Failure to Launch and Drug Addiction

“Failure to launch” is a term used to describe the difficulties faced by many young adults in leaving the house and establishing a life independent from parents and other caregivers. Millennials are staying home with parents longer than was previously customary. With this shift, comes less overall independence in our millenial generation and with it, psychological issues which are contributing more and more to the drug epidemic we have before us as a nation. Here, we look at how failure to launch and drug addiction are related and how one facilitates the other. As a group, millenials in the failure to launch category are more financially dependent on parents compared to previous generations. The term “failure to launch” suggests failure on the part of the individual to take necessary steps to transition to adulthood, but numerous economic, societal, and psychological factors make this act more difficult and complicated than one may be aware of. Along with contributing to a failure to launch, many of these same factors can play a role in pushing young adults toward stress, anxiety, a negative self-image, and the possibilities of substance abuse and addiction.

Millenials and The Gig Economy

Economically, millennials face a shift towards a “gig economy” in which side-gigs are the norm and full-time, well-paying positions with benefits and job security are difficult to come by. Traditionally, one would assume that a career path would involve moving from a low-paying job to something greater, but research has shown that this is often not the reality. Moreover, many young adults contend with massive student loan debt post-education that can make living alone prohibitively expensive. These economic challenges make the traditional path into adulthood feel distant or unachievable for many, leading many to believe that they have failed at being adults. Society has changed, but its narratives for success and achievement have not. Many young adults respond with feelings of shame, anxiety, and a desire for escapism. Substance abuse is an avoidant behavior to deal with such feelings, and is commonly present in cases of a failure to launch alongside mental illness.

Failure to Launch and Substance Abuse: A Case of Identity

In his research on failure to launch and its relation to substance abuse, Gary D. Hees MA, LPC posits that a failure to launch is tied to identity formation. Many young adults who struggle with a failure to launch fail to develop a healthy, adult ego-identity. This lack of development of a stable, healthy identity leaves the individual more open to influence from others, including to peer pressure to abuse substances. An identity of substance abuse can develop, marked by dysfunctional relationships with others and the constant reinforcement of negative self-beliefs due to a wish for approval from others who abuse substances. This keeps the individual from dealing with the developmental issues that pushed them towards substance abuse in the first place, and propels them further into a cycle of addiction.

Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders

A comprehensive treatment for drug addiction should help an individual address the causes of a “failure to launch” and any barriers to adult life that are in their control. Aside from eliminating substance abuse, a treatment plan ought to teach life skills and methods of stress-reduction and problem-solving that are necessary for independent living. Therapy can incorporate healthier self-conceptions, coping mechanisms, and goal-oriented work that encourages the individual to take the required steps towards a life free of addiction and unhealthy levels of dependence on others. Granite Recovery Centers includes life skills training in its drug addiction treatment programs, along with a hybrid approach combining 12-step and clinical modalities. If you or a loved one needs help from drug addiction, please contact our admissions specialists at 855.712.7784 . We can help.

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