Most people don’t think of children as addicts or substance abusers. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, an estimated 1.3 million U.S. adolescents ages 12 to 17 had a substance use disorder in 2014.
As Dannielle Garcia explains, the roots of addiction hit close to home, but there’s warning signs to look for.
"I used alcohol to help me chug down Percoset and I smoked a blunt, weed, I smoked weed. 12 years old that was the first," said Chris Delaney.
For Delaney, his drug addiction started at a critical time — his youth. He says family members struggled with drugs and by the age of 16, he was an addict.
"Alcohol wasn’t working as much anymore, I was getting expelled from every school. one of my friends called me space cadet. I could never find home room, he would have to guide me. I was that messed up but I just had to," Delaney said.
"Lafayette is like every other city in the US, addictive disorder is on the rise. Its become an epidemic…it’s primarily a disease of children. it begins in early adolescents. first use, if you look at the united states first substance use is typically 14 to 17 years old, South Louisiana is much lower," said Robert Rayburn a Counselor at Victory Addiction Recovery Center
According to Rayburn, one in seven people over the age of 16 are abusing drugs
"most parents are working and we’re letting strangers raise our children. so that’s sort of the initial set up. some form of emotional abandonment takes place. and as a result of that, their emotional growth can be stunted and the first time they mood alter, it fills a hole in their soul makes them feel more comfortable than they once were. There are some chemical changes and structural changes that take place and that’s the foundation of the addictive disorder," Rayburn said.
Acadia Parish Sheriff K.P. Gibson says law enforcement is seeing a shift in younger drug users too.
You can only do so much, you’re hoping that mom and dads will take from there, but law enforcement as a whole we just see a younger age that’s involved in drugs, early teens, 13, 14 maybe even younger," Gibson said.
One of the things to look for is a change in friends. one of the things to look for is secret communications, one of the things to look for is changes in sleeping habits, changes in behavior in general. Are they keeping secrets? Are they staying gone a lot?" Delany asks.
Rayburn says roughly 90 percent of the patients he has seen over the years started abusing drugs and alcohol in their adolescent years
So most people are fully addicted by the age of 20 to 24, 25 years old. It is rare to see a patient that began drinking after the age or using substances after the age of 30 years old," Rayburn said.
After going in an out of rehab 38 times, Delaney, now 25 years old, has been sober since 2016.
"I was sitting there in that two week period while I was detoxing and for a brief moment, what alcohol and drugs were doing for me and what it was doing to me, they were all showing and finally I was like I’m either going to accept spiritual help or I’m going to die," Delany said.
Now, he helps other people who were in his same position
"I don’t know man, I love to help people, it fires up my soul to see people come alive again," Delany added.