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October 2020 | Cenikor Foundation
Teen Mental Health and Substance Abuse
26
Oct

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Is on the Rise for Teens Because of COVID-19

Since March, everything in our world has been turned upside down. Sporting venues have shut down, restaurants may offer only delivery services, and work and school has moved into the home. And over the last seven months, you may have noticed your teenager has been acting a little differently.

Teenagers are facing greater mental health challenges than ever before, and many may turn to substance abuse to cope. Read on to learn more about how substance abuse has changed among teenagers since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Substance Abuse Risks Among Teens

Before we dive into the additional problems the COVID-19 pandemic has caused, let’s talk some about substance abuse among teenagers in normal circumstances. Puberty can be a challenging, stressful time, and many teenagers turn to drugs, alcohol, and tobacco as a coping mechanism. There may also be pressure from friends to try drugs as a way to rebel and fit in.

By twelfth grade, about 60 percent of teenagers have tried alcohol, and about 20 percent have used medications without a prescription. About half of high schoolers say that they have tried marijuana. And roughly 40 percent of teenagers between ninth and twelfth grade have tried cigarettes.

Mental Health Challenges of the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a variety of mental health challenges for teenagers and adults alike. For one thing, the constant stress of living in a disease-ridden world has left many of us at higher risk for anxiety and depression. Even routine tasks like going to the grocery store or attending school may now carry an added layer of stress.

Teenagers have also become more isolated than ever before in the face of the pandemic. With schools shut down or using virtual learning, adolescents can no longer see their friends as often as they used to. They may also not be able to participate in their usual extracurricular activities thanks to COVID shutdowns.

Connection Between Trauma and Substance Abuse 

In addition to the continual strain the COVID-19 pandemic is causing, it has also been a source of trauma for today’s teenagers. Most of us grew up believing certain things in life were constant – school, sports, graduation ceremonies, and more. But today’s teenagers have had all that taken away from them as we’ve had to learn to live with the consequences of the pandemic.

This trauma is part of what causes teenagers to turn to substance abuse. Most teenagers haven’t yet learned healthy coping mechanisms to deal with stress, and substance abuse may seem like a good option to relieve that stress. Once the teen associates that substance abuse with stress relief, they may have a hard time finding other ways to deal with the challenges they face.

Recent Teen Substance Abuse by the Numbers

So how has teenage substance abuse changed since the start of the pandemic in March? According to one study, alcohol use among teenagers has risen some during the pandemic.

Before COVID, this study estimates 28.6 percent of teens used alcohol. During the pandemic, that number rose to 30.4 percent.

The frequency with which teenagers use marijuana and alcohol has also risen during the pandemic. Before COVID, teens reported using alcohol only about twice a month. That number rose to almost three times a month during the pandemic.

Cannabis use days also increased slightly from an average of 3.28 days per three weeks before the pandemic to an average of 3.76 days per three weeks during the pandemic.

Common Drugs 

There are a few drugs teenagers may use more commonly than others. Most teenagers aren’t using heroin, cocaine, or other “serious” drugs during their high school years. Instead, you’re much more likely to see drugs that seem like “not such a big deal” showing up among teenage crowds.

Alcohol is by far the most common drug of choice for teenagers, though marijuana isn’t far behind. Many teenagers have tried cigarettes, and vaping has become frighteningly trendy in recent years. Teenagers who feel more pressure to perform well academically may also use drugs like Adderall to get their school work done.

Warning Signs to Watch For

If you are the parent or loved one of a teenager, there are a few warning signs that can let you know they may be using drugs. Their mood may change even more than normal, and they may be unable to focus, have a sudden loss of inhibitions, or lose motivation.

Keep in mind that some of this is to be expected as a normal part of puberty. You want to keep an eye on drastic shifts.

Your teenager may also begin to act differently in school, or they may become unusually clumsy. They may have burn marks on their fingers or lips, their face may often be flushed, and you may notice them wearing long sleeves even in hot weather. They may have sores around their mouth, they might get lots of unexplained nosebleeds, or they may seem sick much more often.

How to Help an Addicted Teen

If you think your teenager may have a substance abuse problem, the first and most important thing you can do is let them know you are there for them. Responding with anger will only make them think they can’t turn to you for help. Instead, focus on showing compassion and letting them know that, no matter what problem they bring to you, they’ll be in a safe, trusted space and that you’ll get them the help they need.

If you find out your teenager is using drugs, talk to their school counselor about resources to help. They may be able to direct you to a therapist who specializes in working with teenagers and substance abuse. Keep lines of communication open between you and your teenager, and continue to show them compassion and love throughout this process.

Care for Your Teen’s Mental Health 

Substance abuse is a dangerous problem among teenagers, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only made it worse. Teenagers are facing worse mental health problems than ever before, and many may turn to drug use to cope. If you suspect your teenager may be using drugs, give them a safe space to talk to you about it, and make sure they get the help they need with compassion and care.

If you’d like to find the right help for your teenager, reach out to us at Cenikor. We are a place for change that can help you and your teen find better health and better lives. Contact us today to learn more about our addiction recovery programs.

opioid addiction
20
Oct

Opioid Overdose and the Pandemic: The Shocking Link Between the Two

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the opioid crisis was often in the headlines. While it seems to have lost the spotlight, opioid overdoses remain a huge problem.

How many deaths due to opioid overdose would you guess happened last year? The answer from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is about 72,000. This is a 5% increase in America since 2018.

Opioid overdose deaths are higher than from car accidents, guns, or AIDS. The CDC also estimates that opioid abuse costs the U.S. about $78.5 billion each year. This includes healthcare and treatment costs for addiction, lost productivity, and criminal justice.

Keep reading to learn more about opioid addiction, overdose, and the pandemic’s impact.

What Is an Opioid?

Opioids describe a class of drugs that occurs naturally in the opium poppy plant. Many prescription painkillers contain opioids. The street drug, heroin, is also an opioid.

Prescription opioids help relieve pain. They do this by blocking pain signals sent from the body to the brain.

Along with decreasing pain, opioids also make some people feel relaxed or even “high”. This high or happy feeling may lead a person to use more than needed. This may result in an addiction.

Other side effects include constipation, nausea, and drowsiness. Some people even experience slower breathing and confusion.

Some common prescription names for opioids include OxyContin®, codeine, morphine, and hydrocodone. Fentanyl is another opioid that’s about 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. It’s often prescribed for cancer patients.

All these drugs may be found in the illegal market as well. Street heroin and fentanyl often contain other dangerous products along with the opioids.

How Is Opioid Abuse Defined?

Opioid abuse means that an individual uses more of the medication than prescribed. It can also refer to situations when someone uses opioids that were prescribed for someone else.

The brain chemistry changes and develops a tolerance for the drug. Tolerance means that the individual needs to use more drugs over to get the same effect. If they stop the drug suddenly, they will have physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms.

Anyone who takes opioids for a prolonged time becomes dependent on the drug. This isn’t the same thing as an addiction.

Addiction describes a strong, compulsive urge to use opioids. This is no longer related to a medical need for the drug. Opioids have a high risk of becoming addictive even if it was originally prescribed.

Those with an opioid addiction may place getting the drug over food or other life necessities. Addiction interferes with relationships, work performance, and health. No one knows why some people are more prone to become addicted than others.

What Is an Opioid Overdose?

Over 1,000 Americans receive emergency department treatment every day for opioid overdoses. Even more concerning, someone dies from an opioid overdose about every 11 minutes.

Often, these overdoses occur by accident at home. A person may be trying to stop their pain and take too much of the medicine.

An overdose causes the brain receptors to block the pain, slow the breathing, and calm the body. When there is too much opioid drug in the blood, it can decrease breathing to a dangerous or deadly level. The most common cause of death is the cessation of breathing.

Signs and symptoms that an opioid overdose emergency is happening includes:

  • Extreme sleepiness or not able to wake up
  • Very slow or no breathing
  • Slowing of the heartbeat and low blood pressure
  • Cold and clammy feeling skin
  • The pupil (the center black part of the eye) looks very tiny
  • A blue color to the lips and nails

If the person doesn’t receive immediate medical treatment, they can die. Remember, this can result from legal prescriptions or illegal opioid use.

How Has COVID-19 Affected the Opioid Overdose Crisis?

During COVID-19, a large part of the U.S. has experienced quarantine. Many workers have also begun working from home or lost their jobs. Many businesses and healthcare facilities have limited access.

In general, the nation’s stress level has risen dramatically. Isolation and stress are two strong contributors to addiction. Many individuals may have trouble contacting their doctor or getting prescriptions refilled.

The majority of states are reporting increases in opioid-related deaths since the pandemic. They’ve also seen more problems with mental illness and drug and alcohol abuse.

Increased use of alcohol and drugs only adds to family and community problems. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported an increase in substance abuse after 9/11.

Our nation is facing an even more wide-spread and longer state of fear and stress today. More individuals have directly felt the impact of this crisis than at any other time in their life.

New Guidelines

In response, the American Medical Association (AMA) has taken action to address this issue. They are asking governors and state legislators to follow the new guidance. The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the U.S Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) released new rules.

The DEA and SAMHSA guidance encourage flexibility in evaluating and prescribing opioids. They also support the use of telemedicine.

They recommend reducing barriers for those who need medication. These barriers may include insurance prior authorization and step therapy. They support meaningful treatment for mental health and substance abuse disorders.

Other changes involve making sterile needles and syringes available to decrease infection risk. The AMA also encourages reduced restrictions on opioid dosing, quantity, and refills.

Do You Need Help With Addiction?

If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction, it’s time to get help. This article gave an overview of opioid abuse and opioid overdose. Experts know that pandemic-related stress is making the struggle with addiction harder.

Cenikor provides quality substance abuse and behavioral health services. We value health, wellness, faith, work, recovery, respect, education, and accountability. Our goal is to rebuild relationships and families through affordable services.

Contact us today if you or a family member needs help with an addiction.

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