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Drug Abuse in Emerging Adults

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Coined by the American professor of psychology Jeffrey Arnett, emerging adulthood refers to the period between late teenage and early adulthood (Arnett, 2000). Specifically, these are the adventurous young individuals between 18 and 25 years of age. With the majority of these young adults being unmarried, childless or college students, they fall in a distinct demographic that is highly dynamic (Arnett, 2000). At this phase of growth and development, many youngsters struggle with instability and self-discovery. Therefore, due to limited parental control, they end up exploring sexually, romantically, smoking, video game playing, getting alcohol and drug abused and so on. Experimenting with prohibited drugs during emerging adulthood is statistically normative mainly for college students in the United States. According to the United States Census Bureau, 40 percent of American young adults between 18 and 24 years enrolled in college or graduate school in 2014. Earlier, the number of 18-24-year-olds attending college had increased by over 4 million between 2000 and 2013 (Cavanaugh,2016). A 2016 young adults’ survey found that 4.9 percent of the full-time college students in the US smoke marijuana, while 38 percent of young adults aged 19 to 28 engaged in illicit drug abuse (National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH), 2017). Therefore, it means that the impact of drug abuse is significant across the four developmental domains of a young adult in America. This research paper will examine the implications of drug abuse on development in all the four development domains (cognitive, social, emotional, and physical) during emerging adulthood. Specifically, the study will focus on how drug abuse can impact on the performance and well-being of a college student.

Cognitive Domain

The brains of many emerging adults are still developing into their fully-fledged adult forms. During this stage, many brain structures undergo significant developments while various

Connections with it are strengthened to process risks and planning. According to the current literature, substance abuse during this critical development stage has a significant, though subtle, harmful effect on an emerging adult’s cognitive functioning (Squeglia, Jacobus, & Tarpet, 2010). Studies have established that constant substance abusers among the college students exhibit memory loss, reduced attentiveness and slow information processing (Squeglia et al., 2010). In spite of a general assumption that marijuana abuse is not connected to long-term cognitive deficits among the emerging adults, recent literature proves otherwise. According to Squeglia et al. (2010), young adults who regularly abuse marijuana and other related substances have been found to perform poorly in learning. Furthermore, they exhibit poor working memory, cognitive flexibility and functioning, visual scanning, and likelihood to commit errors.

Social Domain

In the social development domain, essential learning processes include performances that focus on the development of social skills and their applications to manage those problems and situations. A young adult or college student who engages in substance abuse is likely to impact negatively on their ability to establish rewarding and positive social relationship with others (NIH, 2017). Students who have substance abuse issues, mainly marijuana or heroin, have low attendance or chronic absenteeism. In essence, truancy is a central issue that negatively impacts the future of a student by lowering their academic performance and overall wellbeing (NIH, 2017). Prior studies have found that substance abuse tends to decrease student motivation to concentrate in school, as they are less engaged in scholarly pursuits. Moreover, the researchers have indicated that drug-abusing college students are at an increased risk to engage in delinquency, fail academically, drop out and disengage themselves from school compared to non-substance abusing students. It means students who are withdrawn from having relationships in school owing to their constant smoking of marijuana are disengaged learners, more probable to engage in anti-social behaviors than those who experience a sense of connection to their school (NIH, 2017). Due to numerous brain transformations caused by drug abuse among the youth, shifting social influences and peer group association heavily impact emerging adults’ behaviors. Thus, this may put a young adult, mostly a student, at a particularly sensitive risk for initiating and perpetuating substance and drug use (NIH, 2017).

Emotional Domain

Various socio-emotional factors that trigger drug abuse among college students include the change in environment, peer pressure, hazing rituals, high levels of social anxiety, stress, copying parental behavior, and new responsibilities. Consequently, in spite of having emotional-related causes, drug abuse has detrimental effects on the emotional development of an individual, more so if they are a college student. This article concurs with prior research that indicates drug abuse can alter one’s emotions and perception, cause brain dysfunction, and lead to depression and other mental disorders (US Department of Health and Human Services, 2012). People who use drugs during their college years are more likely to be emotionally withdrawn as well as develop a substance abuse problem later in life.

Physical Domain

Other than its negative impacts on cognitive, social and emotional functions, drug use has far-reaching effects on the physical development of an emerging adult. Preceding studies suggest that marijuana, for instance, has a similar impact on sleep with alcohol: that is, it throws off the sleep cycle and affects how the user feels for at least two extra days (Schwartz, 2001). Moreover, besides blocking the passage of nutrients via cells due to the effect of tetrahydrocannabinol in the body, marijuana also suppresses the neuronal activities in the nervous system thus causing a decline in energy that results in fatigue (Schwartz, 2001). Above all, drug abuse affects blood pressure as it increases heart rate and weakens heart muscle (Schwartz, 2001). In a nutshell, it is evident that the implications of drug abuse on the physical development of an emerging adult are devastating to their general wellbeing and academic performance.

In summary, past studies have demonstrated that drug abuse has harmful effects of drugs on attention, memory, and learning can last for weeks or even months. An emerging adult who frequently smokes marijuana may be functioning at a decreased intellectual level. Overall, this becomes worse if the abuser is a college student. Markedly, considerable evidence suggests that students who smoke hard drugs such as marijuana have poorer educational outcomes. Unlike their non-smoking college peers, regular drug-abusing students have a significantly higher prospect of developing dependence, using other drugs, and attempting suicide. Heavy drugs users have been linked to lower income, redundancy, lower life satisfaction, greater welfare dependence, and criminal behavior. Thus, based on the recent research indicating that emerging adults are not developmentally ready to keep off the substance, this article recommends that measures should be put in place to minimize drug abuse among the emerging adults, and most specifically, in college students. Recommendations to fight drug abuse in emerging adults focus on how to promote cognitive, physical, and mental health and social role functioning through comprehensive intervention programs that offer permanent solutions through the transition to matured adulthood. Moreover, this paper recommends an extensive program of research which could give real evidence to support or disprove propositions by previous studies, and thus address the valid claims underlying the cognitive, social, psychological and physical concerns of emerging adulthood.

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Drug Abuse in Emerging Adults. (2018, August 02). GradesFixer. Retrieved September 29, 2022, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/drug-abuse-in-emerging-adults/
“Drug Abuse in Emerging Adults.” GradesFixer, 02 Aug. 2018, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/drug-abuse-in-emerging-adults/
Drug Abuse in Emerging Adults. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/drug-abuse-in-emerging-adults/> [Accessed 29 Sept. 2022].
Drug Abuse in Emerging Adults [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2018 Aug 02 [cited 2022 Sept 29]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/drug-abuse-in-emerging-adults/
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