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Substance Abuse In Adolescents

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 21. 5 million American adults battled a substance use disorder in 2014 (Statistics on Drug). with that being said, over ninety percent of Americans battling addiction started their drug-using habits during their adolescent years (Addiction Statistics). This staggering percentage is not indicative of a cultural issue or passing trends of the decades, but of a physiological weakness seen consistently throughout youth. Compared to adults, adolescents face more detrimental long-term effects of substance abuse, because of their social, physical, and mental vulnerability.

The use and abuse of illicit drugs and alcohol not only affects the consumer, but also his or her family, friends, and community, both during and after substance usage begins. The ways substance abuse affects users socially are seen in their interpersonal relationships, level of professional success, and law records. Adolescents tend to be more prone to these particular consequences on account of having less experience with social skills and situations. Teenagers’ obsession with physical appearance, reputation, and passing fads are all blatant evidence to their obsession with social interaction (The Effects of).

Social norms seen in the popular media give teens the impression that using substances is a justified lifestyle, reaping many social benefits while inducing little to no consequences. According to a 2011 study, forty-seven percent of teens confirmed the moral justification drugs were given in movies and TV shows. Statistics show that adolescents viewing at least three R-rated movies per month are seven times more likely to smoke cigarettes, six times more likely to use marijuana, and five times more likely to drink alcohol (Top 8 Reasons).

Regarding social acceptance, another motivator teens may have to use substances may be to alleviate social anxiety as well as mitigating personal insecurities which is a common problem adolescents face during their maturation process. For teens who are ill-equipped with social skills, interaction with peers may be greatly hindered by their screaming lack of self-confidence; the pressures of social status cause this to frustrate teens and lessen their self-esteem. Because alcohol lessens inhibitions, it acts as a solution for teens with self-image issues.

Additionally, those with social anxiety disorder look to alcohol as a method of self-medication. The immense—yet fleeting—rewards provided by this method of socialization gives teens self-rationalization to their alcoholic habits. When adolescents rely on substances as a form of self-medication for their social anxieties, they face many different dangers. With the prolonged use of alcohol for this particular reason, the consumer may find sober interactions to be increasingly difficult, sometimes to the point of inducing paranoia or phobias towards school and/or work (Consequences of Adolescent).

Additionally, many immediate consequences lie within social alcoholism and substance usage. As devastating as it is, the frequency of sexual assault and rape is immensely higher when substances are used. Those who are under the influence are simple targets for rape and other acts of sexual violence, even when they are surrounded by peers whom they trust. The traumatic effects of rape are likely to endure for the remainder of the victim’s life, giving rise to other underlying mental problems.

In addition to sexual assault and rape, nonviolent acts performed under the influence are potentially dangerous because many adolescents neglect to use protection. With decreased inhibitions and a lack of judgement, intoxicated teens may hook-up with a stranger infected with a harmful STD. Often, when one contacts this sort of infection, it goes without notice and remains with the host for their whole life. Another obvious consequence of unprotected sex is unplanned pregnancy. Unplanned mothers are often ill-equipped financially, emotionally, and mentally; an entire life change lies ahead for them.

On the latter, choosing to abort the child can traumatize the mother as well as threaten her sexual health (Consequences of Adolescent). In addition to the Social factors that add to the danger adolescents face regarding substance abuse, the mental attributes of most adolescents place them in a much more vulnerable position than adults. However, their vulnerability is not as simple as being less-experienced adults; adolescents are undergoing important yet challenging developmental stages in which they are more prone to errors of judgement, and sensitive to neurological assault by psychoactive substances (The Effects Of).

During the maturation process, it’s common to long for an expansive outlook on the world, which leads to many experimental situations in adolescent years. For example, once the high school age is reached, a teen might long for an expanded network of friend groups and try hanging out with completely new people as a means to get a taste of how others experience life on a day-to-day basis. This leads many teens to begin testing the waters in drug usage, whether the initial consumption is coerced or voluntarily done.

Several decades of case studies has shown that the rate of alcohol and drug use increases dramatically between the ages of twelve and eighteen (Squeglia 1). Likely, the teen will not encounter persistent, blatant pressure to use a new substance, although it might be repeatedly offered in a “friendly” manner. A curious teen is more readily open to dabbling in the world of drugs and alcohol than an adult who may already have a sense of what recreational practices suit them best. Another danger imposing upon adolescents is pure ignorance (Top 8 Reasons).

Often, decisions regarding substance usage is made with inadequate information or even misinformation. Due to the nature of adolescent substance usage, it is unlikely for a teen to confront a knowledgeable adult for advice and information before using the drug or consuming alcohol; therefore, the source of information many teens resort to is their peers or the internet. More often than not, a teen who is advising another on drug use is going to claim more merit than what actually exists. These so-called veterans are likely to omit crucial information regarding the consequences that the drug-in-question imposes.

Because of this, many of society’s youth are blind-sided with the negative results that lie in the life of substance use. This is why it is crucial that children are well-educated of the reality of substance use; and while that education is not guaranteed to be adequate in the public educational system, it must begin at home. When substance abuse is delved into during the adolescent years, the habits are likely to follow into adulthood. During these years is when a person’s core values and beliefs are more easily morphed and more deeply ingrained in them (Larson).

When these values and habits are initially ingrained into a teenager, it’s very difficult to remedy and expunge them, which is why many adults find themselves struggling with substance abuse even after they remain sober for a length of time. The underlying habits of their youth lie dormant until an agitator is presented, such as overwhelming stress or a situation instilling grief. Finally, one of the most frequently acknowledged, yet under-emphasized areas in which teens are threatened by substances lies in the physical makeup of the adolescent body.

Yes, of course, “you’ll destroy your liver;” “cigarettes make your teeth yellow;” “pill popping will turn you ugly. ” There are many common phrases concerning drugs that are used as simple scare tactics to attempt to ward off potential users, but the reality of substance abuse is much uglier than yellowed teeth and premature skin deterioration. The physical effects of substances lie deep within the physiology of the human body as well as the brain—often causing irreversible damage to overall physiological function and preventing proper development of the body’s central nervous system.

Even in youth with consumption levels of twenty drinks per month for as little as one to two years, abnormalities are seen in overall quality of brain composition as well as efficiency in cognitive task execution (Squeglia 1). Just a few parts of the brain affected by alcohol consumption include the cerebral cortex, the frontal lobes, the hippocampus, the hypothalamus, and the medulla. The frontal lobes play a large role in controlling emotions and urges, and can develop permanent damage with prolonged exposure to the chemicals from alcohol and drugs.

Damage to the hippocampus, which retains memories, may cause short-term memory problems as well as problems with learning and retaining new information (Allison 1). MRI studies show that the development of the prefrontal cortex and outer mantle of the brain may not be completed until the mid-twenties. When the development nears completion , the connecting nerve tissues within the brain become coated in a fatty layer called a myelin sheath, which acts as an aid in the transmission of information within the brain (The Effects of).

Doctors have found that with prolonged use of alcohol, the attention span of boys is negatively affected and the comprehension and interpretation of visible Information is greatly inhibited in girls. Additionally, tests have shown that binge-drinkers perform more poorly on thinking and memory tests in comparison to teens who have never drank (Allison 1). The harmful effects of substance abuse are not limited to the immediate instance in which initial consumption takes place, nor are they imposed strictly upon the consumer.

Substance abusers as well as their family and surrounding community face potential harm in nearly every aspect of his or her life; and these threats will remain for the duration of the user’s life, regardless of the extent to which help is sought. Relapse is an incessantly proximal possibility for any addict in recovery. And while the adolescent who exposes his or herself to substance usage may survive the short-term consequences and obstacles, the self-inflicted brain-damage will remain and continue to hinder the execution of everyday tasks and cause accumulating grievances.

The only way to effectively combat the nation’s addiction crisis is to seek out the root of the issue and demolish it’s root system, which is seen in adolescents. A majority of persisting adulthood addiction stems from use in adolescent years, worsening as time elapses. Addiction is not a flaw of moral character that is chronically present in teens, but a misfortune imposed by more susceptible physiological aspects, the government’s negligence in preventative education, and society’s extreme normalization of illicit drugs.

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