Post by Michael Plahn
The idea of just saying “NO” to drugs or alcohol when I was going to school became a popular slogan. The idea Nancy Reagan got behind was, in theory, a noble attempt at dealing with the alarming addiction rate and cocaine epidemic of the early 1980′s. However, after much more study has taken place, it is a more complicated issue than just saying no to drugs and alcohol, or having strong willpower. Especially if the addicted person is an adolescent or young adult.
reason is that an area of the brain called the pre-frontal cortex, which regulates judgement, impulse control, and self-monitoring, does not fully develop until the individual is approximately twenty-five years old. Therefore,it is much different than just a willpower issue or solved by hanging out with a new crowd. Your teenager or young adult may be virtually handcuffed by their addiction and lack the ability to “just say NO” because the part of their brain that could help them in that cpacity has not been fully developed, or even worse, likely damaged by the alcohol and drug use.
What can be done? In my opinion, this is definitely a situation that requires professional help. The addicted young person has likely shown signs of psychiatric issues and may be acting out in a manner that has the family feeling as though “this is not our son/daughter/sibling” … “they have changed.” Well, they very well may have changed. As the founder of LifeSkills Authorities, and someone in recovery myself, I strongly encourage you to seek professional help immediately. This is not an issue that is likely going to get better by getting them into college and living on their own. That false hope often leads to more problems and tragedies during the first years of college. I urge you to get a professional opinion and go into it with an open mind. Successful treatment is likely going to be a long-term solution, goes beyond a simple intervention or 30-day treatment program, and can be costly.
I have personally sat with countless families who think things will get better and their child will somehow just change. Don’t be the parents that take that chance with your child’s life. Addiction is a progressive and terminal disease that requires professional help to treat, particularly when the addict in question is a young adult. After a tragedy, hindsight may make it painfully obvious to see where the path was leading. Perhaps it would have been the answer to use the college money you saved for education, and instead pay for the proper long-term professional addiction treatment for your son/daughter.
If you are reading this and can relate to this topic matter or have a personal story to share, please comment and let us hear from you.