How Technology Can Help Young People Obtain Addiction Treatment

Written by: Cassidy Webb

Asking for help while suffering from addiction can be terrifying. There is the fear of judgment, fear of change, and fear of admitting that you simply cannot do something on your own. Addiction is on the rise and is affecting people of all ages from all walks of life, but treatment is also more prevalent and obtainable than ever due, to the connectivity provided by smartphones and the internet.

Affected Youth

Approximately 1.9 million teenagers between the age of 12-17 report using illicit substances each year. Though not all experimental substance use will develop into physical dependence or addiction, 9 out of 10 adults who suffer from addiction began abusing substances before reaching the age of 18. In addition, 25% of people who begin abusing prescription drugs at age 13 develop a substance use disorder later in life. Since adolescent brains are still developing, it is particularly dangerous for them to use drugs at a young age as it can cause long-term damage to the brain.

The part of the brain that regulates judgment and decision making is still developing in adolescents, causing them to be inconsiderate of potential long term consequences of repeated drug use. Repeated drug use is recognized in the brain as a reward, thus making the developing brain accustomed to the drug-reward interaction. This increases the susceptibility of adolescents who use substances to develop drug dependence and addiction.

Treatment Benefits

Research suggests that individuals who seek residential treatment for their drug use have better long-term outcomes, than those who do not receive treatment. Though adolescents are less likely to seek out treatment, this study also suggests that those who do so experience a decreased risk of overdose and morbidity in the future.

Another effective aspect of addiction treatment is  therapy, which allows adolescents to recognize unhealthy or dangerous behaviors that they are participating in, with the guidance of a therapist. Through this method of treatment, patients learn about various coping mechanisms to deal with stress and anxiety, through behavior-based techniques like meditation and deep breathing. In addition, patients also learn how their thoughts and beliefs can influence their mood and actions.

Another benefit of treatment for substance use disorders involves being surrounded by other individuals who share similar experiences and struggles. As addiction typically causes people to isolate, group therapy is an integral part of recovery, because it allows participants to learn from others.  Group counseling also offers the opportunity for support and guidance from one’s peers, which can help to for each weed out feelings of shame and judgment.

Importance of Technology

In today’s technologically driven society, mobile and online offer a grandiose opportunity to enhance treatment capabilities and reduce stigmas, with regards to substance use disorders.

With nearly 79% of people using the internet regularly, the need for treatment providers to engage in digital outreach is massive. When trying to find a good restaurant or service, the first thing most people do is complete a Google search. Finding treatment is typically done the same way. Many treatment websites even feature a live online chat with an administrator who will be willing to answer questions regarding the treatment process. Being able to access this information without revealing a person’s identity may make young people more likely to reach out for help and obtain the information they need to determine a plan for treatment. The internet provides an immense resource for those seeking treatment or detox for substance use disorders.

Not only does it help provide resources, but it can connect people through online support groups where they can meet and speak with others who are struggling with the same things. This may be a preferred method for many adolescents of engaging with others because it maintains a level of anonymity.

Stigma Reduction

The topic of addiction can be somewhat taboo. Many people don’t feel comfortable talking about it, because of the stigma and shame that surround it.

To reduce this stigma using technology, many recovering addicts and alcoholics will share their personal stories of recovery on various websites. Simply writing about their journeys and describing the desperation they felt when they honestly wanted to stop using drugs but found that they couldn’t help illustrate the suffering that these individuals face. The more people talk about their experience with addiction open and honestly, the less taboo the subject becomes.

 

With technology at our fingertips and social media being a part of everyday life, it can be used to break the stigmas around addiction so that adolescents who are suffering may feel more comfortable in reaching out for help.

Cassidy Webb is a 24 year old avid writer from South Florida.  She advocates spreading awareness on the disease of addiction. Her passion in life is to help others by sharing her experience, strength, and hope.




INNOVATE: NEXT
NEXT is a mobile responsive website to facilitate access to preventive services, including STD prevention, sexual health resources, and other social services for youth exiting supervised care systems (YESCS) like foster care and/or the juvenile justice system.
Learn more about this YTH project