As the opioid epidemic and addiction as a whole continues to ravage families and communities throughout the country, it is little wonder that the highest percentage of individuals seeking treatment fall under the category of young adults. Of all individuals seeking treatment throughout the United States, the 18-25 young adult population makes up the highest percentage.

When looking at the young adult population as a whole, an overriding theme begins to take shape:  Young adults, many of whom never went to college or failed out of higher learning institutions or who don’t work or work but still partially or fully live off the support of mom and dad, whose status in life is often referred to in clinical settings as “failure to launch.”

“Failure to launch” is a term that is popular when describing the hardships and difficulties faced by young adults during the transitional period of adolescence to adulthood. This is a phase of development where a young adult should be transitioning to greater independence, life purpose, growth and responsibility. The idea is that during this growth period in young adulthood, when a person is in a vital developmental stage of learning necessary life skills, emotional regulation and decision-making, individuals will “launch” into adulthood. However, many young adults encounter barriers and difficulties during this stage that cause them to be unable or unwilling to launch into adulthood.

Many parents of addicted children find similar patterns in their adult children’s behaviors, such behaviors, attitudes and beliefs that fall under the category of “failure to launch.” Often, the beginning stages of this lack of development begin in early childhood development and are exacerbated during adolescents. Children that become young adults that are then able to successfully launch have developed the necessary skill set, internal motivation, ability, faith to succeed and value of interdependence to move forward in life and into adulthood. Adult children that are “failure to launch” have not and have had their development stilted through their process of maturation and growth.

In terms of addiction, as mentioned before, treatment centers are filled with a young adult “failure to launch” population.  Just as the failure to launch population exhibit certain traits, individuals suffering from addiction often have similar characteristics. These two populations often mirror each other and are often supported by one another as a way to further both behaviors. Additionally, enabling parents and families often offer a comfortable environment for both addiction and young adults with failure to launch syndrome to flourish and thrive, which clearly has negative consequences to those individuals in terms of advancement, growth and quality of life.

Therefore, when it comes to treating addiction in the young adult population, it is vital to offer comprehensive treatment that addresses “failure to launch” issues as well as issues that go along with it, such as entitlement, enmeshed family systems, enabling loved ones, life skills training and educational and vocational goal setting and reentry programs. A quality, comprehensive addiction treatment program that deals with young adults must be able to address not just the substance use disorder of an individual but also the “failure to launch” issues that invariably are a part of the majority of young adult addiction treatment cases. This means providing services that focus on core issues, underlying causes and conditions, internal motivation, executive functioning, family of origin and family systems issues, behaviors, attitudes, life skills and goal-setting. Additionally, the importance of having a vocational, employment and higher educational reentry program is key in aiding young adults suffering from addiction to be able to not only learn to live in recovery but also launch into adulthood. These programs allow for patients in early recovery from addiction renter collegiate life or the work force while learning and practicing the necessary skills for such experiences and dealing with stressors and difficulties while in a safe, caring and supporting clinical environment. If a treatment center only focuses on the substance use disorder, those same issues that drove and furthered an individual’s addiction will still be present post-treatment and being unaddressed will ultimately set up that patient for potential relapse.

Being able to not only address substance use disorder, but also the behaviors, attitudes, beliefs and motivations of the young adult “failure to launch” population in addiction treatment allows patients the opportunity to learn and practice necessary life skills, emotional regulation, personal and professional relationships and internal drive in terms of moving from a state of dependence to a state of interdependence. Until a patient suffering from addiction is able to move through the necessary steps of emotional and life development of becoming an independent adult, there is little hope of lasting recovery. However, if a treatment provider is able to address the underlying causes of both addiction and “failure to launch” syndrome, a young adult patient can find the necessary tools and practical application of those tools to achieve long-term sustainable recovery and a high quality of life and happiness.

If you or someone you know is in need of help because of drug and/or alcohol abuse or addiction, please give us a call. Maryland Addiction Recovery Center offers the most comprehensive dual diagnosis addiction treatment in the Mid-Atlantic area. If we aren’t the best fit for you or your loved one, we will take the necessary time to work with you to find a treatment center or provider that better fits your needs. Please give us a call at (410) 773-0500 or email our team at Contact us today. For more information on all of our drug addiction and alcohol addiction services and recovery resources, please visit our web site at



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