Every stage of life is different, with different opportunities and challenges. Addiction treatment is no exception. For most people struggling with a substance use disorder, the problem is not so much the substance as what’s going on in their lives. This makes context extremely important. Since life looks very different at different ages, it makes sense to divide patients by age group. It allows more personalized care while facilitating connection among group members. Dividing patients by age group allows for treatment that focuses on the problems most likely to affect patients. Here are some of the challenges young adults in addiction are more likely to face.
Their brains aren’t done growing.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for young adults trying to recover from a substance use disorder is that their brains are fully developed yet. Although most people are physically mature by their early 20s, their brains aren’t fully developed until about age 25. The last part of the brain to develop is the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for things like planning, emotional regulation, judgment, foresight, and self-control–all crucial attributes for addiction recovery. There is also some evidence that suggests substance use itself can delay cognitive maturity, which only compounds the problem. This means younger adults specifically need to learn strategies for thinking ahead and making better decisions, skills which might come more naturally to older adults.
They have fewer internal resources.
A major consequence of incomplete cognitive development is that emotional regulation is much more difficult. Young adults are often emotionally volatile. Not only do they face major life changes like leaving home, going to college, starting work, and possibly getting married and having kids, they have more difficulty moderating their emotional reactions to these challenges. They also don’t yet have much experience of life. Minor setbacks might seem like disasters, which can increase stress and emotional turmoil.
They have fewer external resources.
This one varies widely from person to person. One person may have a family that is willing to support him emotionally and financially through recovery and another may not. Independence is often important for younger adults and they may be reluctant to turn to their families for help. Others will be just starting out in life, possibly far from where they grew up, and won’t yet have much money or social support to get them through recovery.
They depend more on social acceptance.
Young adults aren’t as influenced by their peers as teens are, but they are still more vulnerable to social pressure than older adults are. This can be a challenge coming out of treatment, since it’s important to stay away from people who might tempt you to drink or use drugs. Breaking these ties is often much harder for young adults, but spending time with people who support your recovery rather than sabotage it is crucial for a successful recovery.
Pinnacle Recovery specializes in inpatient rehabilitation, trauma recovery, AA programs and AA alternatives, experiential therapy, dual diagnosis, family therapy, co-occurring and dual diagnosis addictions. We also offer a wide range of intensive outpatient treatment programs. Call 1-866-301-0573 today for more information.