Aside from substance abuse, the younger generation has experienced a unique kind of addiction: technology. Unlike previous generations that grew up without cellphones and computers, young people are growing up with gadgets and media. One study has shown that one in four adolescents and young adults have problematic smartphone usage, which correlated with poorer mental health.
Research on the effects of substances on adolescents is limited and has yielded mixed results. Statistics have shown that children as young as 12 years are abusing drugs, and the number may be even younger. Some studies say that children are less likely to experience withdrawal symptoms and have a higher “reward” sensation from the brain. However, while kids are likely to experiment and try drugs a few times, most do not progress to abusing other substances.
Having family members with addictions is considered a double whammy. Firstly, living with people who have addictions is a source of exposure and peer pressure. Secondly, studies have shown that addiction is linked to a variety of genes and hereditary traits. Because of this, someone with a parent with an addiction is more likely to develop one later in life. The risk increases even further if both parents have an addiction.
Certain substances have a greater potential to cause dependency and addiction. The main reasons for this are because of how addictive substances and behaviors trigger the pleasure center of the brain and modify pain responses. Drugs and behaviors that make a person feel “high,” energetic, or happy while doing them train the brain to seek them out more.
For this reason, the FDA classifies certain drugs as controlled or scheduled substances. Schedule I substances are chemicals that have no established medical use but have a high potential for abuse. For Schedule II substances (dangerous drugs), these drugs have high potential for abuse and dependence. Schedule III substances have moderate potential for abuse and dependence. Schedule IV substances have lower risk of abuse and dependency. And lastly, Schedule V substances have the lowest potential for abuse.