When the pain of depression or any mental illness becomes borderline unbearable, teens look for any way out, including the use of drugs and/or alcohol. They want relief now – not later. They’re tired of doctors, teachers, and parents telling them what they can and can’t do. This often leads to comorbidity.

What is Comorbidity?

Comorbidity is a condition in which a person suffers from two or more mental illnesses simultaneously. Most of the time, these illnesses need to be addressed and treated individually. One of the most common forms of comorbidity is the suffering from depression and substance abuse, especially in teens. Either disorder can develop first. A mood or anxiety disorder can lead a teen to drugs as a form of self-medication, while substance abuse can affect the brain and behavior, leading to an addiction.

Substance abuse (alcohol dependency or habitual drug use) is considered a mental illness.

Risk Factors for Teen Drug Abuse and Mental Health Issues

Drug abuse and other mental illnesses have much in common, including a number of causes. These are just a handful of risk factors that can easily lead to drug abuse and mental instability in teens:

Brain Development

No one can escape this risk. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, the human brain isn’t fully developed until approximately 25 years of age. Specifically, the prefrontal cortex, responsible for decision making and emotional control, is still under development. Up until that point, teens and young adults are searching for acceptance, for ways to impress one another without considering the consequences. They are still likely to make decisions based on emotions rather than rational thought, making them particularly susceptible to developing multiple mental health issues.

Verbal Abuse or Physical Abuse

Being exposed to or falling victim to any verbal or physical abuse (including domestic violence and sexual abuse) can leave both physical and emotional scars that children would do almost anything to suppress. Physical and verbal abuse stick with a person even long after the events have taken place. Abuse can lead to low self-worth, hopelessness, paranoia, and even thoughts of suicide. It’s not something you can easily forget, so many victims turn to drug abuse or alcoholism to temporarily numb the pain.

Early Exposure

When children are exposed to drugs and/or alcohol at a young age, statistics have shown that they are more likely to develop addiction problems themselves. Continual drug or alcohol use can be a contributing factor to mental instability, especially at a young age, because drugs can alter the development of young neurological systems and how we respond to stress.

Pressure

Pressure is constantly pushed on teens by their friends, parents, and even the media, to do certain things or act specific ways. Teens are pounded with pressure everywhere they turn – the pressure to be the perfect person. All this pressure is certainly a contributing factor to anxiety, low self-esteem, self-doubt, the constant battle of unnecessary self-defense, addiction, depression, and suicidal thoughts or tendencies. As adults, we know it’s impossible to please everyone; however, teens are still learning.

One Treatment Won’t Cure All

Even though they have common risk factors, drug addiction and other mental illnesses cannot receive the same medical treatment. Curing one condition won’t cure them all. Just because your teen completes a rehab program doesn’t mean they are no longer depressed. In fact, the depression may worsen due to lack of previous methods of escape.

For more information on how to help your teen battle an addiction and/or mental illness, contact Pyramid Healthcare, Inc. today. Our experienced staff can help you choose the right programs your child needs for a less stressful recovery.

Featured photo credit: Teenager Girl Worried And Sad Outdoors/AntonioGuillem via bigstockphoto.com

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