Drug abuse is a serious problem among teens in the United States. Alcohol and marijuana in particular, as well as illicit drugs and prescription medications, all pose serious risks for teens that abuse them. Despite the many negative consequences of drug use, teens face a lot of pressure to try drugs and alcohol, and the decisions they make about drug and alcohol abuse can greatly influence their futures.
Abusing drugs can complicate what is already a complex developmental stage for teenagers. Drugs and alcohol impact brain structure, cognitive formation, and learning. For teenagers, whose brains are not yet fully developed, drugs and alcohol carry a particularly high risk. Research shows that alcohol abuse before the age of 21 can actually stunt frontal lobe development, which is essential for decision making and cognitive functioning.
Teenagers often use drugs as a way of coping with negative emotions and social pressures. When drugs are used in this way, they inhibit healthy emotional development and impair a person’s ability to function socially without drugs. This inhibits a youth’s ability to form lasting relationships, establish healthy family dynamics, and function in occupational settings – all effects with with far-reaching impact on their lives.
Research shows that drug abuse also negatively affects teenager’s academic performance and keeps them from taking advantage of educational opportunities. Teenagers who regularly abuse drugs are far more likely to make bad grades, get in trouble in school, or drop out. Drugs affect cognitive functioning on a physical level, but the corresponding initiation into anti-social peer groups can also affect a student’s motivation and engagement in school settings.
Drug prevention education mitigates teenage drug abuse by addressing risk factors among students and building protective factors like goal setting, decision making, ability to handle peer pressure, effective communication, and ability to handle emotions. Drug prevention has proven effective in significantly reducing and preventing drug abuse among students who have access to prevention services. Serenity House’s Impact Youth Prevention program offers prevention education in public school in Abilene, Wichita Falls, Cisco, and Eastland, as well as the surrounding areas.