Story & Photo by Kessley Miller
Growing up in today’s society, young adults are constantly facing the struggles of feeling influenced by their peers or internal psychological issues to make decisions about doing or selling drugs. Their reaction to the pressure they receive could easily affect not only themselves, but their entire family for the rest of their lives.
It is easy for young adults to see just what drugs can do to someone’s mental and physical health because so many celebrities are coming out with their drug addiction stories. Despite this, the “thrill” of having the same euphoric feelings that an influencer has or having an “escape” from reality can be enticing to a young person with a developing mind. Young adulthood and beyond are the years in which many mental health symptoms show. Contributing factors to substance abuse include mental health. People diagnosed with depression, social anxiety, chronic panic attacks, PTSD and victims of assault need a way of coping with their conditions.
Recently, the actress and singer Demi Lovato was sent to the hospital for overdosing. The 25-year-old has admitted to using drugs since she was 17. Since she has gone public about her addiction, there is now a renewed conversation on how children are taught about drugs and the actions that should be taken to raise awareness about addiction.
“By the time kids are in fourth grade they know about drugs, but it is crucial to go more in depth about what is and isn’t illegal to help them better understand,” Lindsay Sutton, Mid-Del school counselor for Schwartz Elementary said.
From an elementary age, the idea of how wrong it is to do drugs is etched into a child’s brain. Having events such as drug-free weeks at school raises awareness, but as children grow up, the discussion about drugs and how they affect the human body continues to dwindle down.
“The best way to help children to understand what drugs are and how to cope with them is to start the conversation,” Sutton continued.
The growth of the digital age has allowed the younger generation to access more life-threatening drugs at a younger age but without the explanation of how harmful these hard drugs can be. According to The National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XVI: Teens and Parents, teenagers aged 12-17 who are exposed to social media at a younger age are five times more likely to use tobacco, three times more likely to use alcohol and two times likelier to use marijuana.
Genetics plays a major role in how addiction affects life, as studies have shown that depression and anxiety, among other mental illnesses, increase substance abuse. Some studies estimate that the cause of addiction can be contributed 50 percent to genetic factors, meaning that substance abuse is likely to run in families.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens showed there are more than 4,200 drug overdose deaths amongst teens in just one year. Not only does this affect teens on a national level, but it has had an impact at the local level as well.
“Counselors and teachers get trained on all types of abuse except for drugs and alcohol,” Sutton said. Without formal training, situations are dealt with using personal judgment and haphazardly without regulatory oversight.
For more information, visit teens.drugabuse.gov, or The Office of Special Services can help, located on campus in the Student Services Building, or visit Austinbox12foundation.org, which is a local organization that helps spread awareness on opioids.
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