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Young Adults and Drug Misuse

With addiction on the rise in young adults, more families (and addicts themselves) are choosing to go into treatment centers in order to help combat their addiction. Addiction treatment for young adult individuals is specifically tailored to their needs and helps them to increase their chances of making a permanent recovery.

The 3 Most Common Reasons for Drug Abuse

Young adults misuse drugs for a variety of reasons. Some of the most common reasons reported for teen drug use are social influence, mental illness, and stress.

1. Social Influence

The saying “You become like the five people you spend the most time with” rings true. Social influence is a huge reason that young adults begin experimenting with drugs, which ultimately can lead to addiction depending on the individual. Drug use is very common at concerts, in bars, and at parties. These social situations often bring about a lot of drug use and active drug users, and a one-time experiment can quickly become unmanageable.

Peer pressure is a factor in drug use. Young adults feel the need to belong and be connected to a certain group. Peer group plays a central role in their development as a person. In the absence of a stable home, a peer group can stand as their newfound family. But, when the social interaction with friends rely heavily on drug use, it will be very difficult for them not to be influenced. Being non-critical and permissive with drug use make them susceptible in adopting their peer group’s negative behavioral pattern. They will continue to be a member of that group even if the influence it exerts over their lives is destructive rather than a positive one.

Other factors that increase their chance to use drugs include perceived popularity and the need to impress peers. If they believe that their popularity within the group increases with substance use, they will most likely participate in that activity. Their decision to use drugs is out of the need to impress their friends. Even if drug use is a risky activity, they will still engage knowing that their friends are watching over.

2. Mental Illness

Many treatment centers practice dual-diagnosis therapy. This is because there is an increased connection between mental illness and drug abuse. Dual-diagnosis treatment centers help to treat both illnesses at the same time to help increase the chances of a full recovery. The most common mental illnesses involved in drug abuse are bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. These individuals often use drugs in order to balance out extreme highs and lows or reduce or eliminate visual and auditory hallucinations.

For young adults with bipolar disorder, there is a 30 to more than 50 percent chance that they will develop substance use disorder at some point in their lives. They abuse the use of drugs such as cocaine, marijuana, amphetamines, opiates and prescription medications. Young adults with this disorder may experience manic, depressive or both episodes for 1-2 weeks or even longer. The manic episode may manifest as having short-temper, trouble sleeping or being focused, talking really fast and trying risky activities. During the depressive episode, a young adult may feel very sad, eat and sleep too little or too much, lethargic and feel worthless.

For young adults with schizophrenia, about 50% of them have co-occurring substance use disorder.  They are most frequently addicted to marijuana.  Those who engage in substance use would like to lessen the feelings of anxiety or depression. Young adults with schizophrenia may find it difficult to distinguish imagination from reality. They may hear voices in their heads or see things that are non-existent. They may exhibit paranoia, hallucinations and/or delusions. 

3. Stress

One part of our toxic culture is the common stress reliever of “pop a pill” or “have a glass of wine” when you have had a bad day at work or are feeling stress from a breakup or bump in the road. Young adults experience an immense amount of stress in our modern world. Some are beginning to build families, others are dealing with the stress of college, and many are facing the realities of our economy and social issues. What may start out as using drugs or alcohol to relieve stress after a hard day, or just to unwind, can quickly spiral out of control.

Stress in itself is not bad. An event can be stressful when a young adult views it as one. The difference lies in how that person interprets the situation and the meaning he attaches to it. A young adult may not make it a big deal and cope well. But, when a young adult has poor coping skills, the tendency is to use drugs or other substances to relieve stress.

For young adults, they are prone to drug use because of a lesser ability to exhibit self and emotional control. It’s because the prefrontal cortex of their brain is not yet fully developed. This part is responsible for impulse control. Experts say that this part becomes fully mature at age 25. Since this part is not yet fully functional, they have the tendency to be impulsive especially when experiencing high emotional stress. Doing risky behaviors like trying drugs is part of their impulsive nature.

Impulsivity also comes with the inability to delay gratification. Young adults seek immediate pleasure. They also want to be immediately relieved from stress. Drugs can give a dopamine “high.” This dopamine high makes them feel good. Since they lack the ability to be fully in control of themselves, they take in more and more drugs even if they cause adverse health effects.

These are the most common reasons young adults use drugs. When these are mixed with a genetic predisposition for addiction, they can very easily take hold and destroy the lives of these young adults. Addiction treatment for young adult individuals can help give them a chance at a new life. Choosing the right treatment center is important to ensure that you or your loved one can get healthy and achieve sobriety.