Teen Angst: How Substance Abuse Turns To Addiction

May 14th, 2011 | Posted by Sherry Gaba in Addiction | Adolescents

Sherry Gaba LCSW, Psychotherapist, Life and Recovery Coach on Celebrity Rehab on VH1 and author of “The Law of Sobriety” which uses the law of attraction to recover from any addiction. Please download your copy of “Eliminate Limiting Beliefs”, from Sherry’s, Enrich Your Life series. Contact Sherry at sherry@sgabatherapy.com for webinars, teleseminars, coaching packages and speaking engagements. Join Sherry for Conscious Awakenings: Manifest Your Life Purpose Spring Tele-Summit 2011

The Need For Acceptance

Every teen is striving for acceptance. This is the core motivator for the majority of their behavior. As they journey on the path towards self-discovery, they find themselves asking a lot of questions and experiencing a whole set of emotions and feelings that are new. This creates confusion and a search for answers. Teens are seeking a place in the world where they fit. Rebellion is a natural reaction, creating drama, emotional mood swings and negative behavior are all par for the course. Teens acted this way 50 years ago and they act this way today. One major difference between the teens of the past and the teens of today is the extreme negative influencers that are pushing them in a certain direction.

Negative Influence

Teens are influenced by a myriad of elements. Major influences in a teen’s life can include:

  • Peer Pressure
  • Social Acceptance
  • Drugs, Alcohol And Tobacco
  • Family Relations
  • Mental Illness

All of these factors create choices for the teen to make. Regardless if the teen feels responsible for their actions, consequences must be reinforced. If consequences do not occur, teen’s belief that they are invincible will escalate. The media already influences teens to believe that their actions can be above the law and above repercussion, if rules are not enforced, the behavior will only get worse.

Warning Signs

The warning signs for teens abusing substances are similar to warning signs of addiction in adults. The following are a few of the warning signs of abuse and addiction in teenagers.

  • Extreme Mood Swings
  • Change In Peer Group
  • A Lack Of Interest In School. Possible Drop In Grades And Lack Of Attendance.
  • Change In Sleeping And Eating Patterns
  • Money Missing From The House


The most important action that an authority figure can take is to seek professional help. Therapists are trained to work directly with teens and addiction. For those that treat addicted teens, it is advised that you have a firm understanding in adolescent behavior and addiction treatment. While treating a teen with addiction issues is similar to treating an adult, there are differences. The goal is the same, to teach the teen how to live life as a productive human being. The teen should be given tools on how to live a life free of substances.

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