A chemical process occurs in the brain when a person takes drugs. Depending on the substance taken, these immediate impacts of drug usage can vary. However, with all substance abuse, there’s the possibility of long-term adverse effects on a person’s physical and mental health. Young people, whose brains are still developing at a vital time, are most affected by this. That’s why, in the rest of this article, we’ll explore all the health effects of substance abuse on young adults.

Brain Development & Substance Abuse in Young Adults

A young individual experiences biological and psychological changes during adolescence. Basically, teenagers’ bodies undergo physical changes as they mature, but their brains also adapt to function more efficiently. Drug addiction can affect the brain’s functionality in the near term and inhibit healthy growth and development over the long haul.

The use of drugs or alcohol can disrupt connections in the brain and interfere with neurotransmitters. This can cause memory issues and even lower the ability to experience pleasure. All of this can have both physical and mental repercussions.

Mental Health Effects

Drug and substance abuse can lead to or be used to cover up emotional issues, including schizophrenia, suicidal thoughts, mood swings, anxiety, and depression. In fact, 34.6% of young adults with serious depression report taking drugs, and an even more extensive percentage report using alcohol and smoking. 

Unfortunately, substance abuse can make these emotional issues worse. It’s also worth mentioning that young adults who start using drugs before their brains are fully developed have higher chances of developing a chemical dependency. All of this can lead to a cycle of mental health problems. The only way to break that cycle is for peers and loved ones to provide support to the individual in question.

Physical Effects

As we already said, physical effects can vary depending on the type of drug or substance a person uses. The most common health side effects of stimulants can be heart problems, seizures, and strokes. Aside from general drowsiness, opioids can cause respiratory depression and even hypoxia. 

When it comes to alcohol, many believe that the effects of drinking (as well as binge drinking) are nowhere as harmful as drugs. This isn’t exactly true. Young adults and teenagers can experience problems with the liver, and even harmfully impact their reproductive system. When a person starts drinking too early in adolescence, alcohol can even postpone puberty. One thing that doesn’t help with this issue is that teenagers and young adults experience fewer short-term negative effects from drinking than older adults. This includes hangovers, which is why this group tends to binge drink. 

Finally, smoking tobacco and nicotine can cause addiction, harm to internal organs, breathing issues, and lung cancer. Even though these consequences are widely known, this doesn’t change the fact that most smokers start smoking before the age of eighteen. This number has been even lower in recent years with the rise in popularity of e-cigarettes and flavourful vapes.

Other Effects

Other than the mental and physical health effects of substance abuse, other aspects of a young person’s life can be hugely impacted by substance abuse. For starters, substance abuse can alter the way the brain thinks, rationalizes, restrains urges, and makes judgments. This obstructs one’s capacity to make wise decisions and take care of their health and themselves properly. Teenagers and young adults are, therefore, more inclined to act hastily and without considering the consequences in the long run. 

Teenagers may experience trouble with their parents or siblings at home. This often turns into a lack of trust and feelings of isolation. Moreover, substance use can have a detrimental effect on performance in and out of the classroom at school, which affects grades and causes frequent absences. Furthermore, this may lead to missed academic opportunities and failure to advance to the next grade level or graduate. Out-of-home and school consequences can vary from DUI and assault charges all the way to unplanned pregnancies and criminal records. Overall, substance abuse on young adults can have lasting effects in all areas of their lives, not just mental or physical ones. 

Why Are Young Adults Prone to Substance Abuse?

Some brain functions mature at various rates as the brain grows. This means that teenagers’ pleasure centers grow more quickly than their decision-making and risk-taking regions of the brain. So, while adults often use drugs and alcohol to deal with work-related stress, teens and young adults have somewhat different reasons. Usually, people of this age use drugs to feel accepted by their peers. While doing so, they are more likely to perceive the social benefits of drug usage than negative ones and decide to risk it.

Since teenage years are characterized by remarkable physical and intellectual growth periods, juvenile drug usage’s detrimental health impacts can obstruct these critical processes at the wrong moment.

What Can You Do?

Abusing drugs and alcohol from an early age can have enormous consequences on your mental and physical health and well-being down the line. That’s why it’s vital to notice the signs of addiction early on and find the right treatment for you. Whether this is medical detox, trauma-informed care, or any other type of recovery program, it’s important to find out what can work for you. While you’re on this journey, it’s also vital to feel supported by your friends, family, and loved ones. This way, the treatment will have permanent results.

Final Thoughts

This guide highlights just a few of the numerous harmful consequences of drugs and other substances on teens and young adults. The effects of drugs discussed in this blog are by no means all-inclusive. The health effects of substance abuse on young adults can be very serious. As a culture, it’s critical that we stop dismissing substance misuse as “just a phase” and begin treating it seriously. It could be time for a thorough addiction examination if you or someone you know is exhibiting symptoms of substance misuse or dependency.

[Related: Addiction Survivors Share the Ways They’ve Learned to Cope without Drugs or Alcohol]

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