The years of adolescence are a strange time as there are both physical developments and emotional interest changes. During these years, adolescents usually seek out new experience, crave adventure, and take risks to form their identity. According to statistics, approximately forty-percent of seniors in high school will have taken an illegal drug. Although trying drugs may fulfill normal developmental drives, it is unhealthy and comes with serious and negative long-term consequences. Many of these desires are explained through the environmental factors of the teen along with Erikson’s stages of psychological development. By understanding of the identity vs. role confusion stage experienced by these adolescence (ages 12-18), strategies can be developed to prevent drug abuse in the youth.
As mentioned before, these years not only from the lack of a carved-out identity, but also from environmental factors. First and foremost, the family household is an important factor. If the individual lives in a household where violence, physical or emotional abuse, mental illness, or drug use in the house is present, they are more likely to use drugs. In these sorts of instances, drugs are used to handle the home issues or are influenced by the using family members. When not at home, teens must deal with pressure from their friends and outside society. This peer pressure allows them to become vulnerable and copy the behaviors of those around them. If refusing the participate, social status tends to decrease as they are called lame or boring.
This social status boost tends to give confidence to adolescence, especially when referring to a shy individual. Occurring mental disorders increases the possibility of substance abuse as well. Teens that suffer with focusing in their academics, lack impulse control, or suffer from depression and anxiety turn to different substances to cope with their problems. The most common drugs seen in this include unprescribed pharmacy pills, such as Adderall to help focus in class, or marijuana to settle the negative thoughts. Lastly, the development of the adolescent plays a significant factor as well. The use of drugs can begin at any age, but the earlier it begins, the more likely it is to turn into an unbreakable habit. This is more likely to occur in teens because the frontal lobe has not fully developed, decision making and self-control are difficult to keep under control. The tougher the environment, the genetics, and home life for the individual, the more likely they are to become active drug users.
According to Erikson’s stages of psychological development, adolescence between the ages of twelve and eighteen are experiencing the identity vs. role confusion stage. Teens are exploring different roles and ideas, setting goals, and attempting to discover their true selves. Teenagers are more vulnerable to these risky actions because the brain is still developing, and maturity has not been fully developed. Because of this, their judgement and decision-making skills are limited. In addition, the prefrontal cortex and its connections to other brain regions are incompletely developed.
This part of the brain is responsible for assessing situations and controlling our emotions and impulses. People in early adulthood, between the ages of 19-21 and further, are concerned with Erikson’s stage of intimacy vs. isolation. The sense of self should have been developed during the previous stage; however, there are instances when it has not been established. In this instance, young adults have difficulty developing and maintaining relationships and friendships.
The older teenagers get and transition into the adult stage, life’s stresses and realities are exposed. During these stressful times, especially if it was not experienced prior to this stage, the brain will automatically focus on the wound and leaves the individual unable to comprehend or move on as life does. This is seen as a mental defense mechanism, but when it hits a certain point there is no going back.
The use of illegal substances will usually come out prevent the individual from continuing life. As a result, feelings of loneliness and isolation occur, which can decrease confidence, and turn the individual to a negative life of drugs to cure the pain. From the use of drugs, the brain changes occur over time and challenges the addicted person and interferes the ability to resist the temptations to take drugs. For these reasons, adolescents are a target for prevention messages, promoting drug-free behavior, and giving the youth encouragement skills to avoid the temptations.
Young adults are vulnerable to begin using drugs, it is important to strategize to prevent drug misuse and addiction. The earlier the individual starts using drugs, it increases a person’s chances of becoming addicted for the rest of their life. The beginning of preventing this drug abuse starts at home by talking to the teenager. Asking views, discussing reasons not to engage, and being able to share honest experiences helps the adolescent to understand they are not alone and that temptations will come their way.
Establishing rules, knowing the friends the teenager surrounds themselves with, and setting a good example help as well. Talking to children at a young age is important as the national drug use survey indicate that some children begin to use drugs at the ages of twelve or thirteen. To take it one step further, sometimes parents talking to their children does not help very much. Prevention programs are placed in both middle and high schools. These programs work to boost protective factors and eliminate them. There are three different types of prevention programs: universal programs, selective programs, and indicated programs.
Universal programs are used to address risk factors common to all children in a common setting, such as at school or within their community. Selective programs are for groups of children and teens who have specific factors that put them at increased risk of drug use. Children and adolescents that live in disruptive neighborhoods or suffer from abuse at home is usually targeted for this program to prevent the use. If the youth are already engaged in the use of drugs, indicated programs are placed to help steer them to a more positive, drug-free life. However, prevention programs are not one-hundred percent effective.
Some adolescents fall into temptation, thus beginning a possible drug addiction, if this is the case, it is important to focus on the behavior of the individual, rather than on them themselves.
Drug abuse in the lives of young adults is becoming more common as approximately half of college students have been offered, sold, or used illegal drugs. In addition, sixty percent of seniors in high school do not see marijuana as harmful. Because of this mentality, the use and abuse of drugs is becoming harder to control. Not only is it becoming more common amongst the youth, it is also glorified in media as children and teenagers view their favorite music artist and television and movie stars participate in the use of illegal substances. Despite how common this is becoming, it is preventable.
It is important to remember that drug addiction is treatable and can be managed through teachers, parents, and health care providers educating the youth and setting boundaries. In addition, this disease is a result of a combination of genetic, environmental, and developmental risk factors that can be preventable through positivity and understanding the significance of Erikson’s stages of development.
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