The life of a teenager careens between polar opposites: the most awesomely great day can be followed by the most painfully mortifying one. A proud moment carrying a sense of real achievement can be dissolved by gut-wrenching uncertainty. A teen’s outlook on life can be far from rosy; it can be thorny with the stabs of stress and anxiety. What’s a kid to do to ease the troubled mind? For many, drugs provide a dangerous panacea that can deepen troubles and ensnare the unwary. While healthy options exist, for many teens the availability of alcohol and/or drugs provides convenient solace.
Why Do Teens Start Abusing Drugs?
The National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XVII: Teens, prepared by the Center on Addiction, reported the following:
“Nearly half of teens (46 percent) say they experience high stress (6 or higher on a scale of 1 to 10). Compared to teens who say their stress level is low (5 or less), teens who experience high stress are:
The report continues…
“The number one source of stress for teens is academic pressure, including pressure to do well in school and to get into college.”
Sadly, not everyone can get the “easy A”. Hard work followed by disappointing results can drive adults and teens to distraction. A teen’s perspective is so much more limited than a well-adjusted adult that disappointment can border on disaster.
Beyond academic pressures, a teen’s life includes many other anxiety triggers. Social stress, family discord, world events, traumatic events, significant life changes all play their part.2
I Just Want to Feel Better…
Triggered by stress and anxiety, our “fight or flight” response throws our physiology into overdrive. Beyond a simple sense of dread, our hearts beat faster, we breathe harder and faster, our circulatory system propels blood to the arms and legs, and we may feel cold, clammy and nauseous.
We don’t feel good.
Perhaps smoking a joint or taking a hit of something stronger will do the trick? Trick is the operative word here – the real “relaxation response” we crave is not the temporary and potentially addicting high driven by drug use.
According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry,
“The same mechanism that turns on the stress response can turn it off… This “relaxation response” includes decreased heart and breathing rate and a sense of well-being. Teens that develop a “relaxation response” and other stress management skills feel less helpless and have more choices when responding to stress.”3
Teaching teens to deal with these frightening and anxiety-provoking feelings is critical for safe passage to young adulthood as, per the Center on Addiction, individuals who do not use alcohol, tobacco, or misuse drugs before age 21 are more likely never to do so in their lifetime.
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I'm April Bailey, a freelance writer and editor for hire who has been writing about various topics for many years. Most of my early print work was destroyed in a major house fire. Luckily, I was able to pull some copies from an old PC and have posted them here. Other items on this blog reflect my current articles and blog posts written for online publications and copied here so I never lose my work again!