In a recent article, Dr. Kevin Hill, psychiatrist-in-charge at the drug and alcohol abuse program at McLean Hospital, a psychiatric branch of Harvard Medical School and a worldwide resource on substance use issues, explains why more young people from suburban families are suffering with addiction issues. “There is certainly a heritable component, a genetic predisposition toward substance abuse, but depending on what is going on in a person’s life, it may or may not express itself,” he said. “Think of addiction as a chronic medical illness, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.” He added that environment plays a part, but family history is important as well. “If I come from a family of alcoholics, then in a social setting I need to be more cognizant of my vulnerabilities than other people do,” he added.
Hill cautions that opioids have become a greater risk than other substances. “Research shows that if a person is exposed to prescription opioids or heroin and starts to use, they are far more likely to become dependent on opioids.” Hill points out that the people that he sees in treatment are the young people who may have interpersonal problems with parents or peers. “Often the kids we see don’t have healthy coping mechanisms. They don’t know how to cope with what seems like standard stuff to other kids – graduating from high school, dealing with college prospects,” he says. Pressure from parents or parental disapproval, of life choices or romantic relationships, is a common thing that people cite when they enter treatment. Many college graduates turn to substances when they cannot find work. Hill says that unless all of the issues and stressors that face these youth are addressed through psychotherapy, the addiction will not be healed. He adds, “We want to know what is going on in their lives. We treat the whole family.”
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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