 5 million adolescents suffer from clinical depression, but according to a 2009 study, an estimated 70 percent are undiagnosed and don’t receive any form of treatment. Without treatment, a depressed teen may turn to alcohol or drugs to escape their feelings of helplessness or to help them feel ‘normal.’ Unfortunately, drug and alcohol use only worsens depression symptoms. To make this problem even worse, only 10 percent of the estimated 1.4 million American teens with substance abuse problems receive treatment.
The Signs of Drug Abuse and Depression in Teens
The first reaction of most parents is to discipline their teen for using drugs. What some parents may not realize, however, is that their child is sick. Many of the signs of drug abuse mimic the signs of depression, which allows the depression to go unnoticed and undiagnosed. Some of these signs include:
* Irritability, anger or hostility
* Withdrawal from friends and family
* Loss of interest in activities
* Changes in eating and sleeping habits
* Sloppy appearance
* Sudden drop in grades
* Restlessness and agitation
* Spending a lot of time in their room
* Lack of enthusiasm and motivation
* Fatigue or lack of energy
* Difficulty concentrating
* Thoughts of death or suicide
* Overreacting to criticism
* Dramatic weight loss or weight gain
Not every teen who abuses drugs is depressed, and not every teen who is depressed abuses drugs, so it is important to pay attention to the signs. Many teens are unable to express exactly how they feel, so it is up to you to help your teen address any underlying issues that may have lead to their substance abuse. If depression is the root cause, it is imperative that you help your teen receive dual diagnosis treatment for both disorders.
How to Help a Depressed Teen Who Abuses Drugs
Individuals with co-occurring depression and substance abuse rarely get better without treatment. Often the substance abuse develops as a way to self-medicate depression symptoms, but depression can also develop as a result of excessive drug abuse. Regardless of which comes first — the depression or the substance abuse problem — both illnesses will continue to make the other worse. Depression and drug abuse are a vicious cycle that will never end unless both are treated simultaneously.
If you feel like your teen’s drug abuse is caused by undiagnosed depression, the first step is to find an expert who specializes in both addiction and depression. A good place to start is at a rehab facility that specializes in dual diagnosis treatment. Dual diagnosis treatment will address both co-occurring disorders simultaneously through a comprehensive program that’s tailored to your teen’s individual needs. These programs often include individual and group therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, medication (if needed), and holistic therapies such as yoga, acupuncture and equine therapy to help your teen reconnect their body, mind and spirit.
Help your teen finally end the vicious cycle of depression and drug abuse. Contact a dual diagnosis treatment center today and help them start living a life free of emotional pain.