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The period of transition between childhood and adulthood, known as adolescence, is a crucial stage of development. Children entering adolescence experience many physical and psychological changes. Adolescents also tend to engage in risky behaviors, including alcohol and other substance use. Research has shown that most cases of substance use disorders started during the teenage and young adult years.
Studies and surveys have been highlighting the prevalence of substance use among high school students, including alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, prescription opioid, inhalants, ecstasy, cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, and injection drug.
Substance abuse, needless to say, can increase the risk for many health problems. Concerningly, there has been a substantial increase in adolescent overdose deaths in recent years, as reported by studies. Teen substance use is also linked to sexual risk behaviors that can increase the risk for HIV, STDs, and unwanted pregnancy.
Factors that may predispose teens to substance use include:
Adolescent substance abuse is associated with increased risk of drug dependence, poor judgment in social interactions, higher risk of mental health disorders (such as depression and anxiety, poor school performance, driving under the influence, road accidents, high-risk sexual activity, unsafe sex and unplanned pregnancy.
Teen drug abuse can cause serious impairment, illness and even death. Here are some health risks associated with commonly used drugs:
It is important that parents talk to their teens about drugs but choose a place where both of you are comfortable. Do not lecture your teen, instead, listen to his/her opinions and questions about drugs. Avoid using scare tactics and emphasis on reasons not to use drugs. Teach them how to resist peer pressure and ways to turn down offers of drugs. Share your own experience with drugs.
Pay attention to your teen's whereabout and their activities. Set family rules and if your teen breaks the rules, consistently enforce consequences. Know your teenage child's friends and who he/she hangs out with regularly. Keep track of all prescription and over-the-counter drugs in your home. Try to build a strong bond between your teens, and praise and encourage them when they succeed.
The focus should be on reducing the risk factors associated with substance use and increasing the protective factors. Having positive family relationships, positive peers, a positive environment at the school and community helps in reducing substance use risk behaviors in children.
Family support and parental monitoring can help buffer teens from a variety of risky behaviors, including substance use. Policies that reduce the availability and accessibility of substances to youths can also prevent and mitigate youth substance use.
Hence, prevention programs for substance use should not only be focused on individuals, but should also include their peers, families, schools, and communities.