Teens can be particularly vulnerable to the lure of substance abuse for a variety of reasons. The developing personality and feelings of insecurity can often drive these young people into unwholesome behaviors to try to fit into a social group.
Becoming addicted to substances can then lead to self-isolating behavior that further alienates them from their peers. A further look shows how teens and social withdrawal can be an indicator of a number of problems that require professional treatment.
Social Pressure and Substance Use
The teenage years are a time when brain function and personality are not fully developed. Individuals in this age group often rely on their peers to help interpret situations around them and as a way to learn life skills. Researchers have found that having peers watching them causes the reward centers in teen brains to activate. This reward reaction occurs even when they are engaged in negative behavior. The pressure to fit into groups or be seen as cool causes them to conduct themselves in ways that may not always make sense to adults or even to themselves. In some cases, this drive to conform can lead them unintentionally into addiction.
Depression and Anxiety Can Trigger Social Withdrawal
Research into mood disorders and anxiety conditions finds that individuals often choose to withdraw from social interactions that may exacerbate symptoms. Teens may be particularly susceptible to these conditions because of the stresses of trying to navigate their way into adult life. Social anxiety can cause these young people excruciating discomfort in social situations.1
These mental health problems can also lead teens to engage in substance abuse. The National Institute on Drug Abuse notes that individuals addicted to drugs or alcohol are twice as likely to suffer from mental health issues.2
Substance Use and Social Isolation
Once an addiction is established, the problem of managing daily activities and social interactions becomes increasingly difficult. The need to continue using drugs or alcohol often puts these teens at odds not only with parents and teachers, but also with their own peer group. They may choose to withdraw from their usual social group to concentrate on acquiring and using the substance. Unfortunately, this behavior only reinforces the addiction, making it even more difficult to quit using.
Finding Help for Teen Substance Abuse
A professional treatment facility that has experience with teen mental health and substance abuse problems can provide the specialized care that they need to work on their issues. Parents are able to voice their concerns to experienced counselors and addiction specialists and be informed of their child’s progress. Teens can rely on their privacy being protected by the professional staff as they undergo treatment.3 These factors help to ensure that teens learn to manage emotional issues and deal with cravings so that they can build a productive adult life.
If your teen seems to be withdrawing from normal social interactions with their peer group, it could be because of underlying mental health conditions or substance abuse problems. Contact a professional treatment center for an evaluation to help your teen develop into a confident, well-adjusted adult.