Being a teenager is hard. Always has been. However, in the age of 24 hour social media, where every move and comment a person makes is scrutinized by anonymous hoards of people, it can be especially difficult to navigate the waters of adolescence. Teenage depression is growing at an exponential rate. Depression can lead teenagers to make very poor decisions regarding their health. Drug and alcohol abuse is rampant among young people who suffer from some form of mental health issue, including depression. Treating these teens for depression before their problems spiral out of control is the best method for making sure we do not see a generation of teens throwing their lives away on drug or alcohol abuse.
A new study conducted by Duke University, and published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, shows that out of 192 teenagers who successfully received depression treatment, only 10% went on to abuse drugs. Of those whose treatment was unsuccessful, 25% went on to use drugs or alcohol. Dr. John Curry, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University concluded that “It turned out that whatever they (the teenagers) responded to – cognitive-behavior therapy, Prozac, both treatments, or a placebo – if they did respond within 12 weeks they were less likely to develop a drug-use disorder.”
Asking For Help
Researchers have long believed that cognitive therapy, in conjunction with anti-anxiety medication, has been largely successful in helping individuals with depression maintain a healthy lifestyle. However, teenagers are far less likely to ask for help in dealing with their depression than adults are. Teenagers may not understand what they are going through, and turn to drugs or alcohol for answers. Of course, this is a very dangerous scenario that many teens put themselves into every day. It is difficult for anyone to ask for assistance with a mental health issue. It is even harder for a person to self-diagnose themselves with such an issue. This is why it is so imperative for teachers and parents to be cognitive of the behavior young people routinely exhibit.
Knowing When To Help
If we are going to curb the epidemic of teen drug and alcohol abuse, we will first have to understand why so many of these young people look to mind altering substances in the first place. Certainly, many of these teenagers are normal, mentally healthy kids who get into their parent’s liquor cabinet every once in a while. However, for young people who suffer from depression, and are too afraid or embarrassed to ask for help, getting high or drunk seems like the only option they have. These kids are not drinking or doing drugs to have a good time, they are imbibing to escape their realities.
It is time we start better screening programs for mental health issues in our schools and at home. Depression is a very serious affliction that can have devastating consequences if left unchecked. It is even more dangerous when the depressed individual is a teenager who is still trying to figure out who they are. By helping our young people before they turn to drugs or alcohol, we will be giving them the tools they need to live healthy and productive lives in the future. If we continue to ignore and sweep under the rug the vast amount of teenagers who live with depression every day, we are doomed to witness a future that sees even more of our young people fall victim to drug or alcohol abuse. If you know a young person that is struggling with depression, drug or alcohol abuse, it is important that you help them find help through drug addiction treatment programs.