The abuse of drugs and alcohol among the adolescent is a major problem in the United States and other developed nations. Even though statistics indicate a decline in drug and alcohol among adolescents, this group is still at risk of committing serious crimes and engaging in risky sexual behavior as result of drug use.
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Without effective preventive and treatment measures, drug abuse will adversely affect the youth and the society at large. This paper explores the topic of substance abuse, addiction, and dependency among the adolescents and its applicability in real life situation.
Discussion of the Research Topic
There is a distinction between drug use, drug abuse, and dependency. There are a number of factors influencing adolescents’ experimentation with drugs and alcohol. Adolescents may use drugs for alleviating depression or anxiety, improving their output in games, and identifying with their peers who are drug abusers. They may also use drugs and alcohol as an enjoyment or out of curiosity. It should be noted that drug use does not always translate to drug abuse.
The aforementioned factors mainly apply to drug use, a casual aspect of interaction with drugs which may not necessarily cause any problem. However, drug abuse and addiction are mainly defined by the impacts of drug use among the individuals rather than the magnitude or rate of consumption. According to Sussman, Dent, and Leu, drug abuse and addiction is defined is “the accumulation of negative consequences resulting from drug use” (373).
Therefore, irrespective of the frequency or amount consumed, if drug use is seriously affecting an individual’s functionality, then that individual is having a problem of drug abuse or dependency.
Nonetheless, the probability of developing drug or alcohol addiction among adolescents or any other age group depend on a number of factors such as history of drug use, underlying psychosocial disorders such as anxiety and depression, means of administering the drug (addiction is highly likely among smokers or injecting drug users), and an individual’s family background of drug abuse/addiction.
The Applicable Situations
Between 1991 and 1999 alcohol use among adolescents was stable. In 2009 it alcohol consumption was at 42 percent, a decrease from 50 percent in 1999. Also, about 24 percent of teenagers reportedly engaged in heavy consumption of alcohol in 2009. Between 1999 and 2009, cannabis use decreased from 27% to 21 percent.
There was a 2 percent increase in cocaine use between 1991 and 2001. This later decreased to 3 percent in 2009 from 4 percent in 2001. Cigarette smoking among the 12th graders decreased from 43.6 percent in 2009 to 42.2 percent in 2010 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, paras. 3-5).
There are varying levels of risk involved for different types of drug users. These risks depend on the usage of illicit drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. Cannabis is one of the illicit drugs frequently used by adolescents. Other illicit drugs include methamphetamine, ecstasy, heroin, and cocaine. Immediate consequences of cannabis use include, arrhythmia, problem with coordination or thoughts, and memory loss. Long-term impacts include brain damage or cancer (Martin and Milot 2).
Alcohol use presents a serious impact amongst the youth since it is consumed in large quaintly and at a faster rate among this group (Dolgin 473). According to Martin and Milot, fatal intoxication can occurs especially when alcohol is consumed in large quantities in a short duration (1). Other effects of alcohol use include liver cirrhosis, memory loss, and cancer (Martin and Milot 1).
Apart from illicit drugs and alcohol, tobacco use during adolescence has also been associated with increased likelihood of dependence and health consequences later in adulthood. In the United States, the rising of prevalence of chronic diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease are linked to tobacco use (Dolgin 470-471; Martin and Milot 1).
Similarities and Differences between Research and Real Life Situation
Research indicates that the use of drug and alcohol among adolescents is on the decline. However, in real life, irrespective of drug abused, juvenile users/abusers are at risk of legal, physiological, academic, and social problems. Additionally, they may also suffer from withdrawal symptoms and tolerance to illicit drugs and alcohol. Also, alcohol and drug abuse among adolescents is associated with increase in the prevalence of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases (Sussman, Dent, and Leu 374).
Even though research shows that both adolescents and adults are at risk of abusing alcohol and other drugs, the two groups are marked by clear differences. First, compared to adults, adolescents are more likely to abuse alcohol in conjunction with other drugs such as cannabis. However, adults comprise a large number of alcohol addicts.
Second, the rate at which the process of addiction develops between the two groups differs significantly. Adolescents, for instance, become addicted within 1-2 years of drug use. Adults, on the other hand, require much time to be diagnosed as abusers of alcohol or other drugs. As such, the definition of substance use, abuse, and dependency may be complicated by an aspect of time (Winters, para. 3).
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As such prevention program of drug and alcohol use among adolescents requires a collaborative approach of parents, teachers, and community leaders. Parents should, for instance, be conversant with the risk factors for drug use and put in place preventive measures.
Teachers should also address the risks and consequences of drug use and help curb antisocial conduct of adolescent abusers. Lastly, community leaders should be able to evaluate both the protective and risk factors of drug use and develop effective intervention programs. Treatment program should also address aforementioned risk factors and be culturally sensitive to adolescents from varied backgrounds.
Drug and alcohol use among the adolescents, even though shown to decline, still present a major challenge in the United States. Research indicates that tobacco use is the leading cause of morbidity from chronic diseases. Therefore, collaborative approach involving parents, teachers, and community leaders should be taken in preventing drug abuse among youth.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alcohol & Drug Use, 03 June 2010. Web.
Dolgin, Kim. The adolescent: Development, relationships, and culture. 13th edition. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon, 2011. Print.
Martin, Laurie and Alyssa Milot. “Assessing Substance Use and Abuse among Adolescents: A Guide for Out-Of-School Time Program Practitioners.” Childtrend.org, 2007. Web.
Sussman, Steve, Clyde W Dent and Linda Leu. “The one-year prospective prediction of substance abuse and dependence among high-risk adolescents.” Journal of Substance Abuse, 12 (2000): 373-386. Web.
Winters, Ken. “Assessment of Alcohol and Other Drug Use Behaviors among Adolescents.” National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2004. Web.