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Addiction in Teens

Teen substance abuse is prevalent and has long-lasting consequences. Early education and intervention can help.

Teen addiction has far-reaching consequences.

Substance abuse and addiction isn’t just an adult problem. In fact, teens that use drugs and alcohol put themselves at high risk for long-term addiction. Fortunately, they can overcome the destructive patterns and consequences of addiction with help. The sooner parents and clinical professionals recognize the signs of teen substance abuse and addiction, the sooner they can lead them toward recovery.

At Caron, we can help you build a treatment program that meets your needs.

How do teens become addicts?

Most teens use drugs as a way to have fun or fit in with peers. Drugs make them feel good and relieve the stress of school, social situations, home life and growing up. But what begins as seemingly innocent substance use can quickly lead to addiction.

When teens become addicts, they may lose friends, develop health problems, experience mood swings and memory loss, behave badly, fail in school, lose motivation and isolate themselves from family and friends. Despite these consequences, teens often deny having a problem.

Teen substance abuse is an epidemic.

In 2011, a study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA) revealed that teen smoking, drinking, prescription drug and illegal drug abuse is an epidemic. The study examined how messages sent by adults and the media normalize substance use, thus undermining teens’ health and futures.

The CASA study also found that:

  • 90 percent of Americans who meet the medical criteria for addiction started smoking, drinking or using other drugs before age 18
  • 1 in 4 Americans who began using any addictive substance before age 18 developed an addiction, compared to 1 in 25 Americans who started using at age 21 or older

A separate, 2010 survey of high school students found that:

  • 75 percent of all high school students have used addictive substances including tobacco, alcohol, marijuana or cocaine
  • 1 in 5 high school students meet the medical criteria for addiction, with nearly one-half of them using addictive substances

Treating teen addiction.

Although teen addiction and abuse is a rising and serious problem, lifelong recovery is attainable. The professional staff can help Caron can help—contact us today.

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What is cutting and self-injury?

Self-injury is a negative way of dealing with strong emotions that can include cutting, scratching, burning, self-mutilating, hitting oneself or any other behavior that intentionally causes bodily harm. Self-injury and cutting is an addictive behavior in that cutters experience overwhelming preoccupation with the relief they experience after cutting incidents. Cutting and self-injury can become increasingly serious.

Prevalence of self-injury in teens.

Self-injury is most common in teenagers. According to, one in five teens say they have purposely injured themselves at some time. Though it affects teens from both sexes and all backgrounds, the National Mental Health Association and S.A.F.E. Alternatives report that those who seek help for self-injury are more likely to be teenaged girls from middle or upper class backgrounds.

Reasons why teens self-mutilate or cut.

Some of the reasons teens self-injure or self-mutilate include:

  • Not knowing how to deal with stress
  • Unresolved history of abuse
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feelings of loneliness or fear
  • Need to feel in control
  • Mental health problems such as depression, anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Wanting to get the attention of people who can help them
  • Peer pressure
  • Curiosity

Cutting and self-injury is typically not an overt suicide attempt

Signs of teen cutting and self-injury.

Teens who self-injure or self-mutilate often do not know how to ask for help, so it is important to watch for signs that a teen may be harming herself. These signs are:

  • Unexplained injuries, such as cuts, scratches, burns or bruises
  • Making excuses for injuries or scars
  • Wearing long sleeves even in hot weather
  • Withdrawal
  • Trouble dealing with emotions
  • History of eating disorders
  • Trouble functioning at work, school, and in relationships
  • Low self-esteem

Many teens who self-injure also engage in other risky behaviors, such as drinking and drug use, or suffer from eating disorders.

Treating cutting and self-injury disorders.

It is possible for a teen to stop cutting or hurting herself, but recovery usually requires professional treatment. If your teen struggles with self-injury, Caron can help.

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