Posted: March 24th, 2023
Teenage is a very complicated period for many people, considering they are developing fast and undergoing many confusing changes. The human brain develops quite rapidly during the stage of adolescence and all the way to the early 20s (Galvan, 2017). As a result, they are at a high risk of mental illnesses that could develop during this stage of rapid growth and development. The risk of substance abuse is also high at this stage as they try to come to terms with the confusing changes. Regardless of the potential damage to the brain due to drug abuse, most teenagers lack the willpower to resist the vice. The interest in the problem is driven by the increase in the number of teenagers suffering from mental health disorders resulting from substance abuse. While a high percentage of teenagers who are supposed to be at school is recovering from mental health issues and substance abuse problems, effective interventions are necessary for society to help young people overcome the problem.
Understanding the issue of drug abuse and mental health disorders and how they affect teenagers is necessary for any human service career. As a future health professional, it is essential to understand the underlying causes of the problem, the progression, and some of the measures that can be used to prevent or treat it. The most important lesson for healthcare professionals from the problem is identifying risk factors and implementing interventions early enough to control the situation. For example, according to Lippard and Nemeroff (2020), teenagers with mood disorders are at a high risk of abusing drugs, especially with a lack of proper support. Therefore, identifying such teenagers to intervene with their underlying risk will prevent them from abusing drugs and suffering worse mental health problems. Therefore, information about the issue is critical for early interventions, which should help teenagers grow and develop positively amid the existing challenges.
The relationship between mental health disorders and drug abuse is a complex one. Nonetheless, the root causes of the health issue are underlying mental health problems and issues that destabilize a teenager during the rapid development stage. Teenage is a stage at which individuals undergo rapid psychological changes, some of which leave them confused (Blakemore, 2019). Some teenagers have underlying psychological problems that increase their risk of abusing drugs. According to Foulkes and Blakemore (2018), depression and anxiety are among the leading risk factors for drug abuse in teenagers. When the brain develops fast, it becomes prone to mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, and mood disorders. Experts believe that individuals with these mental health disorders turn to drugs as they try to self-medicate (Young & Woodhouse, 2021). Thus, mental health disorders are common causes and underlying risk factors for drug abuse.
Depression is common during teenage pregnancy and can emanate from various factors, such as biological, genetic, psychological, and environmental. Commonly, teenagers feel sadness, hopelessness, and self-doubt, although the intensity of the feelings differs from one person to another. These can result from changes in their lives and issues emanating from their living environment. Changes in their bodies, home lives, and even brain chemistries may complicate their coping ability, especially when they lack adequate guidance from the people around them (Karp, 2017). Those who lack the advice and support to navigate the changes are at a high risk of suffering depression and turning to drugs to self-medicate. Therefore, lack of effective parenting and support from significant others are other possible causes of teenagers’ mental health issues and drug abuse. I believe lack of support during the confused developmental stage is the leading cause of the health issue.
Various beliefs exist regarding mental health issues and drug abuse among teenagers. One belief that hinders effective interventions for the population is that the problem is part of their deviance. Teenage is believed to be an age where individuals become “hard-headed” and do not listen to their parents or teachers. Thus, when they turn to drugs to deal with the confusion in their life, society condemns them for being irresponsible and delinquent (Rioux et al., 2018). When drug problems are considered delinquent behavior, the victims are even punished for the same. Society expects young people to grow and develop positively, following rules laid out to guide behavior. When they turn to drugs, few people understand what they go through, and few teenagers get the help they need to change their behavior. Based on these premises, I believe that our society has started to understand the problem associated with teenagers and even develop programs and facilities to intervene and help them overcome mental health and drug abuse problems. Thus, the beliefs about issues affecting teenagers in our society are changing, creating a better environment for their care and support during the developmental stage.
Mental health disorders and drug abuse problems in western nations, such as the United States, differ in views and beliefs from the Middle Eastern counties like the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Although the United States has some beliefs that affect how society treats the drug problem in the country, the measures used are not as extreme as in the UAE. In the UAE, society is extremely strict regarding any behavior considered deviant, including drug abuse. Children are expected to follow the law strictly and avoid actions that could damage their morality. Good morals are expected at all levels in society, meaning that children should learn to follow the rules and regulations from very early in life. Unlike the United States, the UAE has traditionally been considerably punitive towards teenagers abusing drugs or exhibiting other negative behavior. The UAE’s traditional policy on mental health and drug abuse focuses more on punishment than rehabilitation (Al Amir, 2021). Hence, the approach differed from the United States, which was more rehabilitative, especially when the problem affects the youth. However, current research indicates some changes in the UAE policies, which are becoming more accepting of rehabilitation for youth affected by the crisis. The shift in attitude has led to the creation and implementation of programs to intervene in teenagers’ mental health and drug abuse problems.
The National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare (NCSACW) is an organization in the United States that provides the necessary information, professional consultation, and technical support to other facilities seeking to improve the safety and well-being of children and teenagers. The organization works with child welfare, dependency court, and substance use treatment experts to support the outcome of children at risk of abusing drugs. They seek to ensure recovery and improve the outcomes for children, parents, and families. They provide education and training to enhance drug-related programs targeting children and youth.
In the UAE, one organization that deals with drug abuse among children and adolescents is the National Rehabilitation Center (NRC) in Abu Dhabi. The organization provides information and knowledge necessary to equip stakeholders to deal with the problem. Since the UAE government is committed to dealing with the problem, the organization plays a critical role in improving its capacity to deal with the situation.
In the US and the UAE, the two organizations focus on providing necessary information to stakeholders to improve efforts to deal with drug abuse. They research and inform policies and programs to eliminate the problem in their countries. However, the two differ in that NCSACW provides information to other organizations and bodies that implement strategies to deal with drug abuse and child welfare. On the other hand, National Rehabilitation Center (NRC) researches drug-related issues to improve the rehabilitation of people with drug abuse problems. As a result, the latter promotes family ties and strengthens society’s role in addressing drug abuse problems.
A website that could help people take care of children and teenagers is Addiction Center (https://www.addictioncenter.com/teenage-drug-abuse/co-occurring-disorders/#:~:text=Drug%20abuse%20and%20mental%20disorders,also%20have%20a%20mental%20disorder).
The website includes information about some of the common mental health illnesses that co-occur with drug abuse. From the website, stakeholders in addressing the problem can understand some of the mental health illnesses to look out for in children and adolescents to prevent drug abuse. The website offers critical information about the relationship between mental disorders and drug abuse to help intervene in at-risk youth and those already abusing drugs. Notably, one of the interesting issues about the website is that understanding comorbidity is necessary because treating one aspect of the problem leaves the victim vulnerable to the other.
One movie that highlights the drug abuse problem in society is Beautiful Boy. The movie is based on the true story of David Sheff. The New York Times writer focuses on the challenging relationship between a father and son due to drug abuse. The son, Nic Sheff, suffers from a drug addiction problem in the movie. The film also includes the father’s struggle to help the son overcome the problem, including taking him to a rehab clinic after seeing the signs of addiction. After following the father and son’s struggle, the viewer later learns that Nic has recovered and has been sober for eight years. He reveals that his family and friends’ support helped him recover (van Groeningen, 2018). Interestingly, the movie has hope for children and teenagers already abusing drugs to recover completely with the right intervention.
A book that focuses on the issue is “Identifying Mental Health and Substance Use Problems of Children and Adolescents: A Guide for Child-Serving Organizations” by the Department of Health and Human Services. The book is a manual with critical information about how people can identify mental illness or substance use issues in time to intervene effectively. The source contains important tools that can be used to help children and teenagers struggling with mental illnesses or drug abuse. Information from the book can be used in schools, juvenile justice, and the child welfare system to improve the mental health outcomes of young people (“Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration,” 2011). The application of its content should be part of efforts to support and care for children and adolescents at risk of drug abuse and mental health issues. Overall, one of the most interesting facts about the book is that people caring for children and adolescents can identify the problem in time to intervene.
Efforts to deal with the drug use problem in the United States and the UAE have evolved over the years. One of the ways the government addresses the issue is by creating policies to prevent the problem. The United States has for decades adopted laws to control the distribution and use of drugs. The country has an Office of National Drug Control Policy that regulates drug abuse’s legal enactment (Florence et al., 2016). Traditionally, the two countries adopted punitive measures under the law to discourage young people from abusing drugs. However, they have changed their approach to helping young people from the negative effects of mental health disorders and drug abuse. In the United States, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has included measures to help young people overcome the problem, including educating parents and youth about the dangers of drugs, monitoring drug prescription and usage, and proper medication disposal (Florence et al., 2016). Like in the United States, the UAE’s legal system has transformed to prioritize rehabilitation over punishment. Although the system maintains punitive measures for some offenders, especially repeated offenders, young people with the potential to recover can benefit from rehabilitative efforts. Apart from programs to rehabilitate drug offenders, the United States has initiated counseling programs to help youth struggling with mental health issues. Mental Health Services facilitate the treatment of various categories of mental health problems in the country. In the UAE, the programs are available, but social beliefs leave some of the needs unmet. Regardless of the development of services and programs to intervene in mental health and drug abuse problems, many teenagers continue to suffer from the impact of problems.
The most effective approach to dealing with mental health problems and drug abuse should focus on primary prevention. While the method works by preventing the issue before it occurs, the procedure can effectively target parents and caregivers of children and teenagers. Schools, including teachers, can also play a vital role in the implementation of the process. The approach should focus on regular assessment and monitoring of children’s and teenagers’ behavior in time to address problematic conduct before it becomes a full-blown mental disorder or a drug abuse problem. Collecting information that will help understand the risk factors is more effective than treatment. Within the community, including schools, programs should be implemented to intervene and prevent problematic behaviors and the negative impact of mental health issues and drug abuse. The programs should focus on the risk factors and underlying causes of the problem. Significant others (parents, teachers, and school counselors) should provide relevant information to support the programs. As part of the implementation, schools should also initiate counseling programs to intervene early. Generally, effective interventions should be preventive since treatment can be costly and become a burden to the victims and their loved ones.
Effective interventions are necessary at the local, national, and international levels to protect teenagers from the negative effects of mental health disorders and drug abuse problems. As a future educator and practitioner in a healthcare setting, I have a part to play in improving current interventions to prevent and treat mental health and drug abuse problems. I will begin by creating the change and educating members of my local community about the need to identify risk factors to prevent the problem. When community members are empowered, they will be proactive in identifying any dangers of mental health disorders, such as depression, mood disorders, and drug abuse risks to intervene and prevent the negative effects. Through publications in journals and using media problems and social media, I will send the relevant message nationally and internationally to equip everyone with knowledge of the problem and appropriate measures that can be taken to address it. Promoting behavior change in the community will change the prevailing beliefs and punitive attitudes that hinder effective interventions. Thus, it is necessary to send the message that mental health problems and drug abuse are not delinquent behaviors and that the affected need treatment, love, and support. I will promote better care for children and teenagers during this confusing period of their growth and development. Overall, knowledge will be the tool society requires to intervene effectively and nurture healthier teenagers.
Al Amir, S. (2021). Drug offenses among teenagers in Dubai fall as law change pays off. Retrieved from https://www.thenationalnews.com/uae/2021/09/18/drug-offences-among-teenagers-in-dubai-fall-as-law-change-pays-off/
Blakemore, S. J. (2019). Adolescence and mental health. The Lancet, 393(10185), 2030-2031.
Florence, C., Luo, F., Xu, L., & Zhou, C. (2016). The economic burden of prescription opioid overdose, abuse and dependence in the United States, 2013. Medical care, 54(10), 901.
Foulkes, L., & Blakemore, S. J. (2018). Studying individual differences in human adolescent brain development. Nature Neuroscience, 21(3), 315-323.
Galvan, A. (2017). Adolescence, brain maturation and mental health. Nature Neuroscience, 20(4), 503-504
Karp, D. A. (2017). Speaking of sadness: Depression, disconnection, and the meanings of illness. Oxford University Press.
Lippard, E. T., & Nemeroff, C. B. (2020). The devastating clinical consequences of child abuse and neglect: increased disease vulnerability and poor treatment response in mood disorders. American Journal of Psychiatry, 177(1), 20-36.
Mental Disorders And Drug Abuse In Teens (2021). Addiction Center. Retrieved from https://www.addictioncenter.com/teenage-drug-abuse/co-occurring-disorders/#:~:text=Drug%20abuse%20and%20mental%20disorders,also%20have%20a%20mental%20disorder
National Rehabilitation Center (NRC) (2021). Retrieved from https://u.ae/en/information-and-services/health-and-fitness/drugs-and-controlled-medicines/drugs#:~:text=Drug%20rehabilitation,and%20treatment%20to%20drug%20abusers.
Rioux, C., Castellanos-Ryan, N., Parent, S., Vitaro, F., Tremblay, R. E., & Séguin, J. R. (2018). Age of cannabis use onset and adult drug abuse symptoms: A prospective study of common risk factors and indirect effects. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 63(7), 457-464.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2011). Identifying Mental Health and Substance Use Problems of Children and Adolescents: A Guide for Child-Serving Organizations.
The National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare (NCSACW) (2021). Retrieved from https://www.cffutures.org/ncsacw/
van Groeningen, F. (Dir.) (2018). Beautiful Bot (Movie)
Young, S., & Woodhouse, E. (2021). Assessment and treatment of substance use in adults with ADHD: a psychological approach. Journal of Neural Transmission, 128(7), 1099-1108.
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