Cause or Effect?: Substance Abuse

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As high schoolers, many of us know of people who vape, drink, or smoke marijuana. Whether you fall into this category or are someone who struggles with this, the effects of using substances as a teenager should be known. Substance abuse can be defined as overindulgence or dependence on an addictive substance, especially alcohol or drugs. In our community, this can look like vaping, drinking, driving under the influence, using unprescribed Adderall or any other medication, or using high amounts of any medication or substance.

Behavioral changes are often noticeable on someone struggling with substance abuse. They may become more withdrawn, hostile, unpredictable, and sullen. With these behavioral and mood changes often comes an inability to properly focus, as well as a lack of motivation. Abusing substances can also cause short-term health issues such as loss of appetite, unhealthy heart rate or blood pressure, and can even cause a stroke. Abuse in the long term can cause liver problems for drinking and lung problems for smoking, along with addiction for both.

While we often think about the effects of substance abuse, we seldom think of the causes. Mental illnesses including depression and anxiety have often been linked to substance abuse, but are usually thought of as an effect of over drinking or smoking. A study that surveyed 476 adolescents found that emotional vulnerability increases the likelihood of trying a variety of drugs in early adolescence. The researchers concluded “Depression levels are associated with lifetime use of a variety of substances in early adolescence, and targeting this risk factor with preventive efforts may be useful in reducing risk.” By exercising preventative efforts for adolescent depression as a whole, we can help reduce the risk of teens turning to substances to cope with their problems.

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