It can be a devastating moment to think of your teenager getting into drugs and alcohol. Unfortunately, it is becoming a common thing to find drugs and alcohol in schools. With the growth in technology, children are now able to access drugs very easily. Ideally, your teenager enrolls in high school as an innocent child, but at the end, they graduate as a young adult.
The four-year course at school is a period of transformation entailing growth, self-discovery, and hardships. The child grows socially, emotionally, physically, and psychologically. At that age, millions of teenagers are very experimental. Some end up experimenting with drugs and alcohol. Sadly, children who use drugs face serious consequences like emotional, health, and social problems.
Reasons for Drug and Alcohol Use in Children
Why do children get into drugs? There are multiple reasons why children start to consume drugs. Adolescence age has been considered as the most dramatic period of an individual’s life. After all, how many times have you heard a person say, “How I wish I could be 15 years again?” Probably you have never.
Adolescents are more vulnerable as they navigate through the bridge between childhood and adulthood. Some parents argue that during that period it is normal for the child to explore things such as getting tipsy for the first time. However, others think that since the teenagers are young and have no experience, it can be greatly dangerous to try things as consequences will finally catch up with them.
Regardless of what you think as a parent, guardian, or teacher, most students will experiment with drugs and alcohol at some point in their teenage. Many parents and teachers assume that the children are experimenting substances or alcohol because they want to rebel. That can be one of the causes of drug and alcohol use, but there are various others.
In order to understand children well, you must put yourself in their shoes and try to imagine what they could be experiencing. Do you remember how you felt when you were an adolescent? Understating is the initial step in helping anyone.
Drugs availability has been one of the reasons why kids get into drugs. Some substances are easily accessible and also some parents consume alcohol and drugs in the presence of kids. Additionally, some parents even go ahead and keep them in the house. The following are some reasons why children use drugs and alcohol;
Most people know that peer pressure is a great influencing factor in the use of drugs and alcohol by children. But because of the popularity of peer pressure, only a few people take it seriously. Although peer pressure is a strong force at any age, it is greatly influential at teenage.
As they try to figure out who they are and where to fit in, “no” can be a rare answer. The desire to be accepted and liked is very strong. Saying no might have painful impacts on them such as being laughed at, humiliated, rejected, or even getting bullied by their peers.
Peer pressure is sometimes dressed in sheep’s clothing. The cool boy who says,” Hey, it is just alcohol” or “it’s just my mom’s prescription, so it is definitely not harmful!” Also, sometimes that girl who hosts you for her birthday party while her parents are not at home and encourages everyone to sip or have fun- anyway, who is going to know unless someone, tells them.
Most teenagers feel like it is “now or never” situation. They feel the urge to attempt and experience everything while they are still young. They think that it is best to try substances or alcohol before they become adults and have multiple responsibilities. The child feels as if they won’t take it now, they might miss out.
Curiosity not only killed the cat, but it can make a child to try drugs or alcohol. They are curious about how being ‘high’ feels like.
Lack of information
Sadly, many children grow up thinking that the consumption of drugs or alcohol is normal. Movies, televisions, radios, friends and everyone around them are always telling them that substances are safe and if used in smaller quantities they are ‘cool.’ The manner, in which they are presented, sends a message to them that drugs and alcohol isn’t a bad thing.
Despite the impression left on the young mind, bad or good, it often encourages them to experiment with drugs or alcohol. You should educate the teenager about substances use for them to know the real facts about the effects of using them.
Whenever adolescents are unhappy and can’t get a trusted confidant whom they can share with their worries, they turn to drugs for solace. Depending on the substance they are consuming, they might feel happy, contented, energized, and more confident. As they grow, they can be stressed emotionally that can lead to depression.
At school, children can be stressed by the tight schedule of advanced classes or the extracurricular activities. They lack skills which can help them in managing stress and hence end up using drugs like marijuana or alcohol to make them relax. So whenever the children come across something that can help them feel better, it is impossible to resist.
In some instances, the kids will consume prescription drugs to provide them with additional energy and the capability to concentrate when they are studying or doing tests. In other cases, they take pain relievers to assist them in coping up with the academic, emotional, and social problems. Although they think the consumption of the substances is helping them, it ends up worsening the situation.
Every person gets bored at some time, but adolescents have more reasons than adults to get bored. The growth and puberty hormones in the central nervous system such as gonadal steroid hormones cause restlessness, boredom, and anxiety in teens. Scientists argue that many students are bored while at school. Boredom leads to questionable decisions and erratic behavior which often incorporates drug or alcohol use.
After attempting drugs or alcohol, and realizing that it is a good solution to their boredom, they quickly get hooked.
The same hormones that cause the teens to become restless and bored can make them rebellious. Being rebellious during adolescence is natural and part of development. Whatsoever, some children take it to the extreme- they use substances or alcohol as a way of rebelling against their parents or the state.
Different rebellious children choose different drugs based on their personalities. For the angry teenager, they mostly consume alcohol since it frees him or her to act aggressively. Meth encourages the child to be violent and can be more harmful and potent than alcohol. Marijuana is more of escapism substance that minimizes aggressiveness.
Teens who feel like those around them do not understand them consume hallucinogens as escapism and to help them experience a kind and realistic world. Children will smoke cigarettes as a sign or rebellion and to portray their independence to their peers or make the parents irritated. The reasons why adolescents get into drugs are as complex as the adolescents themselves.
To appear and feel “ grown – up”
At adolescence stage, all that a teenage wants is to look “grown up.” As adults, we are often more interested in things that we were told that we can’t have, and to teenagers, this is no exception. They have an idea that consumption of drugs or alcohol is a thing that can only be done by adults. For them to look and feel like adults, they should try drugs and alcohol.
Teenagers want to be treated like grownups and you will often hear them say,” I am not a child anymore.” This is a common statement when they want favors that come with age such as consumption of alcohol which can enhance that feeling;” Look at me, I am a grown-up” They feel they are mature and can deal with anything. Sadly, they overestimate their maturity and underrate their vulnerability.
Researchers claim that children, who grow up in families where drug and alcohol are abused, mostly follow suit. Additionally, if one or both parents are using drugs, they can easily access them. An apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and no wonder the kid tend to mimic the behavior of their parents, guardians, or whoever they are living with, both good and bad.
Many adolescents have not developed the sense of self-worth naturally. Many are shy and have not built the confidence they require to do the things they admire. Some adults use alcohol as a lubricant, and so are many teens using prescription drugs to make them more calm and confident in some social situations.
Research shows that many teenagers who have low self-esteem will do things they are not capable of doing under the influence of drugs or alcohol. One can sing at the top of their lungs, dance all styles, or kiss that girl you have been admiring for long. Many teenagers take drugs because they want to get ‘high.’ They are looking for a strong feeling that they can’t experience normally by exercising or eating.
To feel good
Drugs and alcohol contain chemicals that interact with the neurons in the brain to produce pleasurable feelings. They help the teenagers to avoid reality such as busy schedules or exams. The intensity of the feelings depends on the drug consumed and the method of consumption.
To fit in
The experience at school can be challenging for a child as they try to make new friends. Adolescence period comes with much insecurity, lack of confidence, and fear of rejection. A kid would do anything to fit into a social circle including consuming drugs or alcohol. Ideally, they consume them since their peers are consuming.
Consequences of Drug Abuse at School
Students have been able to access substances and alcohol while at school and outside the school. Substances such as marijuana, alcohol, ketamine, and ecstasy are common in parties where teenagers are present. At school, it is no longer strange to find heroin, cocaine, and hallucinogens in the dormitories or even classes. Readily available household items have been used as inhalants by adolescents to make them high.
The accessibility of drugs encourages students to use them. Some drugs like alcohol, though available, they are harmful to the brain development of the child and their health. The consequences of drug abuse by children are long lasting and can lead to drug addiction later in their life.
Whether it was a first attempt, stress, or availability, once a teen gets into drugs use, they risk suffering from permanent or irreversible health complications. In most secondary schools, teachers encounter almost daily happenings related to substance abuse by the learners. Drug use in school has led to student’s unrest and refusal to do various tasks.
Moreover, while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, students damage school’s assets and worst lead to death. Most students use drugs because of peer pressure, parental neglect or encouragement, and improper school policies. Teenagers are growing and lack experience. If not guided keenly by parents and teachers they are more likely to abuse drugs.
Drug abuse can lead to addiction, which can be hard to treat. Children who use drugs are mostly violent, have poor grades, or drop out of school. The following are some effects of abusing drugs to teens;
Scientist’s state that the brain develops until one is at the age of 25 years. Anything that you consume during that period affects the growth. Therefore, using drugs while young can affect how your brain develops. Researchers claim that the brain depends on neurotransmitters to transmit message to other parts of the body.
Every neurotransmitter is attached to a receptor, just like the way one key fits a specific lock. Through this, the central nervous system is able to transmit signals via the right path. Drugs contain chemicals that interfere with the normal transmission of signals. They can mimic, lock or alter the function of the nerve cells. Alteration of nerve cells implies that certain messages will go through the wrong path, and hence reset how the brain acts or reacts.
Eventually, it impacts on how the brain functions and keeps information. Ultimately, your ability to think, remember, learn, concentrate and focus is greatly affected.
Scientists claim that there is a link between drug abuse and school performance. Drug use damages the brain which can cause short-term or long-term loss of memory. Students who consume drugs have lower grades and are mostly likely refuse to engage in co curricular activities.
Though we have students who use drugs and still excel in their academics, the highest percentage of drug users do not do well in the school. Consuming marijuana, for instance, impacts on your concentration and thus the ability to learn. Even after the drug wears off from the system, the effects can go on for even three weeks. Thus, if you are using marijuana you are not operating at your best.
Additionally, students who are using drugs or alcohol record the highest dropout numbers. Students who smoke marijuana or drink alcohol are more likely to leave school or miss classes. Studies show that consuming large quantities of marijuana when young can reduce your IQ to as low as 8 points.
Research has shown that most students at the age between 16-18 years of age who left school before graduating, blame it on substance use such as smoking cigarettes, marijuana, and other illicit drugs.
Students who abuse drugs risk getting into social problems. Teens change friends and will not want to reveal them to their parents or teachers. They will hang out with friends whom they abuse drugs with. They are more likely to be involved in theft. Drugs are expensive, and they might not have money to purchase them. They are forced to steal from friends, parents or even teachers.
Also, while under the influence, they feel more confident and can engage in fights. Other students will steal items from home or school and sell in order to get money to fuel their drug agenda.
Drug abuse can cause emotional issues such as anxiety, stress, depression, mood swings, schizophrenia, or even suicidal thoughts. Depression of children can affect their capability to succeed in school. Most parents and teachers lack or ignore the mental issues of children. Students struggling with depression experience sadness and hopelessness.
A student who is depressed will not be free to open and talk about it, but would rather seek solace from substance use or alcohol. Often people ignore the signs of depression in students such as lateness in class, unfinished homework, and other assigned activities at home or school.
Scientists have stated that most students who abuse drugs and alcohol are more likely to be violent. They are more likely to bring weapons at school and resist the authorities. This can increase tension in the classrooms and may cause lack of concentration of other students.
Risky sexual behaviors
Adolescents who abuse substances and alcohol are more likely to engage in sexual intercourse than those who do not use drugs. In most cases, they are involved in unprotected sex or sex with a strange person. This puts them at high risk of contradicting sexually transmitted infections, and HIV/ AIDS. Also, girls are more likely to get pregnant and drop out of school.
Some drugs are taken through injections. In case of carelessness and sharing of needles, they risk contradicting blood-borne diseases like Hepatitis B and C.
Signs of a teenager drug abuse
There are various things that can alert you when your child is abusing drugs or alcohol. The teen will constantly have problems at school such as a decline in grades and cases of indiscipline. A student who has got into drugs will change the friends they hang around and will always want to spend time alone.
They no longer care about their appearance. The teen may forget to shower or change clothes. Once they have become violent and experience normal mood swings, it is a good sign that something is behind the behavior. Missing money in the home can be a sign that they are using the money to buy the drugs.
Many parents are not aware of drug paraphernalia. Although each substance has specific packages if you notice strange items in their class, dormitory, or room ask. Presence of rolling papers, needles, small spoons, pipes, nozzles, balloons, etc, can be a clear sign that they are using them for consumption of the substance.
Teenage can be a time of making impulsive decisions that can have detrimental effects in your life later. It can be a period of living at the moment without considering the consequences that might follow later. Due to this, many children tend to experiment with drugs or alcohol for the first time. Children in seventh and eighth grades or 13 and 14 years of age are mostly likely to try drugs. Even before enrolling in high school.
If you are the parent, guardian or teacher, talk to the adolescent about the dangers of substance abuse such as drop in the grades, chronic diseases, addiction, and many others. Let it be a normal talk. Avoid lecturing or being dramatic when talking with the teenager. The talk should be from a point of unconditional love, understanding, heartfelt compassion, and realizing the temptations and challenges at that vulnerable age.
Do all you can everyday and don’t give up. Open all doors of communication so that he or she will feel free to talk to you or ask questions at any time. Eventually, the teen can realize the detrimental effects of drug and alcohol use and quit. If the there is no change, don’t hesitate to seek medical help. Do it instantly, tomorrow might be late.