“Mindy was a normal teenage girl who enjoyed swimming, art, and spending time with her boyfriend. Mindy’s boyfriend was into heroin and convinced her to try it. Soon, Mindy became very addicted to the drug, and would lie and steal to get the heroin. After a while, she became expelled from high school and could not figure out who she was anymore.” (Fairbanks, 1). Mindy’s story is not the only drug abuse case there is. Many teens struggle with addiction to drugs and not being able to fix the problem. Many books and films also stress how common it is for young people suffering from drug addiction. Sadly, this portrayal in books and media is not fiction but a reality of a vital problem. Teenagers are one of the most susceptible groups, because of their lack of experience and wanting to try new things, which makes them an easy target for the addiction. Due to, teenagers interest and exposure to drug abuse, they will encounter many consequences not only affecting their health, but also society. There are certain factors that connect teenagers, social, mental, and emotional experience to the likelihood of falling victim to drug addiction. Teenage years are a difficult period. Teens are being transformed into an adult from that kid phase, and are going through many physical changes. These changes and hormones can lead to depression and insecurities in them (Drugabuse.gov). Naturally, a way has to be found to deal with this stress from teenage years, and this is where drugs may come into play. For instance, research shows that teenagers may turn to substances in case of the low self-esteem problems, seeking a boost in their confidence (Mokoena, 34). As we can see peer pressure comes into play here, just like in Mindy’s story. This bandwagon appeal (everyone else is doing it) has a large impact on a teenager who wants to impress their friends and show themselves as rebellious and carefree (Volkow, 5). Eventually, drug abuse starts from curiosity and the need to fit into cliques, to a teenager becoming a drug addict at a very young age. Another important reason teen drug addiction occurs is because of the way the substance works and the rush it gives off. As known, drugs are a quick and easy way to get and feel pleasure, which brings teens into an ecstatic state of happiness. This is due to the fact that drugs and alcohol trigger the brain’s production of certain hormones responsible for this feeling of euphoria in one’s mind and body (Mokoena, 31). For example, cocaine is known for stimulating a person’s brain activity, which results in an elevated mood, high self-esteem, and increased energy (Volkow, 5). It is reported that some teenagers take these stimulants to perform better in their daily life, like in athletics (Volkow, 5). All these effects are obviously appealing to young people who often struggle with communication issues and self-confidence. A teenager is likely to want to repeat such an experience of high energy and, therefore, develop an addiction. Additionally, media is also a large contributor to the appealing image of drugs and, therefore, may subtly promote drug use among the youth. Modern films and TV series feature teenagers taking different substances ranging from marijuana and cocaine to heavy drugs such as heroine. One major example of this representation is shown in the Netflix, British series Skins where teenagers are engaged in drug use on a regular basis. A statistic shows that there are more than 40 references to substances and alcohol in the opening episode of the show, a huge number that shows the popularity of drug abuse among the target audience (Hoops, 57). The reckless behavior of the teens is shown very lightly, for their party lifestyle looks attractive and carefree (Hoops, 62). Therefore, the show glamorizes the image of illegal substances, which may encourage young people to follow their favorite characters on the show and experiment with drugs. This example demonstrates how drugs are portrayed in media to the young audience that watches these shows, because they look up to the main characters and want to be like them. Therefore, all of these factors combined together lead to major risks among teenagers who decide to want to try and experiment with illegal substances. Researchers highlight certain stages in the development of drug abuse in young people. The phase of experimenting can start as early as the age of 10-12 years and, due to the start of low tolerance, small doses of drugs can cause the feeling of pleasure in a young person (Mokoena, 35). Early abuse may include such substances as tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, and psychedelic drugs (Robertson et al. 10). This stage gradually turns into a phase of regular and constant use, when a teenager takes drugs because of peer pressure, self-esteem, rebelling, and seeing it in media. Eventually, addiction is developed, described as “an overwhelming physical or psychological dependency” on a certian drug (Mokoena, 36). The phase of addiction is not always immediately noticed for the teenager, but the consequences are already clear at this point from using drugs. Harm from drug addiction comes in many forms, affecting both the teenager’s mental and physical health. An increased tolerance that develops in a teenager’s body overtime wants to take larger dosages of a drug, which leads to major intoxication of their body (Mokoena, 37). Naturally, the brain is an organ that suffers the most from drug abuse, and teenagers are even more likely to experience damage because of their quick growth and large changes happening in their bodies. For example, addiction can lead to memory loss and the lack of concentration. Cognitive processes such as comprehension are also damaged due to the drug use, and teenagers could also show poor academic performance and communication problems in daily interaction (Mokoena 39). Drug abuse has such a high influence on the mind and body that it might further lead to serious damage and general inability to function properly in all activities Other risks for the young addicts include a possible early exposure to a number of serious health conditions and diseases. Even a single instance of drug use can cause such effects as high blood pressure, tachycardia, loss of appetite, and others (Drugabuse.gov). Long-term effects, however, are much more harmful and dangerous, especially for teenagers, whose bodies are still growing and developing. For instance, there is a risk of a heart attack and other cardiovascular conditions, lung diseases and general respiratory failure, cancer, liver and kidney problems, ulcer, different types of hepatitis, hormonal changes, and HIV, especially in case of drug use through injection (Drugabuse.org). As seen, the heavy intoxicating effect of illegal substances on a teenager cannot be taken lightly and overlooked. Additionally, there are major consequences to the teenager’s social and emotional state. It is especially seen through the rapid deteriorating relationships between a teenager and their environment. For instance, a study on teenage drug abuse states, “Emotionally, adolescents with a drug dependency problem become increasingly resentful towards significant people in their lives, especially parents. Their emotional responses become unpredictable as they quickly fluctuate from happy to sad and back again. The long term effects of an addiction on the adolescent who are developing emotionally and psychologically can be seen in their lack of attention and interest in emotional health” (Mokoena, 40). This emotional instability may lead to other, more serious issues. Some teenagers may turn violent, manipulative, and paranoid due to the effects that the drugs give off (Drugabuse.gov). The only goal soon of a teenager’s existence is getting another dose of the drug, and their focus shifts away from anything not related to this issue (Robertson et al. 4). Soon, addicts become isolated and detached from society and everyone around them, which will cause them to use it more, continuing the cycle. However, damage from drug abuse is not limited to just the addicted teenager. The issue has a serious impact on society. It has been proven that drug abuse is strongly associated with displays of aggression and violence, which can trigger criminal misconduct in teenagers (Drugabuse.gov). Juvenile crime, therefore, is an issue directly related to drug addiction in young people. Some of the examples of the behavior are assaults, group fights, and even impulsive murders, all starting from a person’s desire to illegally obtain drugs or an impaired judgment of a conflict situation (Jiloha, 169). Moreover, data shows that teenagers who regularly smoke marijuana are more likely to be engaged in its distribution by selling the drug (about 25 percent) or join a street gang that makes money off this illegal business (Jiloha, 170). Clearly, teenage drug abuse is a contributing factor to the high crime rates and a large number of instances of violence. One of the biggest and most serious consequences of such abnormal behavior tendencies in young drug abusers is the problem of drunk driving. As drugs often shut down the sense of responsibility as well as fear in a person, many underage addicts will use a car under the effect of substances, especially alcohol. Drinking and drug use negatively impact the driving ability due to the lack of concentration and blurred vision, which automatically makes a driving situation very dangerous (Aaseng, 21). As a result, every year, more than 6,000 of teenagers lose their lives in traffic accidents that include alcohol or substance use (Aaseng, 18). This statistic does not include the injured, whose number may be much higher. Without a question, alcohol is also a drug, and its relation to substance abuse in teenagers cannot be ignored. Furthermore, tendency to engage in risky and irresponsible sexual practices, too, can be considered as directly related to the teenage drug addiction issue. Young people using substances on a regular basis have a higher chance of starting sexual relationships at a younger age, ignoring protection, and engaging in polygamy (Jiloha, 170). This might lead to such risks as teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases and infections. Also, teenage drug abusers are more likely to display sexual misconduct and engage in dangerous and aggressive sexual practices, often without the partner’s consent (Drugabuse.gov). An alarming statistic indicates that around 75% of male college students and 55% of female college students involved in the so-called “date rape” consumed alcohol or drugs at the time (Koss, 61). As seen, drug addiction can be a reason of sexual abuse and irresponsibility in teenagers, which can affect the people around them.
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