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Adolescent Drug Use: Steps Forward | Fortis Memorial Research Institute
Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences

Adolescent Drug Use: Steps Forward

by on Aug 01, 2018

There is an increase in the availability and usage of substances by youth both recreationally and regularly on account of habituation or addiction. This enhanced attraction towards and dependence on drugs is associated with many factors. To inform youth and work to eliminate continued drug usage and dependence necessitates an engagement by parents, teachers and other members of the community with what these factors are.

The Causal Factors

Current conceptualizations of substance use and abuse place significant emphasis on the role of peers and role models. There is undeniable evidence to point towards the influence peers can have in encouraging young people to engage in the use of substances. Often these overtures start as a way of trying out something different and over time with continued trying out these can develop into a dependence and an addiction. At this stage the individual feels the need for regular and increase quantities of the substance.

Another element that has been looked at is the socio-psychological framework of the young person at the time. This implicates the environmental conditions, support systems, thinking patterns, and feeling tendencies in the causation, initiation and continued use of a substance.

It has been hypothesized that often individual’s engage in substance use as a means of disconnecting from the environment, their perceived problems, the people around them and their inability to cope with the situations. What is forgotten in this conceptualization is that the problem does not go away or get solved and the individual gets trapped in an even greater vicious cycle which can be very detrimental to their health, well-being, quality of life, relationships and productivity.

The solution to the Problem

There are a host of things which can be done both at an individual, parental, community and social level to help create an environment that supports individuals in a journey away from the use of substances.

Learning to say a “NO” – An emphasis needs to be laid on equipping the young with the skill and assertiveness to say a NO. A cultural shift needs to be heralded to bring a recognition of the need to refuse what one may consider to be detrimental. Thinking for one’s health and well-being and making intelligent choices needs to be a focus to be able to steer the youth towards making the decisions that would be best for them in the long run.

Utilizing the influence of peer support in schools – A novel approach involves utilizing the phenomenon of peer influence and support to reach greater number of students within schools. Encouraging buddy and mentor systems within schools is a unique method of ensuring that more students are aware of the negative effects of substance use and can find effective methods of saying NO.

Create a social narrative of saying “NO” to substances – As a society it is important to put all our weight and might behind the idea of saying NO to substances. Rejecting the idea of aid provided by substance in maintaining attention or focus, and its recreational importance or relevance is a must both at the level of the family and as a community.

Provide information on the negative impact of drug use – A large amount of information is available and all of it does not bear the support of research and accuracy. It is essential that young people be provided with the right information and knowledge about drug usage, its impact and detrimental effects on health and well-being.

Encourage people to seek help instead of displacing problems and consuming substances – Recognizing that escaping problems or finding solace in a substance is not helpful should be encouraged. There is a need to support people to find solutions to the challenge they face and work through the issues they are battling. Focusing on developing effective coping skills in this regard is the right step forward.

Give regard to your own health and well-being – Place emphasis on your health and well-being instead of giving space to the thoughts, beliefs and methods of doing things of others. Make choices based on complete information and scientific data and do not go on the basis of what people or friends think and believe or say.

Start conversations early with the youth – Busting of myths and misconceptions happens best at an early stage. It is important to create a space where the youth can have conversations, whether you are a parent, teacher or member of a community. Creating an openness to talking and discussing always goes a long way in providing the right skills to manage challenges and stay away from behaviors that can be detrimental to well-being in the long run.

Substance abuse is a problem that needs urgent and consistent attention from all members of society. Taking steps to provide the right information and support to the youth is the most important step in this regard!

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