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Young and Addicted: Stunted Growth and Development

Young and Addicted: Stunted Growth and Development

Addiction Can Stunt Growth and Slow Development

Young adults who struggle with substance use disorders (SUDs) fail to mature developmentally during active use, which can have long-term consequences on their ability to function as adults.

Studies have shown that young adults, aged 18 through 24, who abuse substances are more likely to experience problems with cognitive development, including memory and learning difficulties. In addition, substance abuse can cause feelings of insecurity, paranoia, anxiety, and identity issues, which often lead a person to use even more, creating a vicious spiral of shame and continued addiction.

Diminished Ability to Regulate Emotions

One of the problems with abusing substances at a young age is that it delays normal body and brain development. The impairment caused by sustained abuse can be seen most strikingly in the failure to manage emotions effectively.

When emotion regulation skills are not adequately developed in childhood or early adulthood, it can be difficult to know how to cope with big feelings in a healthy way. Unfortunately, this often leads to avoidance strategies, such as using drugs or alcohol to numb these feelings.

Effective treatment programs teach individuals how to regulate emotions in constructive ways so they no longer need substances to cope. Often, this means learning how to identify and healthily express feelings, set boundaries, and deal with conflict.

While it can be challenging to learn these skills later in life, it is still possible and is essential for a successful recovery.

Arrested Development

In addition to impairment in emotional regulation and deterioration of physical health, young adults with alcohol and drug use disorders may suffer severely from psychosocial problems, including:

  • loss of employment
  • difficulty participating in education
  • legal problems

Emotional maturity and decision-making are adversely impacted by early age substance abuse, leaving many young adults ill-prepared for the challenges of adulthood.

Imagine a young person, who begins using drugs at the age of 14. For the next four years, this individual continues to use drugs regularly, and as a result, their normal human development was stunted. This means, that by the time they reach age 18, they has the emotional maturity of a 14-year-old.

When this young person’s friends start “adulting”—getting jobs, going to college, getting married—they are unable or unwilling to do those things. As a result, they feel like a failure and wonder what is wrong with them.

There are many young people in this situation. They are commonly referred to as “failures to launch” because they have not been able to launch into adulthood successfully. Many factors can contribute to this syndrome, but substance abuse is one of the most common.

Problems With Attachment

Having healthy attachments is essential for humans. There are different types of attachment, but they all stem from the need to feel safe and secure.

People with secure attachments tend to be more trusting, confident, and independent. They are also more likely to have fulfilling relationships. On the other hand, people with insecure attachments tend to be more anxious and have difficulty forming and maintaining healthy relationships.

SUDs can impact a person’s ability to form attachments. This is because substances can interfere with developing trust, intimacy, and commitment—all crucial components of attachment.

Humans are social creatures who need attachments to others to survive and thrive. No matter what age, SUDs often lead to isolation from family and friends. This estrangement and loneliness can create a negative emotional spiral that furthers the need for the temporary pain relief that some substances provide.

Treating More Than the Behavior

A high-quality treatment program for SUD should occur within a framework that considers unique issues, such as an individual’s developmental stage and maturity level. Through a variety of traditional and complementary therapies, individuals in treatment develop critical coping, communication, and interpersonal skills that promote long-term sobriety and a better quality of life.

Traditional therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) help individuals identify and change faulty patterns of thought and behavior that perpetuate the addiction. They examine their beliefs and discard those that are inaccurate or harmful. They also learn healthy coping mechanisms to deal with stress and triggers. These skills are essential for recovery and preventing relapse.

Experiential therapies, such as art therapy or music therapy, can also be helpful in treatment. They provide an outlet for expression and help individuals relax as well as cope with difficult emotions.

Holistic interventions that utilize yoga, meditation, or breathwork can help to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, which are all common triggers for substance use. In addition, these therapies help individuals improve their self-awareness, self-confidence, and self-esteem.

Through the intelligent and timely application of the above interventions, individuals develop trust, empathy, and compassion—especially for themselves. They can begin to see the world in a larger context, which helps them transcend the need for immediate gratification.

Combining traditional and holistic therapeutic interventions to treat SUDs provides a recovery foundation that can last a lifetime.

At Vanity Wellness Center, we consider an individual’s development, maturity, and unique issues when creating treatment plans with our clients. Combining traditional and holistic therapies, we teach the skills needed to manage emotions and form healthy attachments.

Let us be your partner in recovery

At Vanity Wellness Center, we excel at providing comprehensive, person-centered, and accessible, holistic care for those struggling with substance use and mental health disorders, as well as unwanted addictive behaviors. Vanity Wellness Center is committed to helping our clients identify and work through their underlying trauma to overcome their addictions, and lead meaningful, happy lives. Vanity Wellness Center uses therapeutic relationships to promote ideas, creativity, connection, health, and stability in individuals and their families. We utilize cutting-edge, science-based interventions to treat the whole person, not just the addictive behaviors. We teach young adults the skills they need to stop using and stay sober to become active members of society. Our talented team of professionals will help you create a treatment plan that makes sense for your specific situation, taking into account your values and goals.  For more information, call Vanity Wellness Center today at (866) 587-1737