Failure to Launch. Substance Abuse and Arrested Development.

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Western culture doesn't widely embrace any right-of-passage ceremonies as early people once did. As modern children begin their transition into adulthood, pushing boundaries of authority and engaging in high-risk behaviors like drinking and drug experimentation have become accepted features of adolescence. However, scientific evidence shows that teen substance abuse can literally impact the brain structures in the prefrontal cortex that are responsible for higher order decision making, judgment, risk assessment, mood regulation, and impulse control. This is the long-term consequence of teen drug or alcohol abuse that is not widely discussed or considered, but which can have a profound impact on their future.

Using PET scan technology, Merrill Norton, a clinical assistant professor of pharmacy at the University of Georgia, was able to use actual brain imaging to identify how teen substance abuse interferes with brain development, resulting in arrested development. When a teen or young adult veers off into substance abuse, it can cause a disruption in the learning and maturation process, stunting emotional growth. In fact it slows to a crawl.

This delayed emotional development is usually first noticed in early adulthood when the individual’s maturity level seems stuck at the level of a young teen’s, including ingrained immature habits and thought processes.  This can lead to the young adult’s unwillingness or inability to embrace “adulting”—the practice of living life as a functioning adult in society—resulting in the syndrome commonly referred to as “failure to launch.”

Once addictive behaviors have been treated and the young adult’s path redirected, there is a need for proactive and structured guidance to help them regain their footing.  An emphasis on personal responsibility and accountability can help restore lost dreams and re-orient the young person back on course through identifiable goals and tactical life skill instruction.

Personal accountability includes not only meeting expectations towards self-declared goals, but also learning how to adhere to a schedule and manage time. They may need to learn basic personal finance skills so they will be able to meet their financial obligations as adults.  The importance of fitness and nutrition needs to be emphasized, as addiction can take a toll on overall health. Accountability to others, nurturing relationships, and learning effective communication skills are also vital to overall recovery.

Goal Setting and Purpose as a Treatment Element

Young adults in recovery may feel completely rudderless, without direction. This is why an effective outpatient rehab program should encourage clients to discover their purpose in life.  Through ongoing counseling and mentoring, young adults in recovery can identify their strengths, skills, and talents, and rediscover interests and passions that were likely dormant while in active addiction.

Once a young adult in recovery has identified their interests and passions then new life goals can be defined. At this juncture, what matters most is that the young adult sets goals and follows through by taking the necessary steps to achieve the goals. Accomplishing even small tasks can lead to renewed self-confidence, which can inspire clients to take on more challenging and rewarding tasks. When the mission of addiction recovery shifts towards guiding young adult in finding their purpose in life, it becomes a motivating exercise in hopefulness. 

Achieving Responsible Adulthood

Because of the evidence that emotional maturity and decision-making has been impacted by early age substance abuse, a key mission in rehab should be to guide the young person toward learning how to manage adult life. Being emotionally ill-prepared for adulthood, they need mentoring and practical life skills training to be able to function successfully in society.

These young adults can be taught how to handle their finances, how to create a resume, and how to interview for a job. They need to establish healthy habits and learn to abide by a daily schedule.  By learning how to conduct themselves as mature adults, they can begin to experience positive and productive changes in their daily lives.

There are a variety of evidence-based treatment methods that can be combined to effectively nurture the young adult in recovery toward becoming a responsible, functioning adult. These include:

      Therapy. Offering a variety of therapeutic approaches allows the treatment plan to be tailored to the client’s specific needs. Cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, solutions-based therapy, contingency management and others may be provided in individual or group formats. conjoint therapy sessions are offered to address the role of the family.

       Interpersonal skills. Teaching young adults who are emotionally stuck in early adolescence how to relate effectively and compassionately with others is a key life skill that will help open doors for them.

       Life skills. Discovering purpose, talents, passions, sharpening skills and funneling these into real world goals should be a priority in an effective outpatient rehab for young adults  should include academic or career goals that are realistic and achievable.

      Restore physical health. Revamping your daily diet away from junk foods and high fat foods and learning how to eat a balanced diet is essential in restoring health and vitality.  Regular exercise and outdoor activities boosts endorphins and builds muscle, stamina and improves sleep as well as overall wellbeing.

       Holistic activities. Addiction recovery should involve healing of the mind, body, and spirit.  Engaging in stress-reducing activities, such as yoga, mindfulness exercises, and meditation, can help create a more positive attitude that leads to better decision-making.

Support for parents. You don't have to navigate these uncertain waters alone. Whether your loved one is ready to get help or not, you can find support through PALS (parents of addicted loved ones and Alanon family groups.

When your son is ready. Cornerstone Healing Center Helps Young Addicts Launch Into Recovery & Adulthood. Cornerstone Healing Center offers a progressive and customized approach to outpatient addiction treatment. Located in Scottsdale, Arizona, Cornerstone Healing Center specializes in guiding young adults towards becoming responsible, functioning adults in recovery. Addressing all aspects of the person—mind, body, and spirit—the multi-disciplinary program engages each client with respect and compassion. Clients will be equipped with a renewed sense of purpose, short and long-term goals, and the life skills necessary for a fulfilling and productive life. For more information please contact Cornerstone Healing Center today at (800) 480-1781

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