Substance use can begin at any age. The use of drugs and alcohol can even begin anywhere from early childhood to late in life. When addiction happens early in life, before age 21, the choice to get sober as soon as possible can be especially life-saving.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states the drug or alcohol use that begins at an early age is a strong predictor of a substance use disorder (addiction) later in life. As much as 15.2 percent of early drinkers (those who drink before age 14) go on to develop alcohol use disorders. This number is seven times higher than the number of addictions that begin when the first drink is after the age of 21.
As with alcohol, early drug use is also a predictor of later substance addiction, according to the NIDA. Many people first experiment with alcohol, tobacco, or marijuana before they go on to experience addiction. More than 13 percent of adult addicts began experimenting with marijuana before age 14. A full 25% of young people who abuse prescription drugs before age 13 go on to face substance use disorder later in life.
The Challenges of Becoming Sober While Young
When addiction begins early in life, there is no question that it is important to recover as soon as possible. Entering recovery at an early age has clear benefits, but many young people worry about the challenges associated with becoming substance-free.
Sometimes, recovery challenges are the result of not being a full-fledged adult. When your decisions require the permission of a parent or guardian, it may sometimes be difficult to get to recovery meetings, attend treatment, or even discuss your concerns openly with your caregiver. In some cases, it is difficult to change home settings, so moving away from other people who also struggle with addiction and substance use may be a problem.
No matter what your home situation may be, you can make one choice about yourself all the time. You can make the choice to stay clean. Many young people achieve initial sobriety with the help of a treatment program that includes counseling. Group therapy, meetings of like-minded young people, supportive online communities, and family counseling can all help create lasting wellness as well.
Peer pressure and the desire to fit in can also make staying sober challenging. As other young adults begin drinking at age 21, the pressure to join in can seem overwhelming. Life celebrations such as graduations and weddings may lead to more temptation. Furthermore, it may be difficult to explain to friends and peers that you do not want to drink or use substances.
Many young people lack experience in these situations and may not understand the importance of your sobriety. That is why it is very important to have friends who understand the importance of your recovery. The important thing to know is that you are not alone in your journey. Building a support network of friends who understand can help you celebrate and live your life without extra stress. Simply having a sponsor or a sober friend by your side can make all the difference.
The Benefits of Becoming Sober Early On
Becoming clean and sober early in life can and will save your life. Diseases of addiction can include cirrhosis of the liver, Hepatitis C, HIV, heart attack, stroke, organ damage, weight and nutrition deficiencies, and more. Substance use destroys countless relationships—friendships, marriages, and even business relationships. A life without treatment can lead to expensive substance use, years of lost productivity, a sharp decline in financial stability, and more.
Sobriety will save your life, your health, your relationships, and your bank account.
The Sober Community is All Ages
The good news is that the sober community involves people of all ages. You don’t have to be lonely in your recovery. In fact, there are millions of young people who experience what you are experiencing. Friends in recovery can be friends for life, and friends who have not struggled with addiction can learn more about substance use and recovery and act as powerful allies in your journey. Sober living doesn’t mean boring living. Sober living means that you will have a brighter mind, greater potential, better relationships, and a more lucrative future.
Finding Help Today
If you or someone you care about is struggling with a substance use problem, or even a problematic or repetitive behavior, help is available. Choosing recovery does not involve being judged or controlled. Your choice to enter a healthier life is all in your own power—it is a gift that you give to yourself, your future children, your family, and your world. Why walk this journey alone? Call us today and find out more about your recovery options.
Written by Foundations Recovery Network