If you know a teen who’s abusing heroin, or a teen heroin addict*, this is a serious issue that requires careful and empathetic intervention.
Many factors lead teens to heroin addiction, many of which can be addressed under the proper care of an addiction treatment program.
*Important note: We avoid stigmatic language such as ‘addict’ as much as possible. However, we will use this language in this article to inform and equip those struggling with drug use and their loved ones.
How Do Teens Become Heroin Addicts?
Teens are more susceptible to becoming addicted to a substance after repeated use. The brain doesn’t fully develop until 25 years of age, and abusing heroin can cause long-term damage.
Addiction forms from the brain’s response to the increase of dopamine from drugs. The limbic systems in a teen’s brain are more sensitive to dopamine, putting them at higher risk of addiction.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), teens may be more vulnerable to substance abuse if they’ve experienced:
- childhood trauma
- abuse (emotional, sexual, or physical)
- stressful life events
- prenatal exposure to alcohol or other drugs
- lack of parental supervision or guidance
- other friends who abuse drugs
Introducing heroin at such a young age can result in long-term dependence because of the brain’s need for dopamine and a teen’s desire to cope with difficult circumstances.
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5 Ways To Help A Teen Heroin Addict
If there’s a teen in your life who’s struggling with heroin use, know that it’s never too late to treat an addiction. Intervening as early as possible is crucial, so start having conversations now.
1. Help Them To Uncover The Root Issue
As explained by NIDA, teens often turn to drugs like heroin because of outside environmental factors.
The teen in your life may be going through serious problems that need to be addressed. These can be home issues, bullying, struggles with school, mental illness, or other factors.
Facing the surface issue of heroin abuse without uncovering what drew a teen to abusing heroin won’t help them to overcome a drug addiction.
Consider getting them into therapy and having honest conversations with the teen in your life about what they’ve been going through.
2. Discuss The Risks Of Heroin Abuse
Heroin abuse has been linked to numerous, serious health complications and mental illnesses.
Some teens might feel like using drugs like heroin is no big deal or just a way to fit in with their friends, but this just isn’t the case.
Avoid fear-mongering with facts and statistics, but do discuss the real risks of abusing heroin.
Health risks of heroin abuse:
- kidney damage
- liver damage
- contracting viruses such as HIV/AIDS or hepatitis
- scarred or collapsed veins
- bacterial infections of the blood vessels and heart valves
- abscesses (boils)
Mental health issues and illnesses associated with heroin abuse:
- bipolar disorder
3. Find Addiction Treatment
If you’re the parent of a child who’s 17 years of age or younger, you can legally enroll them in an addiction treatment program without their consent.
It may be best to have an intervention and encourage your teen to make that choice on their own, however. Do your research to find treatment centers specifically designed for teens.
If they’re open to it, talk about the different options that you’ve found, and encourage your teen to think about the possibility of treatment for heroin addiction.
Some of the benefits of rehab you might share with your child include:
- It’s a chance to rebuild self-esteem, repair mental health, and increase self-awareness.
- Rehab can be a time to start over.
- Your teen can connect with other kids their age about what it’s like to go through addiction.
- They’ll be able to heal the physical and mental ailments of addiction.
- Your teen can work through the things that led them to addiction with counseling.
- Rehab can offer freedom from heroin and new ways to handle life’s challenges.
Try to gauge how they’re feeling about heroin addiction treatment and decide what choice you’ll need to make as the parent.
4. Talk About The Future
The harsh reality of heroin addiction is that it has the power to greatly impact a person’s future aspirations and health, especially for teens.
Talk with them about how long-term drug use can impact their health, opportunities, ability to go to school, have a family, and accomplish goals.
Remind them that there is hope for sustained recovery with treatment options like heroin rehab, regular counseling, peer support, and other support systems.
With the right care, a teen heroin addict can have a very bright future and still accomplish all the things they want to do.
5. Continue Treatment With Aftercare
If the teen in your life participates in an addiction rehabilitation program, treatment doesn’t stop there. Aftercare is just as important as the process of going to rehab.
Aftercare programs focus on setting goals for relapse prevention and ways to guarantee sustained recovery for a person recovering from drugs or alcohol.
These programs can include treatment methods and services like:
- counseling sessions
- drug tests
- peer support groups
- medication management and maintenance (this is especially important when recovering from heroin, as many heroin addicts require medications to manage cravings)
- other substance abuse treatment programming
Find Treatment For A Teen Heroin Addict
To get additional assistance on finding heroin addiction recovery programs, reach out to us today. We can walk you through your options and discuss teen-specific programs for heroin addiction.
Call our helpline any time to learn more about getting help for a teen heroin addict.
Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.
These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.
- Scholastic and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)—Drugs and the Teen Brain
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)—Drug Overdoses in Youth
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)—How do adolescents become addicted to drugs, and which factors increase risk?
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)—Mental Health Effects
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)—What are the medical complications of chronic heroin use?