Substance Abuse can also be called drug abuse. This can be defined as usage harmful substances. The individual either uses a significant amount of the substance or uses harmful methods to ingest the substance. These substances are usually heroin, cocaine, alcohol, marijuana, cigarettes and other tobacco products. In today’s society many adolescences fall prey to substance abuse. A teenager who suffers with substance abuse would have frequent changes in behaviour such as failure to attend school, a decrease in their grades, unable to concentrate or focus on their studies and depression. It is harder to recognize drug abuse in teenagers than adults. Most teenagers are very secretive towards their parents as well as dishonest therefore, they require closer observations to tell if they are using drugs or not. Monitoring their grades as well as behaviours at home can be more helpful. If they become withdrawn from family as well as friends or experience sudden outbursts, this can be as a sign of substance abuse. Some teenagers also turn to drug abuse because they live in a toxic household.
Substance abuse social workers work with individuals work with individuals’ mental conditions and/or addictions. Social workers are knowledgeable of human systems are therefore they would be able to help someone who is suffering from substance abuse. Trained social workers provide therapy for the teenager as well as become a case manager. They uncover problems that the individual may want to erase and fix them with effective solutions. Sometimes adolescence’s addiction goes unnoticed in populations that are unaware of the dangers of substance abuse or uneducated when deciphering what is wrong from right. However, social work can be a part of the solution and a road to recovery because they would be able to easily detect the teen’s disorder as they were trained to do so. When dealing with teenagers, the social worker must be actively involved in their life because without long-term intervention a relapse would most definitely occur, and this would diminish any progress that was made.
Adolescents are particularly vulnerable to involvement in substance abuse due to the underdeveloped state of their brain, which can lead to the inability to make proper decisions on their own. Understanding the causes of adolescent substance use is vital for successful prevention and intervention programs. There are many contributing factors as to why adolescence would partake in drugs or alcohol. Many teenagers use drugs simply because their friends are doing. Some willingly use drugs or alcohol while others are pressured to do so and are seen as uncool if they refuse to do so. Others do it to get a good feeling about themselves. When an individual uses drugs it reacts with the neurochemistry of the brain to produce feelings of pleasure. The intensity of this pleasure differs by the type of drug and how it is used. Teenagers who suffer from depression, anxiety disorders use drugs in order to help them feel better. The drug would uplift their mood or help them become calm whenever they feel anxious or stressed. Stress plays a significant role in the continuation of drugs as well as having a relapse.
Adolescence who enrolled in school sometimes fall prey to substance abuse. We live in a very competitive society, so some students feel pressured to be successful. Some adolescents turn to certain drugs that are illegal or stimulants because they think those substances will help them perform better in exams. After using drugs for a period of time to study they are often unable to continue their studies without drugs. At a certain age, an adolescent also feels the need to experiment and they often believe drugs to be an exciting or a daring experience. A very common cause is genetic predisposition. A family who has a history of substance abuse or alcoholism increases the risk of influencing teenagers as they think it is okay to use drugs because they saw their older relatives doing so. Neglect or other childhood trauma can also cause and teenager to use harmful substances. If they experienced any type of abuse or was abandoned at a very young age they turn to drugs or alcohol to deal with their emotional pain and grief.
These harmful substances have devastating affects on the teenager as well as their family. The affects of substance abuse can either be long-term or short-term, depending on how often the individual uses the drug. Homes that were once calm can quickly become a strain on every individual in the house due to substance abuse. Parents who are aware of their child’s an addiction become very concerned about their physical and mental health. When teens use drugs, they become very withdrawn from their family and friends, they sometimes steal money from their parents to purchase drugs and alcohol. If the constantly use drugs they become consumed by it which would eventually lead to them losing interest in school, sports and any other activities that they previously enjoyed. Teenagers who use drugs do not see the damage and hurt they are causing others. The whole family is affected. It hurts the family and interferes with the stability of the household. Relationships between parents and the individual also becomes strained as teens become rebellious and defiant. Parents can also become ill from stress and grief because they are constantly worrying for their child’s safety.
Substance abuse also affect the body and brain. The effects of substances on the body also depends on how the drug is delivered. Drugs that are injected has an immediate effect because it enters the bloodstream unlike those that are ingested. Misuse of substances causes large amounts of dopamine (a neurotransmitter which helps regulate our emotions) to flood the brain which results the individual to feel “high”. Eventually, with long-term use, the drugs start affecting the brain which causes a sudden change in behaviour. It interferes with the ability to make decisions as well as causes craving and compulsive drug use. Sooner or later they are unable to function with the drug. Their health becomes compromised because their immune system is weakened leaving them vulnerable to illnesses, there is an increased strained on the liver, some experience heart conditions as well as seizures, stroke and brain damage. If substance abuse is not treated it would eventually lead to death because of the damage done to the body.
Jessica’s drug use began at the age of 15. She resided in a low-income city and drug abuse was rampant in her community and school. Jessica did not have a strong support system. Her father left her and her mother when she was only 2 years old. Her mother became the breadwinner of their family and she had a difficult time keeping a “roof over their head”. She had three younger siblings to take care of as her mother was rarely around due to her numerous jobs. Jessica felt as though she had nobody who genuinely cared for causing her to become depressed. She was encouraged by her peers to trying using heroin to help her feel better about herself. When she used it for the first time she was not sure if she liked it or not because she did not feel any different. She was again encouraged by her peers to try it again. This time she felt the full effect of the drug and decided that she liked the way she felt. Jessica began stealing from her mother in order to purchase more drugs. When her mother found out what she did she threw Jessica out. She was now 17 years and homeless.
She turned to prostitution in order for her to purchase more heroin. She could not afford a home, so she lived under the boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey. One day a terrible thing happened to her. She passed out while walking down the street. Luckily, a passer-by was able to see that Jessica needed help and called the 911. Jessica’s life was saved by 3 paramedics. Besides the ventilator, Jessica had two chest tubes in place to pleurovac drainage. The chest tubes remained in place for around 4 days. During her stay at the hospital Jessica befriended a nurse who often tended to her. The nurse encouraged her to get help as she was young . She told Jessica she had a bright future ahead but that would only be possible if she got the necessary help she needed. Jessica decided to take the nurse’s advice. She was later transferred to a facility for substance use treatment and rehabilitation. However, it had been noted that Jessica had a significant mitral valve heart murmur (rapid heartbeat causing backflow of blood). Over a course of 5 years, Jessica eventually weaned off of heroin and had the mitral valve replaced. She remains healthy and drug free and became a voice for adolescence who suffer from substance abuse.
Erik Erikson’s theory describes the impact of social experiences on an individual. Society can determine the psychological development of an individual. The developmental issues for early adolescence are rapid physical growth, self-image focused on appearance, and intense conformity to peers in order to gain acceptance. Therefore, in order to fit in with their peers, teenagers feel the need to do whatever their friends are involved in. In this case, Jessica took the advice of her friends and started using drugs because she trusted them when they told her she would feel better after doing so. Erikson discussed that the developmental tasks of adolescence as identity vs. role confusion. They often ask themselves “Who am I?” and many are unable to answer that question which leaves them to allow their peers to make that decision for them. Adolescents need environments in which they are allowed to test out their new thinking skills, receive positive feedback and benefittingconsequences.
If they are in a system where their education, family and health are compromised the development of the middle-age adolescent will be impacted. For example, Jessica’s father leaving her can be seen as him abandoning her. This would have contributed to her feeling unwanted and lonely. Her mother on the other hand was rarely around to have any involvement in her daughter’s life, this would have contributed to her depression. Jessica had no one to guide her and help her make right decisions. Probably if her mother kept a closer eye on Jessica she would have been able to tell whether or not she was using drugs. The community in which she resided in also had a part to play in Jessica’s addiction. It was a norm to use drugs so she would not have seen herself doing anything wrong, or jeopardizing her health. They also experience the experimental stage. The experimental stage involves curiosity and taking risks. The primary focus is rights of passage with peers. Jessica’s friends were already using drugs and they pressured her into using them even after she realised she disliked them.
Macro strategies involve intervention and advocacy on a large-scale whereas micro strategies are where social workers involve families and friends to solve problems. Micro strategies that can be used for substance abuse in adolescence are parental monitoring, as well as disclosure on their whereabouts, positive communication between parents and the child. Families can also educate their children about the dangers of using harmful substances. Macro strategies that can be used for substance abuse in adolescence are introducing courses on substance abuse at schools in order for children to be aware of the dangers. Governments also prohibits these drugs in order for there to be reduced cases of substance abuse in adolescents. Prices of these drugs can also be raised in order for adolescence to be unable to afford it. I believe that governments should also pay close attention to communities that has a lot of involvement with drug use.
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