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Teen Alcohol and Drug Abuse

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Written by Aditi Sahu

Misuse of substances like alcohol and drugs has become one of the biggest problems in many countries like the US, Seychelles, and India as well- with teenagers and young adults at higher risk. This includes abusing prescription drugs, alcohol, marijuana, tobacco, afeem, and Chitta (a form of heroin).  So understanding this issue is an important part of identifying and stopping it. We will also be sharing a few tips on how to identify the signs and help your child

But remember, all of these are supportive measures. The key is to identify the issue and seek effective of teenagers and drugs addiction help. Options for teenage addiction treatment include medication, psychotherapy, group therapy, and more. Specific teenage substance abuse programs are available as part of the treatment options.

Deaths due to drug overdose continue to increase death tolls in Punjab, Haryana, and Chandigarh. Blame it on the movies, pop culture, or the increasing nightlife in cities- teenage alcohol abuse and drug abuse have become a part of 'adulting' amongst teenagers

According to a report, every one in five admits to trying drugs as a teenager. While the curiosity is understandable, most youngsters don't understand the consequences as they only see it as a fun recreational activity. 

The peer pressure to be amongst the cool bunch of kids who party and intoxicate is real- and perhaps the biggest reason that leads to alcohol and drug abuse in teens. India is a country with a population of 138 crore people out of which the maximum is between the age of 18 and 30. With the largest young population in the world, alcohol and drug abuse are seen to be a grave issue. And the stats are scary- 

6,25,00,000 people use alcohol 

8,750,000 use cannabis 

2000000 use opiates

600000 use sedatives or hypnotics.

17% - 26% need urgent treatment 

In this article, we will explore the various aspects concerning drug usage, addiction, what causes teens to do drugs and prevention, and effects of teenage addiction problems.

What is Teen Substance Abuse?

Substance abuse refers to excessive or inappropriate consumption of alcohol, drugs, or another substance. While it is different from addiction, it is dangerous and can lead to severe health issues and even fatalities. In teenagers, these intoxicating substances are often seen as a means to increase their ability or merely as a recreational activity. The lack of knowledge about these substances turns these experimental explorations into devastating cases of drug abuse. Different substances have different effects on the brain, hence pose different harm as well 

How Do Drugs & Alcohol use Affect a Teenager’s Health?

Anatomically any substance damages a human’s body in the same way. So how does age play a role? Your brain is still developing till the age of 25. Substances like cigarettes, alcohol, or drugs cause an effect on your brain- it's that effect that makes you feel high, energetic or mellow. Consuming any substance makes your brain susceptible to getting addicted to the effect alcohol or nicotine or opioids have on your brain. This might lead to stunted physical growth, poor academic performance, organ failures, etc. 

Let’s take a deeper look into how substance abuse negatively impacts the body: 

  1. Tobacco
  • Severely affects dental health 
  • Increases the risk of lung infections and cancer
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Reduced stamina and athletic abilities 
  • Risk of reproductive issues in both males and females   
  1. Alcohol
  • Reduces the ability to pay attention 
  • Susceptible to becoming an addict 
  • Suicidal thoughts- if the individual is going through a tough time 
  • Increased risk of depression and anxiety disorder 
  • Damages the liver 
  1. Marijuana
  • Anxiety attacks
  • Increased blood pressure and palpitations 
  • Feelings of confusion and loss of interest 
  • Irritability and violent behavior
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Poor socializing skills 
  • Prefer staying disconnected and isolated 
  1. Cocaine
  • Impaired decision-making skills 
  • Alters physical and intellectual growth 
  • Increases risk of memory problems 
  • Interferes with normal brain development
  • Risk of comorbidity (more than one physical or mental illness or both)

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Is Your Teenage Child Using Alcohol or Drugs?

While there are some prominent signs to identify drug or substance abuse, the real task lies in observing the little changes in your ward before it leads to a point of abuse or addiction. Though these warning signs are subjectively behavioral in nature, there are some common observational points that can be considered as an initial litmus test.

Change in Appearance 

The intoxication caused by a substance of any kind (alcohol, tobacco, weed or any other drug) alters the body internally as well as externally. Your skin starts building its tolerance against the effect of these drugs ( the reason why you need a higher dose every time you consume it), which means both your brain and your body will experience changes and withdrawal symptoms when no substance is consumed. There has been plenty of research and studies that prove that alcohol and drug abuse cause visibly distinctive changes in the body. These effects are more prominent in the case of growing adolescents as it cause problems like stunted growth, aging skin, etc. Some commonly seen changes in appearance are- 

  • Red eyes 
  • Pupils dilated 
  • Running nose 
  • Unusual yellow/ brown teeth 
  • Picking one’s own skin 

Change in Behavior 

Behavioral changes are rather prominent than changes in appearance and parents must watch out for anything unusual in their child’s behavior. These changes can be noticed in all aspects of communication, social interactions, interests, and activities and it all stems from the innate desire of getting high again since the body is probably addicted to that substance now. Here are some commonly observed behavioral traits in teens dependent on substances- 

  • Unjustified irritability 
  • Loss of interest in their favorite activities/ hobbies 
  • Aggression 
  • Feeling tired or lethargic all the time 
  • Lying and secretive behavior 
  • Poor academic performance than usual 

Change in Attitude

Adolescence or teenager is that phase in your children’s life when they are bound to be edgy, rebellious, and irrational as they are slowly growing into mature adults, forming their identities and opinions. A teen kid’s indulgence in consuming substances further makes it difficult for parents and guardians to break through them as their mind is now fixated on that poison. Discipling them or grounding them only fuels their escapist and aggressive nature. This attitude shift is natural to happen since their body is demanding more of the substance they are addicted to.

How to Prevent Your Child from the Dangers of Drug Abuse 

Be a role model, and stay connected

Talking and talking ‘right’ to your ward plays a key factor in breaking through them. These personal interventions can be very tricky as you don’t want to push them away or sound authoritative. Teenagers want to be treated as adults or at least they want to believe that they are being treated like one. Establishing a relationship with them that is based on trust, space and freedom will foster healthy conversations between the two of you. This way they will not only trust you and give you details about the happenings of their life outside the home, but also take your opinion on things and consider your advice. 

Understand the causes of teenage drug addiction and prepare for a conversation. Another way to gain their confidence would be by telling them about your mistakes, and how you owned up to them. This would subconsciously tune their brains into confessing their mistakes, and they would not fear telling you anything.

Talk about Personal and Legal Consequence

Have meaningful conversions with your children. Maybe narrating them a story of your teenage or early adulthood could give them an important life lesson without sounding preachy. Involve them while discussing news or an incident that happened. Making them a part of such conversations would push them into thinking rationally about alcohol or drugs. This way they would not only make the right decision for themselves but might also educate their friends on the consequences of substance abuse.

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1. What is drug abuse and alcohol abuse?

Drug abuse involves the harmful use of psychoactive substances, leading to physical, psychological, or social issues. It extends beyond illegal drugs to include misuse of prescription medications. Alcohol abuse pertains to excessive, risky, or harmful consumption of alcoholic beverages, contributing to health problems and impaired daily functioning. These behaviors may stem from various factors, such as coping with stress, self-medication for mental health issues, or social influences. Both drug and alcohol abuse can result in addiction, adverse health effects, and strained relationships

2. What is drug abuse in adolescents?

Drug abuse in adolescence refers to the misuse of psychoactive substances by individuals during their teenage years. This behavior includes the use of illegal drugs, misuse of prescription medications, or excessive alcohol consumption, leading to negative consequences. Adolescents are particularly vulnerable due to their developing brains, susceptibility to peer pressure, and experimentation with substances. The impact of drug abuse during this critical period can have long-lasting effects on physical and mental health, as well as educational and social development. 

3. What are the effects of drug abuse on students?

Drug abuse among students can have multifaceted consequences, including impaired cognitive function, hindered academic performance, disrupted social relationships, an increased risk of mental health issues, and legal repercussions. Furthermore, it can lead to decreased motivation, disrupted sleep patterns, and diminished self-esteem. These effects often remain underestimated and under-discussed in the context of drug abuse's impact on students, highlighting the need for comprehensive education and support programs.

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