Consequences of youth substance abuse
Young people who persistently abuse substances often experience an array of problems, including academic difficulties, health-related problems (including mental health), poor peer relationships, and involvement with the juvenile justice system. Additionally, there are consequences for family members, the community, and the entire society. Academics
Declining grades, absenteeism from school and other activities, and increased potential for dropping out of school are problems associated with adolescent substance abuse. Hawkins, Catalano, and Miller (1992) cite research indicating that a low level of commitment to education and higher truancy rates appear to be related to substance use among adolescents. Cognitive and behavioral problems experienced by alcohol- and drug-using youth may interfere with their academic performance and also present obstacles to learning for their classmates (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1992). Physical health
Injuries due to accidents (such as car accidents), physical disabilities and diseases, and the effects of possible overdoses are among the health-related consequences of teenage substance abuse. Disproportionate numbers of youth involved with alcohol and other drugs face an increased risk of death through suicide, homicide, accident, and illness. The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) study -- in a representative sample of hospitals throughout the United States -- reports trends in people seeking emergency department treatment related to illegal drug use or nonmedical use of legal drugs. Preliminary 1994 estimates indicate drug-related emergency department episodes for youth ages 12 to 17 increased by 17 percent from 1993 to 1994. This increase was greater than for any of the older age groups reported. Significantly, emergency department visits related to marijuana/hashish for youth ages 12 to 17 increased 50 percent between 1993 and 1994 (McCaig, 1995). Ninety-one youth between the ages of 12 and 17 died of drug abuse in 1993 (Office of Applied Studies, 1994). Transmission of HIV/AIDS primarily occurs through exposure to body fluids of an infected person during sexual contact or through sharing of unsterile drug-injection equipment. Another primary means of transmission is from mothers to infants during pregnancy or the birth process. Many substance-abusing youth engage in behavior that places them at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases. This may include the actual use of psychoactive substances (particularly those that are injected) or behavior resulting from poor judgment and impulse control while experiencing the effects of mood-altering substances. Rates of AIDS diagnoses currently are relatively low among teenagers, compared with most other age groups. However, because the disease has a long latency period before symptoms appear, it is likely that many young adults with AIDS were actually infected with HIV as adolescents. Although alcohol-related traffic fatalities for youth have declined, young people are still overrepresented in this area. In 1995 alone, more than 2,000 youth (ages 15 to 20) were killed in alcohol-related car crashes (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1997). These limited examples illustrate the catastrophic health-related consequences of substance abuse among adolescents. Besides personal and family distress, additional healthcare costs and loss of future productivity place burdens on the community. Mental health
Mental health problems such as depression, developmental lags, apathy, withdrawal, and other psychosocial dysfunctions frequently are linked to substance abuse among adolescents. Substance-abusing youth are at higher risk than nonusers for mental health problems, including depression, conduct problems, personality disorders, suicidal thoughts, attempted suicide, and suicide. Marijuana use, which is prevalent among youth,...
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