Impaired brain development in teens: Signs and symptoms of substance abuse
Drug and alcohol use impedes normal brain development in teens and can have a long-lasting, even life-long impact, according to research.
People sometimes view teenagers’ experimentation with drugs and alcohol as a normal part of growing up and coming of age. However, research shows there is no safe level of substance use when it comes to teenagers because their brains are still developing.
Rosecrance Health Network’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Thomas Wright, a board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrist who works with teens undergoing treatment for drug and alcohol abuse, sheds some light on the topic.
“If abuse is caught early enough, we can encourage development of other pathways in the brain that may be helpful,” Wright said. “It’s much more difficult to change once the brain is fully mature.”
Rosecrance is a premier provider of treatment for substance abuse among teens and adults. Rosecrance offers inpatient programs in Rockford, IL, and provides free, confidential evaluations at six offices in the Chicago area.
Research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse supports Wright’s observations. Brains mature from back to front, and the frontal lobe – the area of higher-level thinking and mature decision-making, isn’t fully mature until a person is about 22 or 23 years old, Wright said. Drug and alcohol use impedes normal brain development in teens and can a have long-lasting, even life-long, impact.
Parents should understand that the more primitive part of the brain may signal their teenagers to go full speed ahead in taking risks, including use of substances. Meanwhile, the rational part of the brain, the front, often lacks the maturity for healthy decision-making and restraint. Because of this natural immaturity, the teen years present the highest risk of any age period for substance abuse.
Some damage may be irreparable, Wright said, adding, “Drugs like inhalants are directly toxic to the brain and actually result in the death of cells.” Inhalants can also cause immediate death.
Signs and Symptoms of Drug Use in Teenagers
Help is available, but parents first need to know the signs and symptoms of drug use, which include:
Unexplained extreme mood swings
Fatigue with noticeable change in sleep patterns
Dilated pupils and bloodshot eyes
Loss of appetite, yet periods of binge eating
Changes in dress or appearance
Threats/attempts to commit suicide
Uncharacteristic nosebleeds or unexplained burns
Missed curfews and breaking house rules
Lack of interest in family activities
Isolation from family members/absence from home
Collecting alcohol or drug paraphernalia
Using air fresheners or breath mints to cover scents
Telling lies or giving unrealistic explanations of behaviors to parents
Tardiness, missing school or bad grades
Dropping out of extracurricular activities
Changes in friends; secret calls and visits
Avoiding contact with concerned adults
Losing interest in hobbies/activities
Becoming secretive and defensive
Avoiding introducing new friends
Parents who observe these behaviors should share their concerns with the child and seek a professional evaluation if they suspect substance abuse. It’s risky for parents to assume that drug and alcohol use is an inevitable phase, Wright emphasized.
“Parents should not turn a blind eye to it or just accept that it will happen, especially if there is a family history of substance abuse disease,” he said. “They should get the facts and decide what’s next.”
Treatment Options for Teens with drug and alcohol Abuse Issues
Many teens who meet criteria for treatment are placed in outpatient programs. If residential care is needed, it typically could last about six weeks, and follow-up care is important once the teen returns home.
Parents of teens who require residential services should look for a treatment center with evidence-based programming that recognizes the importance of academics in treatment and recovery. Academic success boosts self-esteem and supports continuing recovery.Rosecrance has a seven-classroom school onsite, and state-certified teachers help teens stay current with assignments from their home school districts. Teens who need tutoring for advanced coursework in order to maintain their standing at the home school have access to tutors from a nearby university.
If you suspect your teen is abusing drugs or alcohol, it’s time to seek a professional evaluation. Rosecrance will answer your questions and walk you through each step to get the help your family needs. Call Rosecrance at 888-928-5278 or go to www.rosecrance.org. Life’s waiting.
Read the latest issue of Reach
The latest issue of Reach, Rosecrance’s official magazine, has just been published, and it’s available to read on our website by clicking here.
Articles in this issue include:
Biagio Cacciatore’s story about how he was placed in an orphanage as a child, spent time in the Rosecrance Memorial Home for Children in New Milford and, after 70 years, was finally reunited with his brother, Rockford Alderman Frank Beach. (Read an expanded version of the story here and more of Biagio’s memories here.)
Visits to Rosecrance’s adolescent campus by two Illinois lawmakers, Sen. Dick Durbin and Rep. Adam Kinzinger.
Information about the new chairs and members on Rosecrance’s boards of directors
Madison-area events address addiction issues in Sept.
Rosecrance will be involved in two events in the Madison area in September:
Voices of Recovery 2013
Rosecrance is a co-sponsor of the recovery foundation luncheon, which is Sept. 30 at the Marriott Madison West, 1313 John Q Hammons Drive, in Middleton, Wis. The event will feature author and speaker Rokelle Lerner discuss “Recovery and Emotional Sobriety.” A psychotherapist, lecturer and trainer, Rokelle has inspired audiences all over the world with her ability to address difficulties with insight, humor and clarity.
Seats are $75, and tables are $750. Registration and networking is from 10 to 11:30 a.m., and the luncheon is from 11:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m.
If you’re going to be in the Madison area on Sept. 30 for the Voices for Recovery 2013 luncheon, we hope you’ll visit the TMS Center of Madison afterward during a free open house presented by Rosecrance and Connections Counseling. The event will be held from 2:30 to 4 p.m. at the TMS Center of Madison, 5005 University Ave., Madison Wis. Visitors will be able to meet our staff, tour the clinic and enjoy refreshments.TMS Center of Madison, a collaboration of Connections Counseling and Rosecrance, is the area’s only provider of transcranial magnetic stimulation, which is considered among the most significant and effective medical breakthroughs of the decade.</
If you plan to attend the open house at the TMS Center of Madison, please RSVP to Shelly Dutch by email here. For a map and directions, click here. For more information about the TMS Center of Madison, visit the website here or call 608-231-2200</strong.
Dr. Thomas Wright, Rosecrance Chief Medical Officer and Senior Vice President of Medical Affairs, will be one of the keynote speakers at this Sept. 27 event presented by Community Partnerships.
Dr. Wright will discuss “The Developmental Approach to Substance Abuse.” The other keynote speaker is Tom Ritchie, Clinical Supervisor at Libertas, and he’ll discuss “The Levels of Care with Addiction.” Other topics featured at the event will include Gangs and Addictions, The Role of Trauma in Addictions, Sex Addiction, Eating Disorders, Multi-Dimensional Family Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and more.
The event is Friday, Sept. 27, at the American Family Training Center, 6000 American Family Parkway, Madison, Wis.
Rosecrance Naperville office hosting open house on Oct. 3
You’re invited to attend an open house at Rosecrance’s Naperville Office from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 3.
Guests will be able to enjoy light refreshments, meet our staff and network with professionals. From 4 to 5 p.m. Director Christopher Yadron, MDiv, MA, LCPC, CADC, will present “The Perfect Storm: Comorbid Anxiety and Substance Abuse Disorders.” (Attendees will receive 1 CEU.)
If you plan to attend, please RSVP to Josephine Lyttle at 815.387.5607 or go to rosecrance.org/events. The Rosecrance Naperville Office is at 2135 City Gate Lane, Suite 300, Naperville, IL (next to Hotel Arista at Illinois 59 and Ferry Road). For a map and directions, click here.
Alumni Cafe on October 21 at Rosecrance Harrison Campus
Community Foundation, Rosecrance partner to educate public on Mental Health First Aid
ROCKFORD – Two Rosecrance staff members are among the first people in northern Illinois to be trained as instructors for a groundbreaking national initiative called Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) USA. The program is designed to educate the public about how to identify, understand and appropriately respond to people in crisis for mental health and substance use disorders.
Interest in MHFA USA is growing in response to President Barack Obama’s call to fight gun violence by devoting more resources to training teachers, police officers, clergy and other community members to recognize signs of mental health disorders and respond appropriately.
Through a $10,000 grant from the Dr. Louis and Violet Rubin Fund of the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois, Anne Fridh and Sarra Reichwald of Rosecrance have trained to become MHFA instructors. In turn, they will train local law enforcement officers and other first responders in important techniques that can de-escalate crises, connect people with appropriate care and save lives.
Three trainings for Rockford Police Department officers are set for November. More trainings will be scheduled soon for teachers and school personnel, as well as for firefighters.
“Research shows that the sooner people get help for mental health and substance use issues, the more likely they are to experience a positive outcome,” Fridh said. “This training is crucial for anyone who spends time with young people.”
Fridh, MS, Psy.D, is Director of Quality Management and Performance Improvement for Rosecrance. She is the first person in Rockford to receive certification as a Youth MHFA instructor. Fridh attended training this summer in Joplin, MO.
Reichwald, MS.Ed, Staff Educator at Rosecrance, attended training in Milwaukee in August for certification as an Adult MHFA instructor.
The training has been used across the nation for a variety of audiences and key professions, including primary care professionals, business leaders and employers, educators, corrections officers, nursing home staff, mental health authorizes and the general public.
Those who take the course learn a 5-step action plan to respond to individuals who are in a mental health crisis until they can be linked with appropriate help, possibly professional care.
That response plan is summed up by the mnemonic device ALGEE:
Assess for risk of suicide or harm. Listen nonjudgmentally. Give reassurance and information. Encourage appropriate professional help. Encourage self-help and other support strategies.
MHFA is an evidence-based training program that began in Australia and first was piloted in the United States in 2008. MHFA is a being managed in this country by the Washington D.C-based National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Missouri Department of Mental Health.
Staff in recovery story includes Rosecrance's Melissa Garrison
In an article on its website focusing on staff in recovery, The National Clearing House on Families & Youth includes input from Melissa Garrison, Alumni Coordinator and Recovery Lifeline Coordinator for Rosecrance.
As the Recovery Lifeline coordinator for Rosecrance in Rockford, IL, she fields calls from young people who have graduated from the organization’s residential treatment program but are still struggling to stay clean. “A lot of time the youth is hesitant about walking into a 12-step support group. Or they have that feeling that no one knows what I’m going through.” At that point Garrison’s personal story can make the difference.
WREX reports on TMS treatment for Rockford man's depression
Here’s a report WREX-13 aired Brian Smith, a Rockford resident whose depression was treated with Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), a treatment offered by Rosecrance affiliate Aspen Counseling & Consulting:
Rosecrance takes recovery to Twitter with '12 Tweets'
Each day, Twitter users who follow Rosecrance 12 Tweets will receive a short message inspired by one of the 12 Steps of recovery. The Tweets are written by Rosecrance Church Relations Coordinator Rev. Dr. William Lenters, Alumni Coordinator Melissa Garrison, Clergy Community Relations Coordinator Rev. James E. Swarthout and other Rosecrance employees.
Signing up for Rosecrance 12 Tweets is easy. If you don’t have a Twitter account, go to Twitter.com and sign up for one. (It’s free.) If you do have a Twitter account, go to Rosecrance 12 Tweets and click on the “follow” icon.
Now, each day in your Twitter feed, you’ll receive a quick take on one of the 12 Steps. If you like what you read and think our Tweets might inspire others, we encourage you to retweet them from your own account.
And while you’re at it, remember to follow our Rosecrance News Twitter account and like us on Facebook.