Adolescent depression and substance abuse |

Adolescent depression and substance abuse

Cindy Swalm, Tahoe Youth and Family Services

“Adolescent Depression and Substance Abuse”

Recent studies show that, at any given time, as many as 1 in 33 children may suffer from depression. The rate of depression among adolescents in nearly as high as that in adults, with some estimates being as high as 1 in 8.

An adolescent is asked to “get high” or “party” at least once a week, more times if he or she says yes the first time. Alcohol and other drugs are easily accessible to teenagers. With many of them experiencing a number of problems and losses — such as a friend moving away, the breakup of a relationship, or a divorce in the family — it’s easy to see how, for many, getting high or drunk is how they cope. Adolescence substance use usually starts out as being “something fun” and “blowing off steam,” then the user soon discovers that it temporarily numbs emotional pain. For some, the use quickly spirals out of control, and it begins to cause problems within a short time.

Many parents whose children I treat tell me that their kids have become moody and agitated, symptoms of both depression and substance abuse. Other “red flags” include the following:

n Frequent absences and poor school performance.

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n Loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy.

n Change in eating habits.

n Sleeping too much, or experiencing other sleep-related problems; this is seen especially in patients suffering from depression, or using methamphetamine.

n Sadness that won’t “just go away.”

n Feelings of hopelessness.

n Aches and pains that don’t improve with treatment.

n Thoughts about death or suicide; the potential for suicide increases with substance abuse.

Once diagnosed, depression may be effectively treated. A combination of therapy, medication, education and exercise has been proved time and again to be the most successful method of combating depression. Therapy and education that includes learning about healthy coping mechanisms to deal with stress, problem-solving, communication and relaxation is vital. Adding daily exercise helps promote emotional well-being and helps natural mood enhancers “kick in” (serotonin and endorphins, produced by the human body.) Additionally, you may ask your physician or a psychiatrist about the newer antidepressant medications that many adolescents have found extremely helpful.

Tahoe Youth & Family Services offers a comprehensive assessment for both substance abuse and depression. We offer an adolescent outpatient drug and alcohol program, to including individual, group and family counseling. With more serious depression issues, the adolescent will be referred to a physician and/or psychiatrist.

As a parent who has raised three children of her own, I know first hand how difficult it is to raise an adolescent, even in the best of circumstances. Should you have any questions, you may contact Tahoe Youth & Family Services at our office number (530) 541-2445. We also offer free, confidential 24-hour crisis counseling at (530) 541-8500.

(ital.) Cindi Swalm, CADC is a counselor and program coordinator at Tahoe Youth & Family Services. She specializes in adolescent addiction. (ital.)

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