When Young Adults Face Addictions, Treatment Works Best In Peer Group
A few years ago eight professors in Finland did a national survey of 18-year-old boys to find out how often they got drunk and how their drinking affects them.
The professors found out that the vast majority (85%) had gotten drunk at least once in the past six months. The boys who got drunk too often were more likely to be involved in illegal drugs and crime. The boys who never drank at all were more likely to have mental problems and suicidal thoughts. The researchers reasoned that drinking is such a big part of young adulthood that those who do not participate might not have enough friends and social outlets to protect them from depression.
There are recovery programs just for older teens and young adults.
Call the National Resource Center to talk to a counselor at 866.870.4979
Young adulthood is an age associated with drinking and drug experimentation, not only in Finland, but all over the world. New Zealand researchers found that drinking in that country peaks at age 21 years and decreased thereafter for both sexes.
The same is true in the United States. Americans drink the heaviest in their teens to mid-twenties, and are especially likely to binge drink at that age. One in five young adults can pass a clinical test for alcoholism (or substance abuse). Luckily, many of them stop abusing drugs or alcohol on their own.
Nevertheless, many young adults are in bad enough shape from drinking or drugs to enter formal substance abuse programs. The number is a big one; for example, in 2000, over 115,000 Americans ages 18 to 25 years old were in rehabilitation.
Substance abuse may be very common in young adulthood. Yet late adolescence is a very hard time of life to be sidelined by alcoholism or drug addiction. Adolescent psychologists often speak about the three tasks of this period of life: breaking away from parents, finding one's life work, and finding a life partner. These things are not easy to do. If a young adult becomes addicted, the years when he or she should be fulfilling the three tasks are wasted on addictions. It's lost time at a crucial time of self-development.
Treating the addictions of young adults is different from treating children or older adults. It is an urgent problem because the human brain does not fully develop until age thirty. Alcoholism and drug addiction can permanently damage not only the brain but also the liver and other vital organs of young adults. That effect is worse for women's organs. Young women become addicted more quickly than males; however, there are more male addicts.
Certain events such as parental divorce, flunking out of college or breaking up with a lover can have more profound impacts in young adulthood than at older ages. These can become barriers to their recoveries if counselors do not have special training to treat young people.
Young adults who abuse chemicals often have underlying problems that must be addressed if they are to recover. For example, undiagnosed learning disorders may have caused school failures in the past. If the person gets a proper diagnosis and enters a school program where he or she can succeed, then often depression and low self-esteem clears up and so does the addiction. Young addicts and alcoholics often suffer from affective and conduct disorders, bullying, sexual victimization, and eating disorders. There are even gender differences in treatments for young adult addicts. For example, young female alcoholics and drug addicts often report more depression than boys, seek out older inappropriate boyfriends as "protectors," and have trouble making girlfriends.
Because young adults have a special set of problems, they belong in substance abuse treatments specialized for young adults. Age appropriate techniques, such as using peer pressure, can be very effective. Young adults care a lot about what others their age think of them.
Once a young adult leaves treatment, their aftercare has to include finding drug-free social outlets and friends. Unlike treatment for older adults, treatment for this age group usually must involve parents and family members to support the person in treatment. Often family members have to go into counseling themselves. Aftercare programs that are beamed at young adults have been found to work better than ones with mixed-aged groups. One study found that young people are more likely to attend 12-step meetings if other members were close to their own age.
Because young adulthood is such a critical time of life, it seems like common sense to treat young adults in facilities that specialize in their care. Indeed, almost 85% of young adults undergo rehabilitation in facilities that specialize in their age group. As Dr. John F. Kelly at Stanford University wrote, "Life stage developmental differences between youth and adults affect the appropriateness for understanding and treating youth substance related problems." Finding an age-appropriate facility for a young adult may be a crucial step in finding a solution to a problem that does not have to become lifelong.
If you are looking for a treatment facility in your area, visit the comprehensive guide to drug rehab centers.