As a nationwide epidemic, opioid addiction affects those of all ages, including adolescents. Not only is teen opioid abuse increasing, but many individuals in this age group also cope with the effects of drug or alcohol abuse by a loved one. According to Yale University research reported by WebMD, opioid overdose deaths among children younger than 18 have tripled since 1999, with older adolescents accounting for 88 percent of those cases. The federal Office of Adolescent Health reports that 3.6 percent of survey participants ages 12 to 17 reported misusing opioids during 2016, more than twice the rate among those ages 18 to 25. These are the answers to the most common questions teens have about drug addiction.

Why Do Some People Become Addicted While Others Don’t?

Scientists aren’t exactly sure why addiction affects certain individuals but not others. Based on research with rodents and observation of the role of family history in addiction, we do know that genes play a role. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) for Teens, addiction is more likely to occur among people who begin using drugs at a young age, spend time with friends and family members who abuse substances, and have experienced abuse or neglect at home.

What Is the Worst Type of Drug?

Although most substance use can be harmful, certain drugs are more dangerous than others. For example, smoking and alcohol abuse both lead to addiction and chronic health issues. However, prescription opioids and heroin can cause an overdose even on your first use and are very difficult to quit. Certain drugs, such as methamphetamines, are known to cause brain damage. Avoiding drug use is the only way to ensure you won’t develop the physical and psychological effects associated with these substances.

What Happens to Your Body When You Use Opioids?

Heroin and prescription opioids produce a so-called high, which is a feeling of euphoria, calm, and well-being. This happens because the drug causes your brain to release a large amount of dopamine, a substance that regulates pleasure and mood. However, this also leads to confusion, inability to stay away, stomach issues, and addiction.

Is Marijuana a Gateway Drug?

According to NIDA for Teens, adolescents who smoke cigarettes, use cannabis, or drink alcohol are more likely to try other drugs. However, most teens who try marijuana do not eventually abuse other substances. Although many states are legalizing marijuana, research about its effects on young brains is ongoing, and use is restricted to those older than 21. Studies do not currently show a link between use of cannabis and teen painkiller abuse.

Why Is It Difficult to Stop Using Drugs?

Many drugs, including opioids, create chemical dependency. Because these substances alter the way our brains work, it becomes difficult or impossible to function correctly without the drug. Scientists aren’t sure whether these changes are permanent. They do know, however, that many people who are addicted to drugs begin using again after they quit, which is known as a relapse. In addition, addiction can cause or exacerbate mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Treating these issues is important for a full recovery from drug addiction.

How Can I Help a Friend Who Is Using Drugs?

Adolescents can be confused about the right course of action if a friend confides about his or her drug use. Encourage them to seek help from a trusted adult. Let your kids know that they should tell someone right away if they think a friend is in danger.

If you’re concerned that your child may be using opioids or other drugs, the Anthony Louis Center can help. We provide resources and treatment programs for teens ages 13 to 18 affected by substance abuse and addiction. Call today for an appointment at (763) 757-2906 or complete our online contact form.