Youth and Addiction

Youth and Addiction

Many factors affect a youth’s decision-making skills, because their brains are still growing. As a result, young people have a greater risk of developing an addiction to drugs and/or alcohol. Genetic factors account for approximately 50 percent of the risk associated with developing an addiction, but external factors such as the environment and peer pressure account for the rest. A high amount of external factors contribute to the risk of youths abusing drugs and developing addictions. Along with that thought, adolescents are less adjusted to life, so they cannot resist the temptation of drugs and alcohol as well as adults can. Lastly, EverydayHealth.com explains that adolescents are not only more exposed to high stress and problems with relationships, but they are also less equipped to handle these issues. In other words, an adolescent’s brain is less developed than an adult’s, so youths are more susceptible to abuse drugs and to the pressures of life that promote drug abuse.

James Garbutt (a professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina and a research scientist at the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies) says there is a major difference between how teenagers and adults suffer under alcoholism and drug addiction. Garbutt acknowledges that the area of the brain responsible for decision-making and risk-taking is less developed in a youth than an adult, which explains the behavior and choices presented by teens. Furthermore, the National Institute of Mental Health studied individual children and teens from ages 5 to 20: every year, they took an MRI of the participants’ brains and found that the areas responsible for decision-making and impulse control show growth throughout the study. Ergo, impulsive behavior and poor judgment among teens puts them at greater risk for experimenting with drugs or simply giving in to peer pressure.

Additionally, the environment in which adolescents typically find themselves, along with their proclivity for impulsive behavior and poor judgment, only increase their desire to abuse drugs. The average teen is exposed to various drugs and alcohol at an early age and on numerous occasions. In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reveals statistics for the 2014 survey from Monitoring the Future, and the University of Michigan surveyed drug use patterns among 8th, 10th and 12th graders to determine what types of drugs are most commonly abused. Marijuana continues to be the most widely abused substance amongst both 8th and 12th graders with nearly 12% of all 8th graders and close to 36 percent of all 12th graders having used the drug in the past year. Adolescents of all ages even perceive less danger or harm from marijuana abuse—all ages are adopting the mindset that this drug is acceptable, which makes them more susceptible to try it.

Furthermore, Adderall is still a problem among 12th graders. While some adolescents try drugs out of curiosity, peer pressure or to feel good about themselves, some teens believe that certain drugs will help them do better in school or study better. In other words, teens may abuse Adderall to excel, but the drug ends up hurting them in the long run, because they may become addicted while their brains are still growing. Also, while inhalants still affect younger teens in 8th grade and below, the aforementioned survey also shows that 9 percent of 8th graders, nearly 24 percent of 10th graders and close to 38% of 12th graders have also consumed alcohol in the past month. However, these numbers represent a decrease over the previously conducted study, which showed even larger amounts of teens drinking alcohol.

NIDA explains that adolescents who abuse drugs and alcohol often act out, show poorer academic performances and ultimately drop out of school. These problems put them at great risk for unplanned pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, violence, crime and infectious diseases typically contracted through sharing needles for drug abuse. Lastly, children who lack parental supervision or involvement, who come from poverty stricken communities, have poor social skills, present aggressive behavior or have a higher availability of drugs at their school are at the greatest risk of substance abuse and addiction.

Finally, family environment plays a large role in how kids interact socially with their peers, so, if their environment at home is abnormal, then they are more prone to social awkwardness that results in isolation and drug experimentation. You can help teens avoid addition if you identify children who have greater risks of substance abuse due to their home environment and implement programs to help them excel academically.

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