4 Harmful Impacts Of Substance Abuse On Adolescent Mental Health

4 Harmful Impacts Of Substance Abuse On Adolescent Mental Health

Adolescent substance abuse is a serious issue that contributes to significant psychological consequences later in life.

When teenagers are battling emotional problems, they often address alcohol or drug use to assist them to manage painful or difficult feelings.

Substance abuse or drug abuse is a prevalent part of the 21st century and adolescents are becoming involved in this aspect of our culture, leading to addiction. It has been a common topic of interest to many researchers in the area of general and mental health. 

A desperate need to deal with stress and to get a momentary high or to just ‘fit in’ with his or her peers, makes substance abuse the most popular and commonly sought of addiction in adolescents

They tend to take drugs which soon reaches a stage where this need becomes much more than other needs in life and he or she begins to believe their survival depends on those drugs.

Substance Abuse

Substance abuse refers to the harmful or hazardous use of psychoactive substances, including alcohol and illicit drugs. Substance abuse can be defined as –

“a maladaptive pattern of substance use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, manifest by one or more of the following symptoms within a 12 month period: recurrent substance use in situations that cause physical danger to the user, recurrent substance use in the face of obvious impairment in school or work situations, recurrent substance use despite resulting legal problems, or recurrent substance use despite social or interpersonal problems” (DSM -IV-TR).

Although substance use and abuse can happen at any time during a person’s life, drug use typically starts in adolescence, a period when the primary signs of themental disease commonly appear. The brain continues to develop through adolescence. Circuits that control executive functions like deciding and impulse control are among the last to mature, which reinforces vulnerability to drug use and therefore the development of a substance use disorder.

Chronic use of some drugs can cause both short- and long-term changes within the brain, which may cause psychological state issues including paranoia, depression, anxiety, aggression, hallucinations, and other problems.


Adolescence is the period of transition between childhood and adulthood. It includes some big changes—to the body, and to the way a youth relates to the planet.

In this period the body and brain proceed in development toward full adult stature and complete youthfulness. The individual’s reasoning capacity becomes more complex, abstract and logical and the emotional state of the individual also experiences certain changes like – the individual turns more self-involved, desperate and an increase in the emotional intensity of the disagreements.

4 Negative Impacts of Substance Abuse on the Mental Health of an Adolescent

1. Depression 

Depression is a common cause of disability that has been estimated in one out of every eight teenagers and it has 25% lifetime prevalence by the end of adolescence. It has been seen that adolescents who are depressed use substances at almost twice the rate as non-depressed adolescents and it has also been found that a decrease in the use of substances coincided with a decrease in depressive symptoms. 

People who are depressed may drink or abuse drugs to lift their mood or shake feelings of guilt or despair. But substances like alcohol, which may be a depressant, can increase feelings of sadness or fatigue. Conversely, people can experience depression after the consequences of the medicine wear off or as they struggle to deal with how addiction has impacted their life.

Abusing substances might not help in overcoming depression. Instead, years of untreated depression may lead to neurodegenerative levels of brain inflammation. To know more, read on to… Untreated Depression Can Change the Brain Over Time – Study Says

2. Adolescents Brain

Adolescent brains are still developing, the results of teenage “self-medication” can be more problematic. In many types of research, it has been found that adolescents who abuse cannabis are more vulnerable to cognitive impairments and show reduced brain grey matter. It has also been reported that individuals under cocaine abuse suffer from normal white matter maturation and thus may affect the development of the frontotemporal white matter circuits, which results in disturbed memory, executive and affective functioning.

1 thought on “4 Harmful Impacts Of Substance Abuse On Adolescent Mental Health”

  1. Avatar of Tony Anstatt

    Thanks, for this v accurate article! So many of these points are recognised, by victims-survivors of ChildSexualAbuse in Australia. One of the Elite (Private) schools in Brisbane has included pieces of it, referring to its sources. We invite any of your comments.

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