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Depression, Drugs, and Alcohol
Parents often assume that teens try alcohol and drugs to rebel or to "fit in" with their peer group. However, teens with undiagnosed emotional or behavioral problems often use drugs and alcohol as a way to relieve their frustrations. A depressed teen may self-medicate with alcohol to escape the terrible sense of hopelessness. Unfortunately, alcohol only exacerbates the problem. Drugs like ecstasy and other club-drug uppers may even make them feel "normal" when for weeks they have felt miserable. The impact of such drugs on serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins, chemicals in the brain that regulate mood, can be devastating for children and adolescents. The damage they do to receptors in the brain can make the road back from depression even harder.
Often parents approach the issue of drug and alcohol use as simply a discipline issue for a child who is "bad." However, your child may be sick. They may be unable to express to you exactly how they feel. Therefore, contacting a mental health professional such as a psychologist or psychiatrist who specializes in the treatment of adolescents, is your first step in nailing down the source of the problem. If your child is self-medicating to treat depression, anxiety, or other emotional or behavioral disorders, simply applying more discipline and creating more rules will not impact the underlying problem that led to substance abuse in the first place.
Drugs and Alcohol Can Bring About Depression
While some teens self-medicate to treat depression, other teens end up with a serious mental disorder due to abuse of drugs or alcohol. Abusive drinking or drug use can seriously undermine your child's physical, emotional, and psychological health. Some drugs, such as methampetamines, can seriously affect the neurotransmitters, which are known as the "messengers of the brain." Recent studies suggest this damage can be long-lasting and even permanent. Many teens have the mistaken notion that club drugs are benign. In fact, while they might feel "good" while taking them, they can make it difficult for the child to feel good naturally for a long time to come. The longer children use these drugs, the more difficult treatment and the higher rate of relapse due to their inability to "feel good" or even "normal" because of the damage to their neurotransmitters.