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Thursday, May 13, 2021

Depression in Adolescence

Though emotional ups and downs are hallmarks of the teen years, depression in adolescence is more than a phase your child will eventually outgrow. Teen depression is a severe mental health condition requiring professional treatment. Without intervention, depression’s severity can worsen and persist through adulthood, causing pervasive problems in every aspect of a person’s life.

As we continue to observe Mental Health Awareness Month this May, what can you do to improve your understanding of depression and help a depressed teen in your life?

What Causes Depression in Adolescence?

You may have heard that depression results from imbalanced brain chemicals, but today, most experts believe that oversimplified explanation does not fully represent the disease’s complexity. While a lack of harmony among brain chemicals may play a partial role in whether someone develops depression, other factors also contribute. Genetics, chronic stress and medical problems can all combine to lead a teen to struggle with depression.

Since millions of chemicals are involved in regulating mood, emotions and overall outlook, two people diagnosed with depression might have very different symptoms. Even people with nearly identical depression symptoms could respond dissimilarly to therapeutic methods. For these reasons, this mood disorder is challenging to correctly diagnose and treat.

Warning Signs of Teen Depression

While some behavioral changes are a natural part of growing up, depression can cause a significant shift in a teenager’s attitude and worldview. Many depressed adolescents experience significant distress and problems at school or home, on top of struggling to enjoy hobbies and relationships.

If you notice your teen seems to be frequently irritable, sad or angry, it may be more than merely a bad mood. Depressed people cannot shake off the dark cloud that follows them everywhere they go. Because depression causes overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and a sense that the future looks bleak, a teen living with depression may develop an eating disorder or misuse drugs and alcohol to relieve the pain. When someone simultaneously has a mood disorder and untreated substance abuse, health professionals call it a dual diagnosis.

Treating Co-Occurring Disorders

It’s typical for children to disengage from their families a little bit as they assert their independence and start becoming adults. While you want to respect your teen’s privacy, you should also be mindful of any marked behavioral changes, such as a sudden loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities, a lack of personal hygiene or a sharp decline in academic performance.

If you notice the red flags of depression and co-occurring substance abuse in your teenager, reach out to a doctor, therapist or your child’s school counselor. It may be alarming to realize that your formerly cheerful, active child is withdrawing from the world, but with qualified treatment, recovery is possible.

At Hope Academy, we are California’s premier young adult treatment center equipped to address the challenges of dual diagnoses. We create customized plans for each client’s needs, helping them manage the symptoms of their illness and learn to live a fulfilling life. Contact us when you’re ready to learn more.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Chronic Relapse in Teens

If your teen struggles with substance abuse and has had trouble achieving sobriety on their own, you may get discouraged when you realize there’s no cure for addiction – even at the nation’s most renowned rehab programs. However, with the right tools and therapeutic approaches, your child can learn to manage the symptoms of a substance use disorder and lay the groundwork for lifelong recovery. To protect the progress they’ve made, they must recognize the warning signs of a relapse and take steps to prevent chronic relapse from occurring.

Why Do Relapses Occur?

Addiction is a chronic disease with relapse rates similar to other long-term illnesses such as hypertension and asthma, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. While relapse is a fundamental characteristic of the disease of addiction, don’t lose hope.

First, it’s essential for you and your teen to understand that a relapse does not equal a failure. It’s possible to get back on the right track and make a full recovery after a return to substance abuse. Here are some things you and your young adult child can try.

1. Address Unique Vulnerabilities

Some factors may make a teenager more susceptible to a relapse, including inadequately developed coping skills and a co-occurring mental health condition like depression. While a therapist can teach your teen healthy life skills and suggest drug-free ways to manage mental health challenges, your child needs your unconditional love and support as well.

2. Identify Stressors

Teenagers might also start experimenting with drugs or alcohol because it gives them a sense of control in stressful circumstances. Adolescence can come with uniquely anxiety-inducing factors such as transitioning to a new school, navigating various social cliques and breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend. Since stress represents a significant relapse trigger, making a list of environmental, situational and social stressors and teaching your teen more productive ways to respond can change negative behavioral patterns.

3. Re-Enroll in a Treatment Program

Sometimes, a relapse is a sign that the initial treatment approach wasn’t 100% successful. Maybe therapy didn’t identify and address the reason your teen started drinking or using in the first place, or perhaps your child struggled to find value or meaning in the program’s structure. In cases like these, re-entering a program tailored to young adults with substance abuse disorders can help.

4. Adopt New Hobbies

Someone who has used intoxicating substances to manage complex emotions like low self-worth may feel purposeless in sobriety. To some extent, routine can bring meaning to early recovery, but your teen will also need sober pastimes that keep them focused on positive progress. Volunteering is one answer to this, but there are many more, depending on your child’s passions and personality.

Learn More About California Young Adult Addiction Treatment

It can be heartbreaking to witness a young person squander their potential on substance abuse, but accredited treatment programs are available to help a chronically relapsing teen get their life back. To learn more about how Hope Academy can break the cycle of substance abuse, contact us today.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Is My Child Addicted to Adderall?

Adderall is one of the most frequently prescribed medications for treating ADHD, which is why children as young as 7 or 8 years old might begin taking this drug to improve their ability to pay attention in school, stay on task and listen to directions. While using Adderall under a doctor’s supervision can provide children with more clarity and focus in their daily lives, its reputation as a readily available “study drug” has created a problem on campuses nationwide. As a parent, what should you know about Adderall addiction and recreational use?

A Parent’s Guide to Adderall

While you may understandably worry that your child might try drugs like marijuana and alcohol, you should also be alert to issues caused by legally prescribed medications like Adderall. After all, the easiest way for kids and young adults to obtain access to drugs is to look in the medicine cabinet.

For children who don’t have ADHD, using Adderall is illegal and dangerous, because prescription stimulants have a high potential for abuse and addiction. Students who take Adderall in hopes of excelling on a test or competing in a sports event may find the drug has unpleasant side effects, such as dizziness, restlessness and impaired decision-making abilities. In some cases, users also experience a racing heart rate or irregular heart palpitations.

Adderall misuse has become a prevalent problem among college students. However, don’t assume your middle schooler or high school-aged student is immune to peer pressure to experiment with taking someone else’s prescription medication. Whether they’ve heard the drug can help fuel an all-night study session or they’re merely curious about its effects, they might start asking among their classmates to determine if they can get access to it.

Warning Signs of an Adderall Addiction

If your child is using Adderall as prescribed, their risk of developing a substance abuse disorder is low. However, if they start taking the medication differently than directed – such as crushing and snorting pills to experience the effects sooner, or taking a higher dose – they might develop a dependence.

Red flags of a worsening Adderall addiction may include:
  • Secrecy and isolation
  • Weight loss due to a lack of appetite
  • Sudden mood swings
  • Sleep disruptions
  • Anxiety or paranoia
  • Loss of interest in maintaining friendships or pursuing hobbies
  • Unpleasant withdrawal symptoms if they try to taper off or quit use

How to Be Part of the Solution

If your child takes Adderall to manage their ADHD symptoms and you’re concerned they might be giving or selling their pills to classmates, talk to them – using age-appropriate terms – about how to respond if other students ask to use their medication. Make sure they know it’s against the law to share Adderall with other people, and reassure them that you’re always available to talk about any questions or concerns they might have. Keep all prescription medicines in a safe place, and promptly dispose of any unused doses.

Don’t assume prescription drugs are safe for anyone to take merely because they are legally available. Adderall and other stimulants can be highly addictive when misused, which is an essential lesson for children to learn.

Young Adult Addiction Treatment

At Hope Academy, we understand you might not see a clear path forward when you realize your child is struggling with addiction. Rest assured that we have worked with many parents and young adults who are dealing with the heartbreaking issue of substance misuse. Our team of trained medical specialists can help treat these problems at their roots and teach your child to thrive. Reach out to us today to speak to a recovery advisor.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Adolescent Drinking Could Cause Severe Problems in the Future

It may seem unlikely to you that your child could have a drinking problem, but young adults are vulnerable to developing substance misuse issues – and when adolescents get addicted to alcohol, the consequences are often dire. What makes adolescence such a sensitive time, and is there anything you can do to prevent your teen from heading down a self-destructive path?

Adolescence Is a Critical Time for Preventing Substance Abuse

The earlier teens begin experimenting with adolescent drinking, the higher the chances they will develop a substance misuse disorder later in life. Drugs rewire the brain’s reward pathways, which can lead to addiction and other behavioral health problems. If you’re a teen’s parent or guardian, you have a pivotal part to play in reducing their risk of developing a drinking problem and the various mental and physical health issues that accompany it.

For teens and adults alike, risk of alcohol abuse increases sharply during stressful circumstances. Many teenagers undergo tumultuous life events like moving, having their parents get divorced or starting at a new school. When children graduate from middle school to high school, they may face a dizzying new array of life challenges, including unfamiliar social and academic situations. For many students, this transition coincides with the time they initially get exposed to underaged drinking.

Substance Use Interferes With Teen Brain Development

During adolescence, many teens flirt with risky behavior as they begin testing their boundaries and accepting more responsibilities at home and school. The desire to have new experiences and fit in socially is healthy, but it may also make teenagers more susceptible to adolescent drinking. No matter how responsible you think your teenager is, research has shown that the rational, decision-making part of the brain does not fully mature until around age 25. An adolescent’s ability to display good judgment might go by the wayside when friends pressure them to drink in social settings.

Because teens’ brains are still developing, adolescent drinking has a higher potential to disrupt brain function in areas that play essential roles in memory, learning, judgment and behavior, which could cause severe problems later in life. It’s not entirely surprising that teens who drink often struggle at home and academically, and can develop mental health problems such as depression at greater rates.

Since alcohol lowers inhibitions, adolescent drinking could also lead teens to do illegal or dangerous things like:
  • Driving under the influence
  • Having unprotected sex
  • Experimenting with harder drugs
  • Skipping school or work
These risks could have a ripple effect that leads to ramifications like sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancy, a criminal record, a worsening substance use disorder, job loss or expulsion from school.

What Can You Do About Adolescent Drinking?

As children transition into young adulthood, they may start acting secretive or stop doing previously enjoyable hobbies. While these are expected parts of adolescence, they could also be warning signs of a teen’s struggle with addiction. Keep the lines of communication open, and ensure your child knows they can come to you with any questions or concerns. You may want to role-play a few scenarios to give them practice in politely turning down a friend who offers them a drink.

If you’re concerned that your child may have a substance use disorder or a mental health challenge such as anxiety or depression, ask your family doctor. You may also want to research young adult addiction treatment facilities like Hope Academy to get your teen the specialized help they need to avoid severe problems in the future. Contact us today to learn more about what we provide.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

College Students Turning to Drugs to Cope With Pandemic

The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic has affected millions of people worldwide. As case levels and death rates in America continue spiking to alarming levels, many people are craving a return to normalcy and seeking new ways to occupy the time they used to spend visiting with family and friends and attending large gatherings like concerts and plays. After nearly a year of self-quarantining and avoiding unnecessary trips outside the home, news of two viable vaccines is a ray of hope. However, delays in the vaccine rollout process might mean it could still take many months to achieve the “herd immunity” necessary to return to business as usual.

For the last several months, mental health experts have been sounding alarms about the pandemic’s long-term psychological effects. Chronic stress, coupled with grief and the mental health issues associated with isolation, could leave long-lasting societal scars. Many health professionals have shared their worries that these factors may also contribute to an increase in substance use disorders, as people increasingly turn to drugs as a coping mechanism to relieve anxiety or alleviate boredom. College students are one demographic that’s uniquely vulnerable to this issue.

Drug and Alcohol Experimentation Is Rising During COVID-19

Even before the pandemic emerged as a major public health threat, binge drinking and drug use was a prevalent problem on college campuses from coast to coast. Substances like alcohol, marijuana and prescription stimulants such as Adderall are readily accessible on many campuses. College also provides a more permissive environment where students might choose to use their newfound freedom and independence as a justification for engaging in risky behavior. Widespread lockdowns drove many people to buy and sell drugs online, making these addictive substances even more easily available.

Once using and drinking becomes part of college culture, students might not realize they’re developing a problematic relationship with drugs and alcohol. If getting drunk or high is the typical way you and your friends spend your nights and weekends, your tolerance will continue increasing, and you’ll be increasingly in danger of progressing to a substance use disorder. The pandemic also makes it less likely that many people will seek the necessary help for addictive tendencies and any co-occurring mental health conditions, thus compounding these problems.

Drug-Free Ways to Cope With the COVID-19 Pandemic

What can you do to stay safe and avoid falling into the cycle of substance abuse that has affected so many college students? Here are some tips for coping with the stress, isolation and idle time that have characterized the pandemic.

  • Limit your news consumption: While it’s essential to stay abreast of evolving community health updates, it’s not productive to doomscroll through your newsfeed every time you feel bored. Only allow yourself to check daily headlines at specific intervals, and set a timer so you don’t spend too long staring at your screen.
  • Keep up with your physical and mental wellness: Incorporate exercise, a healthy diet and mindfulness activities into your daily life. A 30-minute walk outside can elevate your heart rate and provide a mood boost that carries you through the rest of your day.
  • Start a new hobby or revisit an old one: Self-quarantine is an ideal opportunity to spark your creativity. Activities like journaling, painting and needlework can turn formerly unproductive hours into a healthy habit you look forward to doing.

Seeking Young Adult Addiction Treatment at Hope Academy

If you’ve been struggling with substance abuse issues and have made it a priority to get clean and sober in 2021, Hope Academy is here for you. At our California drug rehab center, we work exclusively with young adults who want to learn how to make healthier life choices. Reach out today to learn more about our services and how to verify your insurance coverage.
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