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The Problem of Teenage Opioid Addiction
Opioids are increasingly abused throughout the United States, a situation widely known as the Opioid Epidemic. Drug overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death among Americans, and opioids are now involved in the majority of fatal overdoses. An especially tragic aspect of the Opioid Epidemic is teenage Opioid addiction.
In 2016, 276,000 adolescents between the ages of 12 to 17 used pain relievers (including opioids) for non-medical reasons, and 122,000 were addicted to prescription drugs. 21,000 teenagers used Heroin in 2015, and 6,000 of them had a Heroin use disorder in the previous year. Unfortunately, it appears the problem is getting worse. Teenage opioid addiction rates increased by 19 percent between 2014 and 2015. When asked, 12th-grade students identified the ease of availability of Heroin as a factor in their use.
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Warning Signs of Teenage Opioid Addiction
Determining whether or not a teenager is experiencing a substance use disorder like Opioid addiction can be a challenge. Some signs can be obvious, while others are subtle. Signs of teenage opioid addiction can include, but are not limited to:
- Finishing prescriptions prematurely
- Using Opiods for better moods or to party
- Using Opioids to escape boredom
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Hanging with friends who abuse Opioids
- Mood swings
- Poor academic performance
- A strong interest in Opioids
- Missing classes
- Getting in trouble in school or with the law
- Poor job performance (if working)
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- No longer engaging in formerly activities
Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Challenges and Teenage Opioid Addiction
A major contributing factor to teenage opioid addiction is underlying mental, emotional, and behavioral issues. Teenagers are more likely to abuse opioids if they suffer from:
- PTSD/Trauma (sexual, emotional, or mental)
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
- Suicide attempts
- Low self esteem
- A victim of violence/abuse
Drugs like Heroin can seem to offer temporary relief to these feelings by flooding the brain with endorphins like dopamine. The individual feels a high that powerfully reduces other emotional and mental challenges, allowing them to escape into a blissful state. Unfortunately, this is only a temporary sensation, and the user will have to take increasing amounts of the drug to achieve the same feeling. Once the drug wears off, individuals put themselves at risk of developing a dependence as they try to reach the same high and avoid withdrawals.
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Teenage Opioid Addiction Risk Factors
A common denominator for Heroin and Carfentanil use is the transition to illicit substances from prescription medication. Teenagers who have suffered major injuries, such as car accidents, are often prescribed Opioids to help with the pain. As the user takes more and more of the drug, they may eventually develop a tolerance, and possibly a full-blown addiction. Once addicted, users often make increasingly risky choices. Heroin is often a more easily accessible and cheaper substitute for prescription opioids like Oxycodone, Percocet, Oxycontin, and Hydrocodone, leading many prescription Opioid users to progress to illicit drugs when they can no longer acquire or afford their preferred substance.
Other factors that influence teenage opioid addiction include:
Opioids can be acquired from doctors, drug dealers, and even online. Reports say teenagers and adults can buy illicit opioids like Carfentanyl online and have the drugs shipped to their front doors.
Familial Opioid Abuse
Teenagers are more likely to abuse Opioids if a relative has an Opioid addiction or uses prescription Opioids. The teen can easily discover and try the prescription drug in their parents’, grandparents’, or aunts’ and uncles’ medicine cabinets, combining them with other drugs and alcohol.
Friend Opioid Abuse
If a teenager’s friends use prescription or illicit Opioids, they can pressure the teen to try the drug, or at least make the teen want to try them out to fit in. Additionally, when friends abuse drugs, it normalizes drug use, making it seem more socially acceptable.
Getting Help for Teenage Opioid Addiction Before It’s Too Late
Teenage opioid addiction can follow them into adulthood, and the longer an addiction progresses, the more difficult it is to treat. That’s why early treatment is so important. Rehab facilities provide medically-supervised detox to create a more comfortable and safer way to get through withdrawal. Teens can speak with therapists to uncover deep challenges which fuel their dependence. Support groups encourage teens to practice vulnerability and connection with others. Contact a treatment provider now to find out more about the next steps you can take towards treatment and recovery.
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