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The Pains and Pleasures of Teen Addiction

You might not think of an addiction as pleasurable, but it is. If experiencing addiction were all about pain and nothing else, you would have probably found help by now. You probably would have found the support you need to get out of the cycles of addiction.


However, there are some real life pleasures to addiction, and that’s what keeps you stuck. The drinking feels good. When you’re drunk and there’s not a care in the world, when you’ve got that alcohol running through your veins and you’re feeling free and alive, those moments are pleasurable. When you’re high on coke, meth, or ecstasy, those highs are euphoric, perhaps even better than having sex. So, why would you want to give that up?


But if you’ve been drinking and if you’ve been using drugs for some time, then you might know exactly why you might give up using – because the pleasures come with some heavy pains. You might be:

  • waking up with hangovers
  • not able to hang on to any intimate relationships
  • failing in school
  • fighting with your parents
  • not getting along with anyone
  • feeling like no one understands you
  • losing sight of an exciting future
  • experiencing wide mood swings
  • feeling like you can’t concentrate
  • making your entire world all about drinking/using


These are some hefty consequences for a few hours of pleasure. However, the danger of addiction is that keeps you obsessed on the substance you’re using, whether that’s alcohol, cocaine, meth, or heroin. Addiction is an illness of the mind where the cycles of pleasure become dominant, making the primary focus of your life all about getting drunk or getting high. And you do this to the neglect of everything else in your life. It’s a sort of possession that becomes dangerous and destructive.


Now, not all teens or adults experience a severe addiction such that all their relationships, occupation, schoolwork, even home life is destroyed. However, addiction can lead to getting kicked out of home, failing at school, unable to work, and even homelessness. Addiction has created huge difficulties in one’s life.


So, even though there’s great pleasure to using drugs and getting drunk, there are also great consequences. For this reason, the American Psychological Association (APA) has categorized addiction as a mental illness. The APA explains that the activation of the brain’s reward system is the key to drug abuse problems. The APA also explains that this reward system strengthens such that it becomes the sole focus of one’s life to the exclusion and detriment of other life-activities. For a teen, this could mean neglecting schoolwork, relationships, family life, friendships, work responsibilities and more.


There are eleven requirements that are used to determine the severity of an addiction. The number of criteria present for a teen indicates the severity of the addictive disorder. For example, 2-3 criteria indicate a mild disorder; 4-5 criteria indicate a moderate disorder; and 6 or more of the 11 criteria indicate a severe disorder.


  1. Taking the substance in larger amounts or for longer than the you meant to
  2. Wanting to cut down or stop using the substance but not managing to
  3. Spending a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from use of the substance
  4. Cravings and urges to use the substance
  5. Not managing to do what you should at work, home or school, because of substance use
  6. Continuing to use, even when it causes problems in relationships
  7. Giving up important social, occupational or recreational activities because of substance use
  8. Using substances again and again, even when it puts the you in danger
  9. Continuing to use, even when the you know you have a physical or psychological problem that could have been caused or made worse by the substance
  10. Needing more of the substance to get the effect you want (tolerance)
  11. Development of withdrawal symptoms, which can be relieved by taking more of the substance.


If you’re a teen struggling with an addiction, or if drinking or drug use is affecting your daily life, seek the support of an adult you can trust. Doing so could save your life.



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