Drug use is prominent across different age ranges of young adults. When drug use starts to interfere with daily activities, then the condition becomes a substance use disorder. Examples of substances linked to substance use include cocaine, heroin, marijuana, methamphetamines, inhalants, and anabolic steroids.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),1 over seventy thousand individuals in the United States lost their lives due to overdose in 2017. Adolescents may have some of the most prevalent rates of substance use according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
According to a study on the trends of drug use in adolescents, 81.4% of the older adolescents reported having the chance to use drugs. The research also shows that the median age at the start of drug abuse was 14 years with dependence and 15 years without dependence.2
Drug use has both physical and mental negative effects on young adults. The human brain is a complex organ, and substance use influences how it functions. Note that the brain regulates the overall function of the body, especially for interpreting and responding to signals.
In teenagers, substance use can affect the brain in two significant ways: brain development and memory.
According to research, it’s evident that the brain is in its development process during young adulthood or adolescence. The brain creates different connections between the brain cells before adolescence. 3 Between the ages of 11 and 12, the brain starts to prune back several of those connections. The pruning process clears unused wiring for faster and efficient information processing.
Young adults can experience a substantial volume change in the gray and white matter parts of the brain. There are various non-linear developments of neural systems in the body of teens. Due to these imbalances in the brain, it is extremely risky for young individuals to participate in substance use. 4
Substance use also plays a role in memory loss or lack of concentration in young adults. The medical condition associated with loss of memory is called amnesia, but it’s not a common experience for young individuals. Common drugs that may result in memory problems include anti-anxiety drugs, alcohol, and opioids. Substance use is not a prominent cause of memory loss, but it may play a role.
Various factors may increase the chances of young adults engaging in substance abuse. Generally, these risk factors deal with the social aspects of adolescents. Here are some of the significant risk factors of substance use:
Diagnosing substance use requires proper evaluation and a review of the individual’s medical condition. During diagnoses, the psychiatrist reviews many factors before concluding a disorder. Note that licensed drug counselors also help in diagnosing substance use in young adults.
For diagnosing substance use in adolescents, most mental health experts use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). The first step in diagnosis depends on the person, a friend, or a family member admitting the need for treatment and recovery.
After acknowledging the need for treatment, the mental health professional will ask questions relating to the frequency of use, impairment of daily activities, and pattern of use for social, educational, and occupational areas. According to the DSM-5, substance use is divided into different categories, which include:
For a young adult to receive a diagnosis for substance use, he or she should display two of the following criteria with a year (12 months):
The number of criteria an individual displays determines the severity of substance use and dependence. An individual with four or five of the criteria has a moderate substance use disorder, while individuals with six or more have a severe addiction.
There are various warning signs and symptoms that indicate substance use in young adults. Most of the symptoms of substance use in teenagers relate to their behavioral reactions. Some individuals may also have physical symptoms that signify substance use.
The physical signs of substance use are related to factors that affect the body system. All of these signs are visible and demand immediate or early medical care. Here are the significant physical signs of substance use in teens:
The behavioral signs of substance use are also visible, but they don’t have a direct influence on the individual’s health. Most of the behavioral signs affect the adolescent’s social life, including relationships with friends and family. Here are the different behavioral signs of substance use in teenagers:
Drug use influences teens in different areas of life. The consequences of substance use may be physical issues like lung disease, memory problems, heart conditions, and seizures. Behavioral problems and social challenges are also major consequences of substance abuse. Further consequences include issues with:
Discovering your child uses substances may be disheartening, but it’s imperative to take the appropriate steps. Confronting the issue of your child’s use requires an understanding of the situation. It’s advisable to plan out discussion points to better tackle the issue.
As a parent or guardian, it’s your responsibility to understand the structure of the brain and the way it develops. Note that the brain does not fully develop until the mid-20s, meaning that consistent substance use can cause significant damages to the brain cells in the long term.
Here are the advisable strategies to handle your child’s substance use:
After educating yourself and talking to your child, you may need to reach out to a licensed mental health professional for help.
Preventing substance use in teenagers requires a direct and intentional approach from parents and schools. It is essential to act early because drugs affect brain chemistry, which may lead to addiction and other severe medical conditions.
Here are some of the steps that parents and schools can take for preventing substance use in teens:
As a parent, preventing substance use in your young adult or adolescent children is essential. You need to have an effective and intelligent conversation with your child for beneficial results.
A secondary school or post-secondary school can also play an essential role in preventing substance use in young adults. Here are some steps that may help in stopping substance use in teenagers:
A virtual school is an online school that educates students outside of a conventional school. Due to the restrictions that a virtual school has, monitoring students is challenging. For this reason, parents may need to perform a significant level of monitoring to prevent substance use.
According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, learning in a virtual school may present a higher risk of child and parental mental and emotional health conditions. Note that a virtual school is typically a post-secondary school.10
Various addiction treatment processes help teenagers recover from substance use. For better comprehension, here are the different addiction treatment techniques to follow:
Substance use in young adults or teenagers can appear as a serious problem to parents, friends, and colleagues. An appropriate approach to educating and treating substance use in these teenagers is essential. For this reason, it’s imperative to consult a mental health professional when you observe any signs of substance use.