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Chemical dependency on alcohol or drugs occurs when a teen's body has come to need a certain drug to feel normal. A teen suffering from chemical dependency needs help to overcome his or her drug problem. Keep reading for more on chemical dependency.
Chemical dependency is when a teen cannot stop his or her use of drugs or alcohol despite the negative effects of drug use because of the drug’s effects on the teen’s body. It is physical dependence on the drug, where the teen's body has adapted to the presence of the drug and needs it to feel normal. Another type of addiction, psychological addiction, occurs when the teen feels like they need the drug to function, but their body is not dependent on the drug as it is in the case of chemical dependency.
There are several signs that a teen has moved from abuse or misuse of a drug to dependence on it, though some of the symptoms for abuse and dependency overlap. The chemically dependent teen:
Chemical dependency increases the risk for accidental overdose, injury, and death, and also for suicide. It decreases a teen's chances for success in life.
Many different drugs can cause chemical dependency. Some of the most common are:
Drugs that are not considered to create the same level of dependence as the above drugs, but can produce tolerance and addiction are:
In addition to these drugs, some legal drugs with medical uses, such as some blood pressure medications, can cause chemical dependence because the body comes to rely on them, but they are not commonly abused and are not considered addictive because people don't crave them.
There's no good way to know before a teen abuses drugs if he or she will develop a chemical dependency. Some drugs are more addictive than others, and some people are more susceptible to chemical dependency than others. The process of physical addiction to a drug can begin the first time a person uses the drug. Chemical dependency is considered a disease, and like all diseases, some people are more at risk than others. Some risk factors for chemical dependency include:
Luckily there are some ways to reduce the chances of a teen developing chemical dependency, most of which focus on preventing the teen from using drugs or alcohol in the first place:
The treatment for chemical dependency depends on the teen and the type of drug or drugs he or she is addicted to. A doctor should supervise the teen's withdrawal from the drug, as some drugs cause potentially life threatening withdrawal symptoms, and the teen may be at increased risk for suicide. Once addicted teens have gone through detox, or gotten the drug out of their system, they will need a strong and caring support system to help them stay clean. A support group like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, SMART Recovery, and LifeRing Recovery can help teens avoid relapsing.
Once a person is addicted to a drug they are always addicted, but they can develop the self control to not use the drug and to have a successful life.
Sources:National Institute on Drug Abuse, "Drug Abuse and Addiction" [online]
MedlinePlus, "Drug Dependence" [online]
The Ohio State University Medical Center, "Substance Abuse/Chemical Dependency" [online]
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