Most drug users develop their substance abuse in their teens. In the Philippines alone, nearly half of drug abuse cases reportedly start from 15 to 19 years old, the Dangerous Drugs Board says.
Access to prescription medication at home and to illicit drugs on the street has been an entry point into the habit for some. In fact, about 50% of all teens experiment with drugs at least once in their life because of easy access to substances, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Some teens may end up trying different drugs out of curiosity, peer pressure, mental health problems, social isolation, permissive parenting and the absence of strict measures and support programs designed to help teens stay clean.
As a result, they may end up becoming addicted later on in life. Thus, it is important for parents, the school and the community to recognize the warning signs and intervene early on to prevent drug abuse from turning into an addiction.
The infographic below sheds light on teenage drug abuse – from the risk factors to the consequences, to the proper way of helping those in trouble.
Making the transition from childhood to adulthood can be daunting. From physiological and anatomical changes to the pressures of social acceptance, teenagers become prone to insecurity and the desire for validation.
The need to belong in a group is so strong among young people that many would consider pushing their own limits in order to gain acceptance. One example is the use of drugs – an issue that families and the entire community cannot afford to ignore.
In this time of self-discovery, teens are typically open to experimenting. But this curiosity and tendency to seek thrill can also leave them open to abuse. The teenage brain, for one, undergoes crucial changes at this point that it is often unable to process the gravity of certain behaviors. By becoming aware of the risks of using illicit drugs, teens and their families can prevent its negative consequences.
The Grim Consequences of Teenage Drug Abuse
The reasons behind teenage drug abuse are as varied as the person’s own life circumstances and struggles. But the ripple effect goes beyond the individual and extend into their family and network.
The consequences can sometimes last a lifetime, but a troubled teen won’t always clearly see the road ahead. Hence, the family and community play a significant role in educating the youth about the grim consequences of teenage drug abuse and the strategies to help them kick the habit.
1. Drug abuse can turn into an addiction
While some teens will only experiment with drugs in their youth, their behavior can also slowly turn into a full-blown dependency later in life.
2. Drug abuse can worsen mental health conditions
Because of the ability of certain drugs to influence one’s thinking and behavior, the misuse of substances has been found to aggravate mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, especially among those prone to such conditions.
3. Drug abuse can impair judgment and lead to risky behavior
A slower thought process can greatly impact how a person formulates their judgment, especially when facing tremendous risks, such as deciding against driving under the influence.
Another example is the tendency of teens inebriated from drugs to engage in risky sexual behavior, which can lead to a host of other issues, such as an unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease.
4. Drug abuse can lead to poor performance in school
In the same way drug abuse can impair judgment, it can also hinder one’s ability to focus and develop new knowledge. This is the reason teens who abuse drugs often see their grades fall because of their cognitive decline and failure to concentrate.
5. Drug abuse can lead to social isolation
Peer pressure is one of the major reasons why teens experiment with drugs. In some cases, however, intoxication can cause the teen to lose touch with family and friends and retreat from social interaction.
Signs That Your Teenager is Abusing Drugs
No matter what a teenager may be going through, parents and guardians should provide support and encouragement while the teen deals with the difficulties associated with recovery.
To better understand how a young person might be struggling, it is crucial to know the signs of teenage drug abuse, such as when the teen:
- Shows an abrupt change in sleep and activity patterns
- Exhibits sudden mood swings and withdraws from social interaction
- Becomes secretive or provides little information when engaged
- Frequently breaks rules or shows poor judgment
- Has bloodshot eyes and avoids eye contact
- Develops abnormal eating habits such as frequent hunger or extreme loss of appetite
- Neglects their personal appearance and hygiene
- Has a lingering smell of smoke in their breath or on their clothes
- Keeps medicine containers and other paraphernalia despite absence of illness
When a teen admits to drug abuse, they are in fact reaching out for help. Parents and guardians must look at the situation as an opportunity to show support and get proper treatment for the teen. Here are concrete steps to take:
- Spend quality time and make meaningful connections. Show them you genuinely care by asking how they are and what activities they are up to.
- Open the conversation about drugs by asking them about their views. Practice listening without judgment even when your opinions differ.
- Explain why drug abuse is dangerous. Be as objective as possible by highlighting the physical and mental health consequences and avoid moralizing.
- Identify risks in the teen’s surroundings and how to resist them. Explain how certain people and media influence teens and their behavior more strongly than others.
- Know the people who belong in the teen’s social circle. This makes it easier to identify the risks the teen is facing.
- Be honest about your own views. If you have a history of drug use, make sure to share what you learned from the experience and what compelled you to say no.
- Focus on the behavior. Even if a teen has made mistakes, remember that these do not define who they are and that they can turn things around with your support.
- Seek professional help. A teen who has been found to abuse drugs will need all the help they can get on the road to recovery.
How parents and guardians address teenage drug abuse can spell the difference between raising a teen who is healthy and happy and one who is debilitated by addiction later in life.
Intervention offers hope, but it requires the entire community to understand the reasons behind teenage drug abuse and the methods of prevention and treatment.
Teenagers at some point will be tempted to try drugs, but it’s the job of the entire community to ensure a safe, drug-free environment where young people are able to stay clean, healthy and active.