What is Substance Abuse?
Substances, such as alcohol, marijuana, and nicotine, are used by teenagers with little regards for the risks. Use of drugs at a young age stunts brain development, destroys motivation, and is the leading cause to addiction in adulthood. Substance use will eventually strain relationships with family and friends which has the potential to be devastating for young adults. Half of all new substance users are under 18, and if they struggle with substance abuse it's more likely now they can find support in their peers. It is reassuring that the rates of teen drug abuse are decreasing and the levels of support that teens can find is increasing. There is another path other than addiction for teens who struggle with substance abuse.
Nicotine is one of the most highly addictive drugs used today, meaning that once you start it’s extremely hard to stop. This is true whether you smoke cigarettes, vape, or chew. Most adult smokers first started using nicotine as a teen. Some people think vaping is safer than smoking but both expose you to chemicals that harm almost every organ in your body. Additionally, teens who vape are much more likely to start smoking cigarettes.
What about vaping?
How Do I know if I Have a Substance Abuse Problem?
Most teenagers experiment with substances including nicotine, alcohol and marijuana. The CDC reports that two thirds of high schoolers have consumed alcohol. There is a fine line between using a substance and being used by a substance. Most teenagers don't know when they have crossed the line to substance abuse, and they usually have no one in their life to acknowledge it for them. Some of symptoms of drug abuse, that could help distinguish between substance use and substance abuse, are:
- Feeling that you have to use the drug regularly
- Having intense urges for the drug
- Building an extreme tolerance to the drug
- Spending money on the drug, even though you may not be able to afford it
- Continuing to use the drug, even though you know it's causing problems in your life
- Doing things to get the drug that you normally wouldn't do, such as stealing
- Spending a good deal of time getting the drug, using the drug or recovering from the effects of the drug
- Sudden or gradual drop in school performance
- Failing in your attempts to stop using the drug
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Where Can I Get Help?
- Above the Influence: helpful info on harmful effects of drugs and resources including hotlines
- Substance Use Disorder Treatment in Alaska: Treatment centers may be the only option for some, the care of professionals being the only way to break free from addiction. The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services has a comprehensive page of resources for substance abuse treatment options
- This is Quitting (truthinitiative.org): resource for teens looking to quit smoking and vaping