Substance abuse has become a common trend amongadolescents all over the world. This paper analyses various aspectsof substance abuse among adolescents highlighting some of the riskfactors and interventions in relation to substance abuse. It delvesinto the various growth and developmental issues surrounding the useof drugs among adolescents. Various influences are highlighted inrespect to relationships and environmental factors that act as forcesbehind adolescents’ substance abuse.
Addiction to any substance differs in terms ofchemical compounds and varies from one individual to the other. Forinstance, a substance such as codeine requires increased exposure foran individual to become addicted than heroin and cocaine.Additionally, an individual may be predisposed genetically orpsychologically to a drug than another and this may be difficult totell until one is addicted or needs treatment. Addiction to drugsusually entails two separate aspects in terms of physical andpsychological dependency. From a physical perspective, an individualengages in substance abuse to feel normal while from a psychologicalperspective an individual may engage in substance abuse to mask orkill pain, relieve stress or feel pleasure (Monti, 2012). With time,one’s body becomes too used to the presence of this substances inthe system that without them the individual is uneasy and developsvarious withdrawal symptoms. The paper introduces a developmentaltheory that relates the trends in substance abuse to our moraldevelopment and brains reward systems. Various treatments suggestionsare also availed for individuals with substance abuse disorders.
Influences in Development of Substance Abuse
Substance abuse and addiction are related butin different concerns. Abusing a substance does not mean that one isentirely addicted to the substance. Addiction occurs when there isthe formation of various changes in one’s brain fostering the needfor constant and continued use. Habitual abuse of prescription orillicit medication or substances is an early indicator of addiction,which brings with it various physical, social, psychological andemotional changes and dependencies. Habitual use leads to some peoplebecoming addicted while others are able to escape from this tragedy(Gallagher,2014). Reason being: there arevarious factors attributed to addiction and they vary from anindividual to the other. The three main factors attributed to anindividual becoming an addict include age, social environment andgenetics.
Substance abuse mostly begin during youngadulthood and adolescence stages. In the United States, statisticsindicate that by the time they become seniors almost 75% high schoolpupils have tried alcohol and nearly half of them have triedcigarettes or an illegal drug (Dakin,2014). Additionally, about 20%will have tried to use a variety of prescription drugs for differentnon-medical purposes (Sharma,2015). There are reasons whyadolescents use or abuse these substances and this include the desirefor adventure or new experiences, dealing with problems, performingbetter at school or simply peer pressure. Many adolescents are in afrenzy of experimenting whereby they take risks and seek newexperiences, as they try to curve out their self-identity (Sharma,2015). The use of drugs mayfulfil some of these developmental drives but usually in an unhealthyway, which may have exceedingly serious long-term ramifications forsome of them.
Many factors affect the scenarios wherebyadolescents are prone to substance abuse. One main factor can be theavailability of drugs in the community, school or neighborhood.Additionally there is the aspect of an individual’s friendsincluding the social groups in which they interact. If an adolescentmostly hangs around abusers, he or she will most likely end up tryingto use due to the mounting peer pressure (Dakin,2014). The family is alsoexceedingly vital when it comes to risk factors on adolescents.Physical or emotional abuse, violence, drug use around adolescentswill definitely increase the probability of substance abuse amongadolescents (Gallagher,2014). Additionally there is thefactor of inherited genetic vulnerability. This includes aspects suchas personality traits like need for excitement and poor impulsecontrol. Also mental health condition like anxiety, ADHD anddepression increase the chances of substance abuse among adolescents.The adolescent years are a vital window for vulnerability to varioussubstance use disorders since the brain of an individual is stilldeveloping and some of its parts are still maturing.
Addiction mainly occurs due to repetition andconstant use of substances. This constant use and repetition usuallyalters the functioning of the brain with time. Therefore, given timea user transitions from voluntary substance use to compulsivesubstance abuse (Chick,2014). This reflects a change inthe individual’s brain reward and inhibition centers. These centersare responsible for ensuring that people control their impulses andmake sound decisions. Some individuals are more vulnerable due totheir exposure to varying risk factors. In addition to the factorsthat mentioned previously, there are others such as stress, prenatalexposure and lack of guardian supervision or monitoring. People whoexperience stressful lifestyles are quite vulnerable to the aspectsof substance abuse. Additionally, people exposed to alcohol and drugsduring their prenatal life stages are exceedingly likely to usesubstances. However, a wide variety of environmental and geneticinfluences exists supporting strong and balanced resilience andpsychosocial development. This influences work to counteract orbalance the risk factors making it extremely difficult to predictthose that are more prone to developing substance abuse disorders andthose who are not.
Kohlberg’s Developmental Theory
During an individual’s adolescent years thereis usually more freedom and independent thinking where one gets tomake his or her own decisions most of the times. Additionally,this stage entails a lot of moraldevelopment. According to Lawrence Kohlberg a renowned theorist,people learn moral values through active reasoning and thinking andmoral development results from varying stages in an individual’slife(Emily,2014). The moral development ofeach individual derives its basis from a series of stages thatKohlberg highlighted as the pre-conventional, conventional andpost-conventional levels (Emily,2014). Kohlberg indicates that aspeople grow their reasoning and thinking develops in this differentstage. However, people’s thinking and reasoning capacities areadjustable through varying influences such as punishment, regulationsand social rules. This is evidential in cases where an individual mayreason highly in some situations and revert to lower reasoning insituations that favor his or her beliefs or goals. Similarly, this isapplicable in cases of substance abuse. When an individual seeks torelief himself of stress or depression, he or she may result to theuse of drugs even though he or she knows it is harmful (Emily,2014). This is evident throughthe influence of risk factors where adolescents result to substanceabuse since they deem it as an escape from reality even though theyknow the risks that come with the substance abuse. Kohlberg’stheory insists that moral development differs in both boys and girls.This may occur due to differences in socialization where boys seem tovalue principles of rights and justice while females tend to valuecaring aspects and helping others. The vital aspect of the adolescentstage is the development of a committed and consistent self-identity.This process takes time but majority of the adolescents are able todevelop stable identities.
Identification, Intervention and Treatment
There are ways through which one can tell thatan adolescent is involved in substance abuse. One may find physicalevidence of varying drugs in an adolescent’s possession. Anadolescent may be portraying behavioral problems such as depression,fatigue, isolation and emotional distancing. It is likely for anadolescent to change his or her friends. The adolescent may behostile or easily irritated affecting his or her level ofcooperation. There might be increased evasiveness from issues orlying (Chick,2014). Physical changes mayinclude frequent sore throats, bloodshot eyes and rapid weight loss.Additionally, an abuser experiences memory problems, dizziness andchanges in moods, sleeping and eating patterns. Various forms ofinterventions and treatments can assist adolescents to deal withsubstance abuse disorders. Evidence indicates that family therapy isquite effective in dealing with substance abuse disorders. Aqualified therapist is capable of assessing an individual’ssubstance abuse problem and recommending an appropriate means oftreatment. Treatment may include outpatient therapy or in most casestherapy in a secluded treatment facility (Chick,2014). Therapy focuses on issuesin the life of an individual in addition to his or her relationships.Relationships are a vital segment in addressing substance abusedisorders.
In conclusion, it is essential to focus onevidence-based treatments when dealing with substance abuse problems.This calls for personalized treatment plans that ensure eachindividual receives treatment according to his or her disorder.Treatment of substance abuse disorders takes into account the needsof an individual in respect to his or her cognitive abilities,developmental stages and influences. When treating adolescents, it isnecessary to consider complications related to their confidentialityand dependence on guardians or family members support.
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Dakin, Emily.(2014). Protectionas care: Moral reasoning and moral orientation among ethnically andsocioeconomically diverse older women.Journalof aging studies,(48),44
Gallagher, F.(2014). Substance Abuse Treatment and the Stages of Change.Occupationalmedicine (Oxford), 64(1), 70-71.
Monti, P. (2012). Adolescents,Alcohol, and Substance Abuse: Reaching Teens through BriefInterventions. New York: GuilfordPublications.
Sharma,Manoj, (2015). Substance abuse in adolescents: Implications forresearch and practice. Journalof Alcohol and Drug Education, 59(1),3-6. Retrieved fromhttps://search.proquest.com/docview/1697448417?accountid=458