Adolescence can be summed up as a time of growth, excitement, experimentation, opportunities, and vulnerabilities. This is the one age group that are leaving their immature childhood ways and ideas and coming into adulthood by making their own decisions, being more aware of things in society, becoming more independent, and being more attentive to their future. Many will partake in positive opportunities or activities that will enable them to successfully achieve throughout their adolescence, such as sports, academics, or other talents. Others will find themselves more vulnerable to negative pressures or activities that will damage their self-esteem or self-concept, such as drugs, alcohol, or sexual activities. Addiction seems to be a very common problem for adolescents and when not treated it can carry on into adulthood.
Surveys reveal that 9.2 percent of adolescents use alcohol (2.8 are heavy drinker); 10.6 percent used illicit drugs (marijuana being the common one used); and about one percent misuse psychotherapeutic drug (pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulates, and sedatives). The local news reported this week that due to the legalization of marijuana there has been an increase of adolescents admitting to using illegal drugs. According to Durand, Fogger and McGuinness, “the disease of addiction often emerges gradually during adolescence; adolescence is also a time when the brain is highly sensitive to the effects of drugs” (Durand, Fogger & McGuinness, 2016). They believe the key factor at this very vulnerable time in the stage of adolescence is that parents and adolescents find an effective way to communicate about the risk factors and harms of substance abuse before the behavior(s) surfaces or occur with an adolescent (Durand, Fogger & McGuinness, 2016). If parents take a more proactive and knowledgeable approach on substance use, it can help them to engage in open communication with their adolescences.
In the adolescence stage of development, the brain is still developing and maturing. Adolescents exposed to substances and become dependent upon them will more than likely continue to be dependent on them in adulthood. According to a survey done by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), over 50% of adults that are enrolled in treatment facilities stated their drug use began during adolescence-20 years or younger (Stanis & Andersen, 2014). In order to help prevent them from developing substance abuse disorders many believe effective prevention programs to be the key factor in deterring or delaying addiction in adolescents. There are universal programs that can be implemented within schools and communities that can teach adolescences effective life skills to help avoid drug use and promote self-esteem within them. When families, schools, and communities put these universal programs into action, “ it is estimated that 8-12% fewer youth would engage in drinking, using marijuana, or smoking regularly” (Stanis & Andersen, 2014).
Adolescence is a part of the human development process and this time comes with blessings and challenges. It will be beneficial for adolescences to incorporate coping skills that will help guide them through this very harmonious or stormy period in life. Spirituality can be the one thing that provides stability and a sense of well-being in adolescents. Many research studies have revealed that there is “at least one correlation linking religious variables and less use of substances” (Kub & Solari-Twadell, 2013) in adolescents. Spirituality can foster several coping mechanisms that can help adolescents such as prayer, mediation, and mindfulness which “allows individuals to reflect and reframe their attitudes and emotional responses to negative life experiences” (Kub & Solari-Twadell, 2013). Through a spiritual foundation adolescents can connect with others through support groups, volunteer opportunities, and other positive outlets that gives them the power and confidence to steer clear of negative risky behaviors that can lead to substance abuse.
Adolescence is a time that children begin to experience independence and individuality. Although this time can be fascinating, it can also become problematic due to the risky behaviors that are exposed to adolescents during this time. Some of those risky behaviors (alcohol and drugs) and can lead to substance abuse proceeding on into adulthood. Spirituality can help adolescents avoid these risky behaviors through the use of positive coping skills to address distressing life events.
- Durand, S., Fogger, S., & McGuinness, T. (2017). Update on Substance Use in Adolescence.
- Journal of Psychosocial Nursing & Mental Health Services, 54(8), 24-27.
- Kub, J., & Solari-Twadell, P. (2013). Religiosity/Spirituality and substance use in adolescence as related to positive development. Journal of Addictions Nursing, 24(4), 247-262.https://doi.org/10/1097/JAN.0000000000000006
- Stanis, J., & Andersen, S. (2014). Reducing substance use during adolescence: A traditionalframework for prevention. Psychopharmacology, 23(18), 1437-1453. doi:10.1007/s00213-01303393-1