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Drug abuse at young age increases risk of addiction during adulthood: Study

Drug abuse at young age increases risk of addiction during adulthood: Study

10-07 | CDAH Team

Individuals who abuse drugs at a young age are at a higher risk of leading a life of addiction than those who become addicts as adults. Research reveals that the earlier a person gets exposed to drugs, the more likely he is to progress to more serious drug use. This is partly attributed to the effect drugs have on a developing brain. Studies show that becoming an addict is the result of a combination of factors including genes, environment, and development. However, an early use is a strong indicator of drug abuse later in life.

Teenage years are characterized by emotional turmoil and physical changes. It is also a time when youngsters feel rebellious and are open to experimentation. Often this curiosity is misdirected towards trying drugs or misusing medicines to relieve stress or even concentrate better so as to perform well in academics. Teenagers also use drugs to handle performance pressure, to fit in with peers or relax. Sometimes they inadvertently get addicted to prescription opioids which they may take to relieve pain due to a sports injury. The fact that they are unaware of the consequences of drug abuse aggravates the problem.

Risk of substance abuse higher in adults who started the use as teenagers

Research in different fields has concluded that circumstances and developments early in an individual’s life influence their life course trajectory. People who abuse drugs usually start as adolescents or young adults. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in its publication “Principles of Substance Abuse Prevention for Early Childhood” notes that the “ground may be prepared for drug use much earlier, by circumstances and events that affect the child during the first several years of life and even before birth.” It states that such factors include maternal smoking or drinking, stress, either due to neglect or abuse or lingering illness in the family, parental substance abuse or emergent mental illness.

As per NIDA, by the time they are seniors almost 70 percent of high school students have tried alcohol and a half have taken an illegal drug. It has been observed that the majority of those who have substance use disorder (SUD) start using them before age 18 and are addicts by the time they turn 20. The 2013 Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey found that 15.2 percent of people who started drinking by age 14 eventually developed alcohol dependence as compared to just 2.1 percent of those who started drinking by the age 21 or older. Further data collected in 2012 showed that almost 13 percent of people with SUD started using marijuana when they were 14. These statistics and trends point out conclusively that the likelihood of substance abuse later in life is more for those people who start as teenagers.

Living without drugs

As a parent or someone taking care of youngsters, it is important to be aware of the various ways in which they can abuse drugs. Access to old medicines or prescriptions can also lead to abuse and thus, one needs to ensure that these are disposed properly or not lying around.

If there are changes in the behavior of a teen which are unusual or there is someone battling addiction, know that there is hope. There is life beyond drugs, reach out and help your child rebuild his life. There are drug addiction treatment centers in Colorado which offer the latest treatment based on an assessment of the person’s level of addiction. You can reach out to the Colorado Drug Addiction Helpline to know about various drug rehab centers in Colorado. You may call us at our 24/7 helpline number 866-218-7546 or chat online with our experts who can guide you the best way forward.


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