If you ask any parent, one thing that seriously concerns them as their children get older is exposure to drugs and alcohol. And today, the risks of developing unhealthy habits are greater compared to previous generations.
Most of us who've raised children in the era of the technological explosion"giving the rise in online gaming, streaming, shopping, and communication"have fought hard to find a balance between letting kids explore technology while being acutely aware of what constitutes 'too much' or 'age-inappropriate' screen time.
Parents are also battling 'instant gratification', the 'speeding up' of childhoods, and 'unhealthy expectations' being perpetuated by social media. All while very much aware of the negative effect these can have on one's mental health and wellbeing. Within this context, is it likely that our teens could be more at risk of developing an addiction.
Drugs Of Choice For Teenagers
The teenage years can be a time of experimentation for young people, regardless of parenting skills and influence. Several studies suggest that for this age group, the drugs of choice for experimental purposes tend to be alcohol and tobacco as well as cannabis (marijuana).
According to the Australian Secondary Students' Alcohol and Drug (ASSAD) survey in 2017, 17% of young students have tried cannabis while at least 18% have deliberately sniffed inhalants or solvents at least once.
While many studies have drawn parallels between addiction and crimes such as drug dealing and theft, not everyone ends up going down this hard path. Even so, the repercussions of recreational use or a more regular drug habit can have long-term effects on a person's life.
Tough Penalties For Drug Convictions
The Australian Government and the laws in New South Wales (NSW) have serious consequences for drug users which can turn out to have life-long ramifications.
While other developed countries treat drug use as a health issue, rather than a criminal case, Australia still takes a punitive approach. Under current NSW laws, anyone caught in possession of drugs faces the very real prospect of criminal conviction. And according to a leading criminal defence lawyer in Parramatta, having a criminal record can ruin lives.
The stigma of having a criminal record can mean being socially marginalised. The opportunity to travel can be limited. It can also mean missing out on a job prospect or a career promotion. It can also affect a person's chances of adopting or fostering children.
The Dangers Of Alcohol
It has to be recognised that alcohol is probably a more prolific problem for young people, simply because it's easier to obtain. There are tragic stories every year of young drunk drivers killing themselves and others on the road. And there are just as many (if not more) horrific stories from young women who were raped after drinking too much on a night out with friends.
Young men would also find themselves with serious allegations because they were too intoxicated to listen and acknowledge a partner's pleas of 'no' and 'stop.' There are also countless stories of young people becoming aggressive after drinking too much, sometimes getting into physical altercations that end up in assault charges.
All of these can be the real-life consequential side effects of drugs and alcohol, whether consumed once, twice, or on a regular basis. And as we might talk about the health implications of both, including damage to the brain, to the liver, to the lungs, young people remain vulnerable.
Navigating The Teen Years Of Experimentation And Risk-Taking
Teens' brains continue to grow right through adolescence and, as psychologists suggest, this means they are not always capable of rational decision-making in the same way adults are.
Some studies also suggest that risky behaviour and novelty-seeking are both natural behaviour in young people, and are important for assisting in optimising brain development as this eventually helps them learn and think through life choices and decisions.
These are factors we need to take into consideration, and as much as we would like to protect them, we must prepare them.
While abstinence is without question the most preferable stance, we need to expect that not all teenagers would take the heed or follow a straight route. Hence, they need to understand the risks associated with the choices they're making.
The key for parents is to keep channels of communication open as much as possible and to seek professional help if they have any concerns that cannot be handled. Adolescent addiction is not just a phase but the youth can be treated and guided with the right support, therapy, and programmes.