Addiction Resource Guide for Kids and Parents
Most people have heard the word "addiction" before. It's a word used to describe compulsive use of alcohol, drugs, or even things like video games or social media to a level where it has a bad impact on the user's life. Addiction is considered by doctors to be a mental illness and a disorder of the brain. Anyone at any age can develop an addiction. Drug and alcohol addiction can cause a lot of damage to kids, families, and people's lives. More than 70,000 Americans die every year because of a drug overdose, and more than 140,000 Americans die every year because of alcohol use. Most kids know an adult with an addiction, and many kids also know other kids who use alcohol or drugs.
The media often makes drinking look cool and grown-up. It's also common for kids to see the adults in their lives drink, at least sometimes. The reality is that a lot of adults do drink. However, drinking isn't a safe activity for kids or teens. It's also not a safe activity for some adults. Recent studies have found that some kids start drinking by the age of 11. The earlier a person starts drinking, the more likely it is that they will develop an addiction to alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant, meaning that it slows down the brain. A person who has been drinking will think and speak differently from how they normally do. They might have problems walking steadily. They should never drive a car or operate machinery. Often, people wake up sick the day after drinking, especially if they drink a lot. This is referred to as a hangover. Not every adult who drinks has a problem; many grown-ups can drink from time to time without having any issues. But other people develop an addiction to it. A person addicted to alcohol feels sick when they don't have any. Alcoholism gets worse over time and causes health issues like liver disease.
The word "drugs" can be used to describe many things. All drugs are chemicals that change how your body works, though the effects differ from drug to drug. Not all drugs are bad: For example, medications prescribed by a doctor are legal drugs, as are things like pain relievers parents give to kids when they are sick. However, no one should ever take another person's prescription medication.
But when people talk about the drug epidemic or problem, they usually are talking about illegal drugs. The first kind of illegal drugs is sometimes legal: It's prescription drugs. They are legal for the people they are prescribed to in the prescribed dosage, but if other people start taking them or if the person they are prescribed to takes more than the doctor ordered, that's part of the larger drug problem in the United States. Prescription drug abuse is a major cause of addiction. The other kind of illegal drugs is the kind that's illegal for anyone to have or use. Illegal drugs aren't regulated or tested by any sort of authority, so when someone purchases some, they actually don't know what they are buying. Sometimes, poisonous substances are mixed in with the drugs. Even if nothing has been mixed with an illegal drug, the drug itself will have bad effects on your body. The impact is even worse on the bodies of kids and teens, since their bodies and systems are still developing. People who use drugs have a hard time thinking clearly, expressing themselves so that others can understand them, and even just making decisions. It's easy to make bad choices when you're under the influence of drugs. Sometimes, drug users think drugs help solve their problems. Illegal drugs don't, though; they just give the user new problems. Many drugs are very easy to get addicted to, or physically dependent on. Physical dependency means someone's body is so used to the drug that it can't function well without it.
Although it's hard to treat addiction, it is possible. It's also important. Parents battling addiction can harm their children and families. Kids who become addicted to substances also cause problems in their own lives and in the lives of their family and friends. Kids and adults can also get addicted to things other than alcohol and drugs. Screen time addiction is discussed a lot in terms of kids and their behavior.
What Is Addiction?