Self-medication is often an attempt to avoid uncomfortable emotional states.
Adolescence, with all the changes that accompany it, can be an intense time where teens are often overwhelmed by new feelings. Many kids so strongly dislike feeling sad, anxious, angry or insecure that they will do anything to avoid these feelings, such as drinking and/or taking mood altering chemicals. Experimentation with drugs seems to have spread to include middle school, or even younger.
In a society where we have become extremely technological, many people have disconnected from nourishing relationships in favor of virtual ones. From television viewing, to Internet surfing, to text messaging–people are spending more time with their phones and computers. The co-regulation of emotional states, once available to teens through chatting with parents, siblings and extended family members, neighbors and friends, is getting interrupted through less emotionally fulfilling forms of interaction.
In a perfect world, children learn how to deeply connect to others in the early stages of their life. Recent research in brain function has proven that love is a human necessity; its absence damaging not only individuals, but to our whole society. Close emotional connections actually change the brain in those who engage in them, affecting both our sense of self and experience of life, making empathy and socialization possible. Teens who entertain themselves solely with computers can be left vulnerable to feelings of low self-esteem and hindered social skills.
Ideally, we want to understand a teen’s relationship with their drug of choice. How often are they using? Why this particular drug? What negative feelings are they trying to avoid? If you have noticed changes in your child’s behavior that leads you to suspect that drugs are involved, call me!
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