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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Identifying Addiction With Teenagers

It is fair to say that one’s teenage years are often the hardest; there are constant pressures that can dramatically shape which direction you head in life. Teen drug and alcohol use is a problem that has grown over the years, often leading to addiction at a very young age. Addiction is hard to spot, every case is different, addicts are typically good at manipulation - even doctors have trouble identifying signs of addiction. Teenagers are much more susceptible than adults, when they are introduced to something, most times they will embrace it despite the consequences.

Pediatricians should be proactive, asking questions about drug and alcohol use can save lives. Teenagers are often unaware that their behavior is risky, even detrimental to one’s health. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says doctors should routinely screen their teenage patients for drug and alcohol use at every visit, and look for signs of dependence or addiction. The quicker a problem is spotted, in most cases, the easier it is to deal with.

This month, the AAP and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism released a new tool that should help pediatricians engage with their teenage patients about drugs and alcohol. The “Alcohol Screening and Brief Intervention for Youth: A Practitioner’s Guide” provides doctors with basic questions about whether and how much a patient drinks, and how much their friends drink. Doctors are often the first line of defense with substance abuse; they can see trends that parents are unable to see. The more tools a doctor has at his/her disposal, the easier it is to diagnose a disorder.

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