Addiction Crash Course

A Quick Guide

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What is Addiction?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.” It is important to note that addiction is not simply a matter of choosing to use a drug but is actually a result of changes in the structure and function of the brain that severely impair an individual’s ability to abstain from drug-related behavior. Addiction is extremely dangerous, especially for young people, because the changes in the brain caused by drug use can be long-lasting and lead to potentially harmful behaviors. Recovery from addiction is possible and requires great effort to accomplish.

Why Do Teens Need to Learn About Addiction?

Although addiction can be a heavy topic to discuss, it is vital for young people to receive accurate information about the subject. Teens are more susceptible to drug addiction because of several factors including having misconceptions about risk, the developing nature of their brains, decision-making skills are still being developed, and, for many, factual and easily accessible information is not available.  For all these reasons, and more explored throughout the Tobacco Prevention Toolkit, it is necessary to educate and empower teens to make healthier decisions for their wellbeing and their futures.

How Should I Approach This Subject?

Everyone is entitled to their personal opinions nonetheless it is important to remain non-judgmental when talking to youth about addiction.  Teens will likely have different personal experiences around drugs and drug addiction, so sensitivity on the educator’s part is essential to maintaining a safe learning environment. While teaching this subject, do your best to remain unbiased. To avoid judgmental statements, focus on facts and answer questions enthusiastically and accurately.  It is important to give accurate information, so don’t hesitate to admit when you don’t know something and work together to find the answers to keep students engaged.   

Stress and Drug Use

There are many reasons people may decide to initiate using drugs. One of the most common reasons is stress. People may initially use drugs as a way to cope with stressful situations and subsequently become addicted to these products. It’s important to be aware of the role that stress can play in drug use since teenagers may not recognize they are using drugs as a way with coping with stressful situations. Here are some resources on stress and drug use. 

Quick Links

In-Depth Resources

  • “Using Drugs to Deal with Stress and Trauma” The National Child Traumatic Stress Network
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