Challenges for Young Adults in Addiction Treatment

Every so often, young adults (aged 18 to 24) develop a substance use disorder (SUD). Even if that habit of using drugs or alcohol has not become a hard-wired addiction, substance use still poses risks, such as delaying cognitive development, increasing accidents, and developing an addiction in later life. Understanding more about this topic can help you better support your loved one toward not just sobriety but long-term wellness.

Unique Challenges Facing Recovering Young Adults

Everyone entering treatment has a unique set of problems that they need to work out. These may include personal history, family history, biological traits, and other mental health issues. However, when it comes to young adults in addiction treatment, they face some unique challenges compared with other subgroups of the general population.

First, because the human brain isn’t fully mature in the physiological sense until around age 25, young adults aged 18 to 24 are at higher risk of changing brain structures. In particular, because the last area to develop in the human brain is the prefrontal cortex, early adulthood usually entails the brain going through a process of pruning unused connections and insulating neurons with fatty white matter that increases the signaling efficiency.

The developing state of the prefrontal cortex means that teens are weaker in cognitive skills, which impacts functions such as judgment, self-control, emotional regulation, and forward-thinking risk calculation. These are essential skills of the human brain to recover from an illness like substance addiction. The malleability of the young adult brain means that it can be forcefully shaped by substances without the ability to repair itself toward cognitive maturity.

Social Challenges During Young Adulthood 

Apart from the unique physiological trait of young adulthood, this is also a phase when peer pressure becomes most prominent. Although young adults like to think that they think for themselves, in reality, they are most vulnerable to social pressure, particularly peer pressure to conform. Adolescence to young adulthood is a time when a young person shifts from yielding to parental authority in the home to external influence with friends. This shift happens while their cognitive ability is still developing.

Young adulthood is also when romance begins to bloom. Balancing academic achievements and the demands of a relationship may create a lot of stress. Many young people also feel the pressure to excel in sports or other extracurricular activities. All these can be constant stressors in one’s emotional world. 

Often, young adults also get to witness a lot of stress at home, such as when family communication breaks down, parents divorce, or other dynamics take place. For all these reasons, young adulthood is a season when mental illnesses begin to show up.

Meanwhile, if one cannot feel a sense of belonging at home, his or her risk of growing attached to a peer group can increase. The attachment to friends and individuals outside of the family can make them susceptible to experimenting with drugs and alcohol. A young person’s connection to a group of peers who use drugs or alcohol can exert powerful but negative influences.

Young Adults in Addiction Treatment

We all know that early intervention is crucial for teens and young adults who show signs of substance addiction. However, young people of this age group are less likely to receive treatment for a mental health issue, not to mention substance addiction. Delaying treatment can only harden their addictive habits. Over the course of one’s life, non-intervention only serves to prolong a person’s suffering with the influence of drugs and alcohol. It is important to involve a professional interventionist to work with a young person so that he or she can get treated as early as possible.

A treatment program for young adults must consider all the risk factors discussed above. It’s not enough to just treat the symptoms of addiction. The underlying conditions, such as brain development, social pressure, and family dynamics, need to receive proper care in order to prevent relapse.

The Importance of Age-Specific Treatment Programs 

Now that we know about how young adulthood presents itself concerning a person’s physiology and emotional and mental health, it makes sense that young adults with addiction should be cared for by some age-specific treatment programs. Such programs consider various factors related to this developmental and social state. They seek to create a safe space for young adults to explore topics relevant to their lives with trained therapists.

If you want to be supportive to a loved one who is a young adult, you should reach out to a professional interventionist to inquire about this kind of age-specific treatment program in your region. Meanwhile, you need to understand more about the unique triggers that may cause your loved one to fall back into old patterns. You can also pay more attention to how he or she copes with emotions, knowing that emotional regulation is one difficult area for people of this age group. 

Finally, walk alongside your loved ones to make them develop an understanding of their own behavior. Growing this sense of self-awareness is healthy for them to better cope with future challenges.

Do you have a loved one who is a young adult going through addiction treatment? Are you aware that young adults face a unique set of challenges that can make the journey of recovery more daunting? Your loved one needs all your support, and you need to be more informed about what addiction treatment means for young people. At South Florida Intervention, our professionally trained interventionists have helped many teens and young adults maintain sobriety. We offer a safe, nurturing, and healing space for young adults to experience recovery from the multifaceted disease of substance addiction. We believe in the potential of each young person who can be inspiring and resilient in meeting their challenges, in discovering the root of their own problems, and in reclaiming their lives from the control of drugs and alcohol. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, call us today at (202) 390-2273.