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Unveiling the Risks of Substance Abuse in Young Adults: California's Perspective

Substance Abuse: A Definition and Overview

Substance abuse is a pattern of drug or alcohol use that leads to significant problems, such as failure to meet responsibilities, impaired control, issues with loved ones, risky use, or impacts on mental or physical health. Abuse can also result from using a substance that is not intended or recommended, such as taking more than prescribed or combining it with other mind-altering substances. Abusing substances repeatedly can result in developing a substance use disorder or addiction. Risks of substance abuse can also lead to developing or worsening mental health disorders, such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder.

The top abused substances by youth in California include alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, prescription pain medications, and cocaine. The California Care Foundation found that half of Californians over 12 reported using alcohol in the past month, and 20% reported using marijuana in the last year. Substance abuse has a negative impact on mental health in young adults and has negative academic and workplace consequences, social isolation, and relationship troubles.

Contact BeWellLine by calling our help center at 866-349-0854 to learn more about using virtual mental health services.

The Intersection of Mental Health and Substance Abuse

Dual Diagnosis: What Does it Mean?

Often, the risks of substance abuse and mental health issues occur together. A person with a co-occurring disorder, has both a mental health disorder and an alcohol or drug problem. Substance abuse can trigger a mental health disorder, or a person may use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate symptoms of mental health issues. The risk factors are similar, such as genetics, stress, and trauma. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that in 2021, 13.5% of young adults aged 18 to 25 struggled with both substance use disorder and a mental health disorder. Dual diagnosis, or co-occurring disorders, require treatment for substance abuse and mental health disorders. If one goes untreated, the person is more likely to relapse or experience worsening mental health issues.

Finding Solutions to Mental Health Issues

Mental health issues can be complex and sometimes a lifelong challenge. However, several ways exist to successfully find help and manage mental health issues. Every person will experience mental health issues differently, and finding what works best for each person is essential. Finding help through professional mental health services, such as an emotional support line, a therapist, or a counselor, can provide you with individualized solutions. Therapy and counseling can offer effective coping skills and tools to manage symptoms, including substance abuse. There are also several support groups for young adults with mental health issues. Talking to others facing similar challenges can help you feel less alone and get advice or resources for managing mental health struggles. Healthy lifestyle changes, including eating healthy meals, regular exercise, stress reduction techniques, and stopping alcohol or drug abuse, can also help improve mental health symptoms.

The Vital Role of Mental Health and Addiction Services

Often, people feel that overcoming substance abuse or mental health issues is simply about willpower. This could not be farther from the truth. These are intricate disorders that require treatment, resources, and support. Professional mental health services can provide young adults with the tools and strategies needed to manage mental health and substance abuse issues. Support groups can also provide insight, community, resources, and motivation for dealing with these same issues. Crisis and emotional support lines are excellent places to find immediate help for mental health and addiction services. Trained support specialists can help you deal with difficult emotions and how to develop healthy coping mechanisms. They can also offer resources on where to get help and refer you to higher levels of care if needed. 

Unveiling the Risks of Substance Abuse in Young Adults

Substance Abuse Health Effects: The Bitter Consequence

Substance abuse can have severe impacts on both physical and mental health. Depending on the substance, there can be several short-term and long-term substance abuse health effects, such as:

  • Deficits in coordination
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Heart attack or stroke
  • Seizure
  • Overdose, which can lead to coma or death
  • Liver disease
  • Digestive problems
  • Dental problems
  • Fertility issues
  • Substance use disorders
  • Various cancers, including breast, mouth, liver, stomach, and colon cancers
  • Impaired immune function
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes

There are also detrimental effects on the mental health of young adults. Abusing alcohol or recreational drugs can trigger a mental health disorder in someone who is predisposed. While it might feel like drugs and alcohol help alleviate some mental health symptoms, once the effects wear off, symptoms can get worse. Substance abuse leads to changes in some of the same areas that affect mental health disorders, such as schizophrenia, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. After prolonged substance abuse, the brain becomes dependent on these substances to regulate certain chemicals and hormones that regulate mood and mental health. When you stop using, the brain does not know how to regulate these on its own anymore, which worsens mental health. The person can become dependent in order to feel normal, which can lead to a substance use disorder.

Contact BeWellLine by calling our help center at 866-349-0854 to learn more about using virtual mental health services.

The Ripple Effects of Drug Addiction: Academic and Workplace Consequences

Academic Consequences of Drug Addiction

Drug addiction consequences go beyond physical and mental health effects. It can affect all areas of your life, including academic performance. Teens who abuse drugs have lower grades, higher school absences, and are at increased risk of dropping out. The same areas of your brain substance abuse can influence how well you process and retain information. Abusing drugs or alcohol can make it harder for you to learn and do well in school. You are also more likely to miss class because you feel so ill or tired from a night of heavy substance use. Also, the brain does not fully develop until age 25, so engaging in substance abuse can lead to more cognitive function impairment, such as memory and problem-solving, in the long run.

Drug Abuse in the Workplace: A Hidden Issue

Abusing drugs and alcohol, even if it is only outside of the workplace, can have negative impacts on your job and career as well. It can lower job performance, increase absenteeism, increase the risk of workplace accidents, and increase conflicts with coworkers. People with substance abuse problems are less likely to be successful at work and advance in their careers. There is also a risk of losing your job because you’re often missing work, you’re negligent, or you’re simply not doing your job well.

Legal Problems: The Unseen Side of Substance Abuse

There are several legal ramifications related to substance abuse as well. Engaging in drug or alcohol abuse can lower your inhibitions, leading to risky or dangerous behavior, such as driving under the influence. Under California law, for first-time offenders, driving under the influence can result in losing their driver’s license for a year, plus court fines. Multiple offenses can lead to three years of driving license suspension or even incarceration. If you injure or kill someone while under the influence, it can result in Gross DUI Manslaughter, which carries a sentence of 4, 6, or 10 years in a California state prison. Possession of illegal or controlled substances (such as medications you do not have a prescription for) can lead to a maximum of 12 months in jail for first-time offenders.

The Social Relationship Costs of Substance Abuse

No Social Life: The Isolating Impact of Substance Abuse

Substance abuse can negatively impact your relationship with others. Often, substance abuse can lead to isolation as a result of being embarrassed by drug or alcohol use, wanting to hide substance abuse, losing touch with reality, or issues with self-esteem. Isolation can have detrimental effects on mental health, causing loneliness and worsening anxiety and depression symptoms. Humans need social interaction, and isolation can also cause substance abuse issues to worsen.

Relationship Problems Arising from Substance Abuse

Drug addiction consequences are far-reaching, affecting your friends, family, and partners. Addiction causes a person’s world to revolve completely around the substance. They may lie, steal, and neglect responsibilities as a result, which can leave loved ones feeling hurt and angry. Personality changes from substance abuse also lead to more conflict. Irresponsible behavior can also result in your loved one cleaning up after your messes time and time again. In the long run, you can lose friendships, family members, or your romantic partner.

Free Emotional Support Chat and Phone Line for California Residents

California offers many free emotional support chats and phone lines for people struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues. One of these resources is BeWellLine, which provides a free online chat or voice line service 24/7. Trained peer support specialists can provide emotional support, coping skills, resources, or referrals to higher levels of care for any type of mental health issue, including drug or alcohol addiction. BeWellLine’s free support line is available at 866-349-0854. Reaching out during tough times is brave, and our peer support counselors are available to offer compassionate, confidential help. Please do not hesitate to reach out today.

Contact BeWellLine by calling our help center at 866-349-0854 to learn more about using virtual mental health services.

FAQs About Risks of Substance Abuse in Young Adults

What are the most common substances of abuse among young adults in California?

The most commonly abused substances among young adults in California are alcohol, marijuana, tobacco, prescription pain medications, and cocaine. About half of Californians over the age of 12 engaged in alcohol use, and 20% reported using marijuana in the past year.

How does substance abuse impact the physical health of young adults in California?

Substance abuse can have varying short-term and long-term impacts on the physical health of young adults, depending on the substance. Some substance abuse health effects include dental problems, digestive issues, various cancers, impaired immune function, stroke, heart attack, developing a substance use disorder, and overdosing, which can result in coma or death.

What are the potential long-term consequences of substance abuse on the mental health of young adults?

Substance abuse impacts mental health in young adults as well. Drugs and alcohol affect areas of the brain responsible for mood and mental health regulation, which can result in developing or worsening mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder in those who are predisposed.

What are the legal implications of engaging in substance abuse as a young adult in California?

Possession of illegal or controlled substances can carry a sentence of up to a year for first-time offenders. Driving under the influence is also illegal, which can result in losing your driver’s license for a year, plus several legal and court fees. Injuring or killing someone while driving under the influence can result in being charged with Gross DUI Manslaughter, which carries a sentence of 4, 6, or 10 years in a California State prison.

How can I recognize the signs and symptoms of substance abuse in a young adult?

There are various warning signs and symptoms that indicate substance abuse in young adults, including both physical and behavioral changes, such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Slurred speech
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Sores or spots around the mouth
  • Frequent illness
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Changes in friendships
  • Loss of interest in school or personal activities
  • Avoidance of eye contact
  • Insomnia
  • Lack of coordination

What are the risk factors that contribute to substance abuse among young adults in California?

Various factors can increase the risk of drug or alcohol abuse among young adults, which include:

  • Peer pressure or negative influence from other teens
  • Stress can cause young adults to use substances as a coping mechanism
  • Depression, anxiety, or other mental health disorders can also lead to substance abuse
  • Bullying or discrimination at school, especially high-risk groups like LGBTQ
  • Trauma, such as verbal use, sexual assault, and natural disasters
  • Family circumstances, such as parents’ divorce, conflict at home, or parents who engage in substance use

What preventive measures can parents and educators take to reduce the risks of substance abuse in young adults?

One of the best ways to help reduce the risk of substance abuse in young adults is communication. Talking to them about the consequences of substance abuse is essential, but also welcoming open dialogue about issues they are facing. Parents and educators can also encourage talking to a mental health professional, such as a school counselor or emotional support lines.

Are there any specific resources or support services available in California to help young adults struggling with substance abuse?

California has several free support services available to young adults, such as BeWellLine. Young adults struggling with mental health or substance abuse can reach out to BeWellLine to be connected to caring, knowledgeable peer counselors who provide resources, coping skills, referrals to higher levels of care, or just a listening ear. Services are anonymous and can be accessed through online chat or phone line. BeWellLine is an excellent place for young adults, parents, or caregivers to reach out for substance abuse prevention and treatment. To get connected with a peer support counselor, please call 866-349-0854 or contact us online today.

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