Drug Abuse among Teenagers
Adolescence is a period for teenagers to experiment a variety of things, take various risks as they explore new identities in their lives. Although, some of these explorations during the developmental stages may lead the teenagers to a positive path, some may direct them to a negative direction if they fall in the wrong crowd, have difficult family life or are victims of trauma. During the exploration of new experiences due to developmental changes, most of the teens end up in substance abuse and addiction. Statistics have demonstrated that drugs are easily available to teenagers, however, research indicates that experimenting with drugs does not necessarily imply that the teens will turn into addicts (Johnston, 2010). The researchers recommend that parents should be alert of their children’s behavior because if it suddenly changes, then they might be involved in drugs. Therefore, the parents should be aware of the red flags of substance use among teenagers to intervene and prevent recreational use from developing into addiction.
There are various ways in which parents or society can notice drug use in teenagers. Some of these ways include:
- Behavioral changes – the characteristics of teenagers who are involved in drugs may suddenly change and become isolated, secretive or angry without any substantial reason. Consequently, they may laugh without any reason or have mood swings. The way they interact with their elders or peers may also change as well.
- Changes in physical health – substance abuse or withdrawal have adverse effects on physical health. For example, there might be sores on the skin, weight loss, headaches and seizures, and sweating.
- Differences in appearance – there are various changes that may be present in a teen appearance who is involved in drugs. Some of them include poor grooming, red eyes, bad breath or unusual odour.
- Changes in homes – Various changes are likely to occur in homes of teens who are involved in drugs. Some of them include, missing money or prescribed drugs and unusual containers or materials in the teen’s room (The Nation’s Best Rehabs).
Drug abuse among teenagers is a growing problem across the world and its risk factors are diverse and if not addressed early and in the proper manner may lead to adverse consequences not only to the teenagers but to the society as a whole. Therefore, in order to address the issue of drug abuse, it requires a deeper understanding of the risk factors to create an environment that discourages substance use and promotes a healthy lifestyle. Some of the risk factors include:
- Mental disorders – teens who are suffering from various psychological disorders such as depression, anxiety and schizophrenia my turn to substance use as an attempt of controlling their signs.
- Low self-esteem – there is a strong believe among the teens that drugs help in boosting an individual’s self-esteem. Those teens who desire to fit in with their friends and reinforce their self-esteem are more likely to engage in substance use.
- Lack of awareness – Parents assume that teens understand the effects of drugs because of the anti-drugs campaigns available in the media. The publicity the anti-drug campaigns have received from the media has does not educate teenagers in any other manner. In fact it has little effect on creating awareness on the consequences of drug abuse among the teens. Therefore, teenagers require physical education about the consequences of drugs from both parents and teenagers.
- School problems – teens who have various problems such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or learning disabilities are more likely to engage in drug abuse. There is a belief among the teenagers that the consumption of marijuana increases one’s attention and concentration levels leading to deeper understanding of the discipline. It is often believed that teens who are good in mathematics or sciences consume marijuana motivating others to do so. Those who do not improve in their concentration may find themselves increasing the consumption levels leading to addiction.
- Home problems – teens who experience any kind of abuse either physical, sexual, verbal or even drug abuse by their parents or siblings are more likely to engage in substance use. Consequently, teenagers who receive minimum supervision from their parents or have no rules set and parents do not show any concern or interest in their children’s affairs are more likely to engage in drugs (The Nation’s Best Rehabs).
Drug abuse in adolescents is more risky than in adults especially in brain development. Initially, the society believed that brain development does not go beyond childhood, but new researches have demonstrated that it continues to the 20s. Studies have also demonstrated that during the adolescent years, the prefrontal cortex part of the brain is not fully developed. This part of the brain is responsible for memory, learning, reasoning, planning and decision making. Therefore, during their adolescent stage, teenagers have poor decision-making nd impulse control skills making them prone risk-taking behaviors such as unprotected sex and drug abuse. Consequently, it increases their vulnerability to the damage caused by this behaviour these risk-taking behaviors.
The effects of drug abuse in brain development of teenagers can be long-lasting. Although it is believed that abuse of certain drugs such liquor, marijuana and meth affects the manner in which one acts, think as well as memorize things in the short-term, it may have long-term effects in teenagers. Research has also demonstrated that teenagers who are involved in drugs are more likely to experience long term problems with memory and learning. Consequently, they are prone to the development of psychological disorders such as anxiety and depression (Casa Palmera Staff, 2009).
Substance abuse in teenagers increases their vulnerability to diseases and injuries. Intoxicated teenagers are prone to needle sharing or unprotected sex, which may lead them to contract various diseases such as HIV, hepatitis and gonorrhoea. Moreover, teenagers who engage in substance abuse are prone to accidental injuries, car accidents as well as suicides. Combining the tendency of teenagers’ risk taking and consequences substance abuse, the outcome maybe a time bomb.
With the influence from the media, society and peer pressure, the greatest worry in most parents is how they can protect their teens from risk-taking behaviors. The solution is creating and maintaining a strong family. Consequently, parents needs to act as good examples by being clean and sober as well as create a culture where they interact freely with their teens. Adolescents who have drug abuse problems should receive a complete evaluation from a qualified professional. If parents or teachers notice any symptoms of drug abuse in teenagers, they should not wait to intervene. The intervention should be immediately to prevent long lasting effects. There is a variety of treatment programs that can be used to treat substance abuse teenagers. However, the most effective one is family education and counselling (Monti, Colby & Tevyaw, 2012). Since peer advice is important in teenagers, it is important to involve other teens either who are experiencing the same problems, who are not or both.
- Casa Palmera Staff. (13th Dec, 2009). The effects of drug abuse on teens. Retrieved from https://casapalmera.com/blog/the-effects-of-drug-abuse-on-teens/
- Johnston, L. (2010). Monitoring the future: National results on adolescent drug use: Overview of key findings. Diane Publishing.
- Monti, P. M., Colby, S. M., & Tevyaw, T. A. L. (Eds.). (2012). Adolescents, alcohol, and substance abuse: Reaching teens through brief interventions. Guilford Press.
- The Nation’s Best Rehabs. Teenage Drug Abuse. Retrieved from https://luxury.rehabs.com/drug-abuse/teenage/