When trying to recognize substance abuse among adolescents and young adults (age 15-25) it is important to keep in mind the developmental status of the individual which MUST be taken into consideration. This is a period where the individuals are still developing their cognitive functions; In fact, they communicate their emotional state differently due to difficulty identifying and articulating their emotions. According to Lee (2015), “instead of saying, ‘I feel depressed’ or ‘I feel anxious’, a AYA (adolescent and young adult) who is masking emotions might say ‘I feel like a beer’ or I feel like a joint’” (p.154). In this age group, it is fairly easy to write off a AYA’s behaviors as typical for the age group.
When trying to recognize substance abuse among older adults it is also easy to write off symptoms as typical behaviors of the age group. In which, with this age group recognizing substance abuse is a significant barrier to treating this population and not an undeveloped frontal lobe as with AYA’s (adolescent and young adult). According to Chasek (2015), “Increased sleep problems, memory problems, or falling are all consequences of advanced age; however, they can also be warning signs of alcohol or drug use in the older adult” (p.171).
I encourage you to recognize and explore emotions with children and friends so that they learn to articulate their emotions in a healthy, constructive way as they continue to grow into the person they will become. As for parents, I encourage you to check in and ask questions about day to day activities. What constitutes substance abuse for young adults is way less in older adults (older adults have an increased sensitivity to alcohol). Understanding and recognizing the signs and symptoms of substance abuse in loved ones can help to break down the barrier to treating these populations. .
Chasek, C. (2015). Older adults. Embracing diversity: Treatment and care in addictions counseling (pp.167-180). San Diego, CA: Cognella Publishing.
Lee, T. (2015). Adolescents and young adults. Embracing diversity: Treatment and care in addictions counseling (pp.145-166). San Diego, CA: Cognella Publishing.
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