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The Reality of Substance Abuse in Adolescence

There is a rising concern regarding substance abuse in adolescence, concurrent with the increasing stress in teens. It is a serious issue that may, in part, be affected by societal pressures, peer pressure, and the stress of growing up in the digital age. As a society, we now see how constant social media exposure affects the youth. For many, the pressure of belonging and the day-to-day issues teens face prove overwhelming, which can sometimes lead to substance abuse disorders.

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

What Exactly Constitutes Substance Misuse?

So, what is substance misuse? When a person drinks a beer or uses drugs once out of curiosity, that is called substance use. Still, when someone takes drugs or drinks to escape, forget, or feel different, it could be termed substance misuse, leading to substance abuse, causing serious troubles in their lives and addiction.

The Causes of Substance Abuse in Adolescents

According to the CDC, some of the most common causes of substance abuse in adolescence include:

  • Poor or worsening mental health issues, including self-esteem issues, depression, or anxiety
  • Societal conditioning, with media and advertisements selling drinking and drug use as a way to have fun
  • Peer pressure, especially if their friends are experimenting with drugs and alcohol
  • Environmental factors like seeing substance abuse in the home
  • Experiencing trauma or sexual abuse as a child or teen
  • Familial rejection of sexual orientation or gender identity
  • No strong connections to school or community groups

A Snapshot: The Most Common Substances Abused by Teens

The National Institute on Drug Abuse has named the following substances as the most common substance abuse in adolescence:

  • Nicotine vapes (vapes, vape pens, Juuls, or e-cigs) are an addictive smoking habit that is bad for the heart and lungs.
  • Cannabis (weed, chronic, bud, reefer, herb, and Mary Jane) causes relaxation, increased appetite, altered sense of time, fatigue, memory issues, impaired motor skills, lung problems, and mental health issues.
  • Alcohol of all types affects motor skills, inhibitions, and thinking while causing short-term euphoria, increasing risk-taking behaviors, and causing serious long-term health issues throughout the body.
  • Cocaine (aka blow, bump, coke, line, nose candy, snow, and rail) increases energy and alertness, causes irritability, paranoia, decreased appetite, and many serious health issues, especially heart problems.
  • Heroin (aka dope, smack, H, horse, China white, skag, junk, or brown) causes a rush of euphoria, with nausea, relaxation, slowed breathing, severe itching, slowed heart rate, and serious risk of overdose, brain damage, or death.
  • Meth (aka crank, ice, trash, chalk, cookies, white cross, rocket fuel, and Scooby snax) causes a quick rush of euphoria, high body temperature, severe dehydration, tooth decay, mood swings, sleeplessness, and even psychosis.
  • Prescription medications, including Xanax, OxyContin, Adderall, and Vicodin, can be addictive and cause serious health issues if misused, from addiction to overdose.

Substance Misuse and Its Connection to Teens

Substance misuse is closely connected to the teenage mental health crisis because teens are in a very vulnerable time of their lives. They are old enough to do things independently without their parents, but many still lack the life experiences that adults have.

Without guidance, many teens may find themselves turning to drugs or alcohol to ease their pain or to cope with symptoms of mental illness, especially if they lack parental guidance or are encouraged to do so by their peer group.

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

The Effects of Drugs on Youth’s Well-Being

The effects of drugs on youth well-being can be severe. Teenagers are at a crucial developmental stage, especially regarding mental health and learning to cope with life’s stressors. Drugs and alcohol can cause mental health issues, troubles at school, poor peer relationships, legal trouble, and serious health problems, including overdoses, impacting their well-being and health in the short- and long-term, which is why substance abuse and teens do not mix.

Root Causes and Repercussions: Substance Abuse Among Youth

The causes and effects of drug abuse in youth can be seen throughout the country. Teens are in the process of changing, not only physically but also in the way they are perceived by society. There is intense school and social pressure as they strive to learn who they are in the world. Many teens also face family problems at home, financial issues, workplace issues, the burden of taking on responsibilities on sports teams or in social clubs, and other pressures.

The effects of substance abuse can be physical, psychological, and social, with health issues, a lack of coping skills, addiction, poor prospects, and mental illness being some potential outcomes.

Paving the Way Forward: Preventing Drug Abuse Among Teens

The question of how to prevent drug abuse among youth must be answered by society at large. Educating teens on the reality of drug use, drinking, and substance use disorders can help prevent misinformation from being spread. CDC guidelines recommend parents check in often with their teens, get to know their friends (and their parents), talk to their teens about their choices and enforce rules regarding substance use.

Parents can also model abstinence or moderate use of alcohol and safe prescription medication use, and the community can come together to provide options for teens, like sports, clubs, and volunteering opportunities, offering positive ways to interact with society that do not involve drugs or alcohol.

Frequently Asked Questions About Substance Abuse in Adolescence

How can parents detect signs of substance abuse in their teenagers?

Signs to look for in youth substance abuse include rule-breaking, changes in sleeping and eating habits, irritability or despondent behavior, new friend groups, losing interest in activities they used to enjoy, and physical changes like weight loss, watery eyes, or tremors.

What support resources are available for teens battling substance misuse?

Along with support from family and friends, teens can speak with doctors, counselors, and mental health professionals with addiction treatment experience to find the best way to overcome addiction. Each person is unique and will require a personalized treatment program. Inpatient and outpatient modalities are available, with various concurrent therapies and other care available throughout the US.

How can schools play a proactive role in substance abuse prevention?

Schools can keep students actively participating in school work, extracurricular activities, and healthy living while making clear their policies on substances, working with law enforcement as necessary, and creating an encouraging, welcoming environment for all students and their parents.

Are there specific groups of teenagers more susceptible to substance abuse?

Yes, teens who have other family members who abuse drugs or alcohol, teens who have experienced trauma or abuse, and teens with a mental illness may be more likely to turn to substance use.

How does substance abuse in adolescence affect future adult life?

Drugs can impact brain development, causing learning impairments, memory issues, and thought processes. Some of these issues can last a lifetime. Physical health issues may also arise depending on the substance, and mental health problems can worsen.

Are there recovery programs tailored specifically for teenagers?

Yes, many recovery programs are made for teenagers throughout the US, offering high-quality care in a safe, stable environment.

How can teenagers be educated about the risks without glamorizing the topic?

When it comes to the question of how to prevent drug abuse among youth, real talk is likely the best way. Give factual information when providing education about drugs. Avoid trying to instill fear, as teens will see right through that. Instead, give age-appropriate, accurate information. Teaching teens about risk behavior and critical thinking is also essential. Teens are prone to testing limits but will be more likely to make better-informed choices when they understand risky behaviors. Call BeWellLine at 866-349-0854 to talk to someone immediately.

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