Risk of Substance Abuse amongst Youth
By Shweta Nair
Ever more, adolescents and young adults are under high risk of substance abuse around the world. In several cases, since the terrible consequences of it being unknown to them, they continue the abuse of such substances leading to severe problems to their physical as well as mental health. Many start taking from a very young age like around the age of 10-12, not realizing that their future is getting spoiled. In India too, the figures are alarming. According to the report of WHO (1997), 25% to 90% of children and adolescents globally indulge in substance abuse.
Commonly abused substances by the adolescents involve smoke and smokeless tobacco in the form of gutka, correction fluid and glue more prevalent among street children, cannabis, alcohol, marijuana, heroine, opioids etc.
Various studies have shown that substance abuse is more prevalent among males than females. And it also differs from culture to culture, society to society and many other factors. Some cultures being more prone to substance abuse and drug addiction. Also, a greater number of substance abuse is found in urban areas than rural areas. But in all, it affects everyone including those who are staying in tribal, rural or urban areas. It is true that children from lower economic background and from slums get indulged in it from a very young age than children from middle class families.
We all know that this period of adolescence is not a very smooth ride. They undergo through hormonal, physical and mental changes during this time. There is always an enthusiasm to try new things. There is also peer pressure behind it. Peers who are equally involved in such substance abuse practices often put pressure on the non-substance abusers to join them. At first, they try with little alcohol or little smoking but then when they feel pleasure and relaxation due to its effects, there is a gradual increase in the intake of such substances. Later, it shifts to intake of drugs like heroine, marijuana, cannabis in order to give them more pleasure, confidence and enjoyment which finally results in not being able to live without it. As the body becomes accustomed to the effects of it that without consumption of such drugs and substances, their body is not able to function normally. All this further leads to guilt, depression, anti-social disorders and more severe mental health problems.
Besides trouble with mental health, they also suffer poor grades, dropping out of school, absenteeism and lack of involvement with other peers and activities organized in schools and colleges. It aggravates suicidal tendencies in them. Accidents too are reported which involve such young people. There are also greater chances of youth getting into delinquency that is developing delinquent behaviour due to such substance abuse practices. Many get arrested and face juvenile justice system due to intake of drugs and alcohol.
Factors that cause substance and drug abuse include media- as media has a major role in increase in substance abuse among youth. Movies often portray smoking, alcohol and in take of other drugs as normal thing to do which makes them think that even they can do it. Also, they would look cool in front of their other peers. Another cause being the environment around them and the company that they keep. Adolescents who have friends who smoke, drink and take drugs are more likely to try it themselves. Some often get driven towards it due to depression and emotional problems in the teenage years. Others do it because either they are bored or they are lonely.
The only way to cope with such a problem of substance abuse among youth is to have an approach which will be child friendly and having an understanding and non-judgmental way of communication with them by the parents or supporters in the early onset of it will greatly help in decreasing its influence and in take when they become adult. Schools must arrange campaigns through street plays and use more creative ideas to make them aware of its devastating and troublesome consequences. Illegal selling of drugs around schools and colleges must be caught and legal action must be taken against it. Children and youth are the future of the nation. We need to protect them and take care of such adolescents and children by way of proper treatment and counselling. Friendly parent-child communication should be encouraged. Government, NGO’S, Schools, Colleges, Parents, Counsellors everyone must come together to help such children and adolescents.