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Substance Abuse and Teens

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For some, the use of alcohol and other substances come hand in hand with their idea of a fun night out with friends or loved ones. For others, it’s used after a hard and long day on the job. Within moderation, it has been found that indulging in these chemicals can be just fine and cause little to no damage. We find the problem arises when we mix these substances together or when we include them into our daily activates. Substance abuse is something that takes over and controls the lives of many individuals every day. In 2015, Statistics Canada announced that over six million Canadians alone had met the criteria for substance use disorders. Substance abuse comes in many shapes, sizes, and has no age limit. 1 in 10 teenagers is subjected to abuse of alcohol and drugs before reaching the age of 21.

Alcohol and its Effects on Teens

When thinking of substance abuse in most cases, the first thought one may have is the use of alcohol. This, in fact, is true. Studies are currently undergoing to find more proof that alcohol is the “gateway drug” to all others. In 2017, Canadian students completed an anonymous survey that leads to the discovery of the use of alcohol. The survey reviled 61. 5% of level three students admitted to partaking in the use of alcohol, along with 42. 2% of first level students and 23. 1% of eighth graders admitted to indulging in alcohol. Although many young adults will independently cut down on drinking as they reach their mid-twenties and begin gaining their responsibilities of being an employee, spouse, or parent etc. , unfortunately not all people will apply. People who have their first drink at age 14 or younger are six times more likely to become an alcoholic than those who don’t try alcohol until the legal drinking age. Those involved at a young age are most likely to partake in binge drinking. This kind of problematic drinking may be dismissed due to people using the excuse of an occasional binge as a celebration that got out of hand or as a reaction to large amounts of stress. Binge drinkers have eight times the risk of alcohol poisoning than any other.

Drugs and Their Side Effects

Along with the high use of alcohol, many teens who indulge in this substance often fall into environments that provide and influence the use of other toxic drugs. Marijuana use among teens was currently at its peak when coming into 2018. Within the same anonymous survey taken in high schools, 45% of level threes, 37% of level ones, and 13. 5% of eighth graders admitted to using Marijuana. Outside of these substances falls the high-risk category of other drugs involving stimulants, depressants, hallucinogens, and opioids. Stimulants impact the body’s nervous system, when misusing them causes the user to feel like they are “speeding up. ”. This increases the user’s level of alertness which gets the heart rate pumping, blood pressure to rise, and breathing and blood glucose levels to increase also. Some common stimulants include Adderall, Ritalin, synthetic Marijuana, Cocaine, and Ecstasy.

When abused, stimulants can cause anxiety, paranoia, high body temperature, depression, heart failure, stroke and seizures. Much like stimulants, depressants also impact the human body’s nervous system but with the effect of making users feel as though their body and mind are slowing down. Some common depressants include Xanax, benzos, and can also include alcohol and tobacco. Risks from these drugs involve high blood sugar, diabetes, weight gain, increased body temperature, delayed thinking, low blood pressure, impaired memory, hallucinations, and even death from withdrawal. Hallucinogens, on the other hand, work by breaking communication within the brain. Users explain it as an intense, rapidly shifting swish of emotions and perceptions of things that aren’t there in real existence.

Drugs much like LSD are considered hallucinogens and have effects of PTSD, fear, anxiety, increased blood pressure and nausea. Those using dissociative drugs claim they distort the perception of reality and cause those using to “dissociate,” or feel as if they are watching themselves from another version of themselves. Drugs like PCP work in the brain’s receptors which plays a significant role in emotionality and pain perception. Dissociative drugs are very dangerous, and their impact can be insanely distressing and can result in suicidal thoughts, speech difficulties, social withdrawal, hallucinations, detachment from reality, numbness, and memory loss. Finally, we have Opioids. Opioids are powerful painkillers that are often prescribed by doctors to patients who are suffering from crippling pain. They are extremely habit-forming, and in many cases are even causing addiction within as little as three days of use. Opioids have been formed so that they can now be smoked, eaten, drank, injected or taken in pill form. Most commonly used opioids include heroin, morphine, oxycontin and codeine. While this abuse causes for a devastating life, when someone decides to stop using opioids, they suffer madly as well. Effects include constipation, liver damage, brain impairment, drowsiness, and cardiac arrest.

Causes of Substance Abuse

There are many reasons why teens abuse legal and illegal substances. Former studies related these issues to “having fun” as the go-to reason that teens used drugs, but the most recent studies show that teens are using drugs as a method for problem-solving with even some of the most common daily activates. This is important for society to be aware of because most of us severely underestimate the impact of stress on today’s teens, so understanding what motivates them to use drugs is the first step in helping them find better ways to cope with their struggles. Recent studies by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America showed that 73 per cent of youth say their main reason for using drugs is to deal with the pressures of school. In saying that, another study showed that only 7 per cent of society believe that teens might use drugs to cope with stress, showing exactly what we still underestimate the amount of stress placed on teens. Another study determined that the main cause of teenage substance abuse is from social acceptance and/or low self-esteem.

The same study reported 65 percent of teens to say they use drugs to fit in. A teenager’s self-worth depends mainly on the approval of others, which can be so overwhelming that it’s been known to drive them to substance use. The same study found that 65 percent of teens use drugs to feel more confident about themselves. Those who have low self-esteem are more likely to seek acceptance from any crowd, even if that includes indulging in drugs. As we all know, the teen years are tough. Many teenagers who are unhappy feel they don’t have the ability to find a healthy coping mechanism. The bundle of pent-up emotions can take an extreme emotional toll and can even lead to symptoms of mental illness.

In 2009, a study was developed and reported that nearly 70 percent of teens suffer from undiagnosed depression during some point in their adolescent life. Many teens are unaware of this and therefore are using illegal or prescription drugs to self-medicate and numb their feelings. In saying this, teens are often misinformed about the dangers and damages done by using drugs. Did you know that 40 percent of teens don’t perceive any major risk with trying heroin once or twice? While we find the use of serious drugs uncommon, abuse of prescription medications continues to be a very serious concern for professionals. Many teens, unfortunately, believe that it’s safer to abuse a prescription drug since it’s already been proven safe for human consumption.

On average, 1 in 5 teens abuses prescription medication to get high at some point in their lives. Finally, a huge reason behind why teenagers use drugs comes from just how easy they can be to access. Chances are, as grown adults we can all think of one or more resources to get substances of many kinds. Unfortunately, now the same thing goes for youth. Over 50 percent of teenagers claim that it’s easy for them to get marijuana, 27 percent say it’s easy to get cocaine, and more than half of teenagers say that prescription drugs are easiest to find of all.

Mental Health Effects

Obsessive use of some drugs can lead to progressive changes in the brain, those of which can cause poor mental health. Some of the effects include paranoia, depression, anxiety, and hallucinations. Those most likely to aggravate these symptoms would be cocaine, MDMA, PCP, steroids and prescription drugs. People who suffer from substance addiction are twice as likely to suffer and more likely to be diagnosed with mental or mood disorders than people who have never suffered from substance addiction. In 2015, an estimated 43 million youth experienced some form of mental illness and of these, 8 million involved substance addiction. This clarifies the power that substance abuse has on a young person’s mental health.

Physical Health Effects

Substance use can have a wide range of physical health effects depending on the drug being used, how they are digested, how much is taken, the person’s bodily condition prior to. Effects on the body can depend on many circumstances and can be from small things such as a decrease in appetite to outrageously high heart rate and blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, overdose, and unfortunately even death. What isn’t considered by many is that these health effects can occur after just one use. More often with long-term users, it has been found to increase their risk of heart or lung disease, cancer, HIV, and hepatitis. Not everyone who uses drugs will become addicted, but for those who do, they often see drugs as a one-way street. They do not take into consideration the long-term health effects and because of that, they often don’t even notice the effects that are ongoing. Any amount of substance abuse will cause changes in the brain and will interfere with how these individuals experience normal pleasures in life. These changes make coming clean a lot more difficult for users despite how badly they may want to change.

Recovery from Teenage Substance Abuse

While getting clean from the addiction seems like the obvious choice, leaving behind your lifeline isn’t so simple for most. In the first step of recovery, the body overcomes a gut-wrenching round of withdrawals. Withdrawals occur when the trace of drugs and, or, alcohol leaves the body causing the system to go into shock. Symptoms include panic attacks, tremors, trouble concentrating, memory loss, irritability, headaches, heart palpitations, sweating, nausea, muscle pain, irregular heart rate, hallucinations, fever, and seizures. Although that all sounds horrible enough, the next step involves removing all toxic people, places, and things in your life. Anything that can be used as a trigger to reboot your path to addiction has to go. In the majority of cases that can include leaving significant others, family members, and close friends. At any age this is challenging, but for youth, it is the reason behind 76 percent of relapses that occur.

Certainly, it is important to remember that there is a huge difference between getting sober and staying sober. Beating an addiction isn’t just a one-time movement, but a lifetime battle. Throughout life, you will stumble across many people, places, things, and events that are extra difficult, especially when growing from youth to adult. For those who suffered from addiction, these changes may trigger a reflex in their mind that jumps back to the thought of using these substances to help reduce stress level; and that’s okay. Those recovered will grieve the loss of their addiction. Just like anybody undergoing any major changes in his or her lives, you cannot expect to simply forget the friends you made, the struggles you overcame and of course, the substance you adored. Traces of addiction will follow for a lifetime, causing effects of anxiety, PTSD, depression, and so on. Recovery is a choice that must be made not once, but daily.

Preventing Teenage Substance Abuse

When it comes to preventing drug and alcohol abuse the first steps come from home. Create a safe space for your child to express their views on substance use, listen to their opinions and questions regarding the topic and inform them the best you can. If you don’t know the answer that gives you both a great opportunity to ask questions to others or do research yourselves. Help inform and give them reasons not to use drugs. Instead of threatening punishments that come with use, explain how substance use can affect things in their lives such as friendships, school, extra curriculums, etc.

Its also useful to discuss ways to shut down peer pressure, feeling they have an outlet to turn to when in the situation makes teens more likely to refrain from giving into what’s being asked of them. Most importantly, set a good example and provide support. Praise your children when they succeed, show them love and approval, talk to them and acknowledge their mental and emotional states. Show them that in a hard, cold world there is light at the end of the tunnel. And for those who do not have children of your own, be informed, open, kind, and caring. It takes just one person to take initiative and help those who are going down a negative path.

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