Essential Drug & Alcohol Awareness for Young People

Posted by Maryvale on Mar 20, 2024 12:35:33 PM

Youth Services from Maryvale Can Help Address Substance Use Issues in Minors

For decades, educators, parents, community groups, and government agencies have viewed drug and alcohol awareness as a priority for young people. Today, drug and alcohol use continues to loom large – and the stakes are higher than ever, with overdose rates at an all-time high. As guardians of their well-being, it’s imperative to equip young individuals with essential awareness about the risks associated with substance use. The team at Maryvale believes that drug and alcohol awareness is vital for young people, and we are committed to supporting families as they navigate this critical topic from all angles – including understanding risk factors, staying educated, learning to cope, and seeking professional interventions.


Substance Use Comes At A High Cost


Drug and alcohol use among young people can have profound and lasting consequences. Understanding the risks associated with substance use is the first step in fostering informed decision-making and promoting healthier choices. It starts with the body - substance abuse can have detrimental effects on physical health. In the near term, abusing alcohol impairs a teen’s cognitive development and causes sluggishness, poor sleep, and low motivation. Over time, cognitive impairment can lead to lasting neurological damage, and alcohol can wreak havoc on the liver and internal organs. Drug use has several adverse effects, depending on the substance in question. A gateway drug like marijuana is associated with poor lung health. More serious substances, such as cocaine, heroin, prescription painkillers, and stimulants, are associated with more complex risks, from heart malfunction to addiction. Street drugs are increasingly mixed with fentanyl – which can lead to death by overdose, even in small amounts. 


Substance use can also exacerbate mental health issues and increase the risk of developing conditions such as depression, anxiety, and psychosis. Substance abuse hinders a young person’s ability to reason and can hinder academic and social development. When a teen becomes habituated to substance use, they are more likely to experience social isolation, strained relationships, and risky behaviors like unsafe sex, physical violence, unsafe driving, and more. Additionally, substance-related offenses can have legal consequences that impact future opportunities and well-being.


How To Talk to Teens About Drugs and Alcohol


Drug and alcohol awareness is a collective responsibility that extends beyond the classroom. Engaging families and communities reinforces messages about the importance of substance abuse prevention and support networks. Educating young people about substances requires a multifaceted approach that engages and empowers them to make informed decisions. Establish open and honest dialogue to foster trust and encourage young people to ask questions and seek guidance. Adults can do their part by providing accurate information about the effects of drugs and alcohol to dispel myths and misconceptions. Start the discussion knowing that teens are prone to feeling secretive about substance use. Rather than inflict guilt about a previous instance with substances, try to relate to your teen. Talk about your early experiences in your youth and situate your current relationship with alcohol in the context of your family and social settings. 


For educators, interactive workshops and activities offer engaging ways to explore topics related to drug and alcohol awareness. Role-playing scenarios, group discussions, and hands-on activities enable young people to actively participate and internalize key concepts while mitigating their fear of judgment.


Teaching Resilience in Real-World Situations 


No matter how many infographics or statistics you show a young person about the risks related to substance use, at some point, they will find themselves in a situation where a friend or peer offers them an alcoholic drink or drug. Help them prepare for these situations by talking through potential scenarios, giving them the language and tools for self-expression to say no to substances when they feel pressured to accept. Developing critical thinking and decision-making skills empowers young people to evaluate the potential risks and consequences of their actions. 


If a teen experiences repeated instances of peer pressure, they are likely to become stressed and overwhelmed. Empower your teen with stress management techniques such as deep breathing, mindfulness, and exercise so that they can cope with stressors in healthier ways. Encouraging positive coping strategies fosters emotional well-being and reduces the likelihood of turning to substances for relief. Help your teen cultivate peer support networks to strengthen social connections and provide a source of encouragement and accountability. Whether in the form of group therapy or a social setting in which friends agree to steer clear of drugs and alcohol, peer support groups offer opportunities for young people to share experiences, seek advice, and access resources in times of need.


How To Intervene When a Teen Needs Help


If you know a teen who is in need of support, it is important to engage their families, their teachers, friends, and other loved ones in the process. Help the young person in question with access to support services, including counseling, helplines, and treatment programs. Substance use can lead to confusing and stressful situations, making it important that teens know where to turn for help and feel confident seeking assistance when needed. As a young person makes progress, celebrate their resilience and achievements to reinforce positive behavior and build their self-esteem. Highlighting success stories and role models inspires hope and motivates others to follow suit.


At Maryvale, we see frequent co-occurrences between substance use issues and mental health disorders. Through our Connections by Maryvale program, we support families who are coping with adolescent substance use and mental health disorders by offering a comprehensive treatment approach that ensures that teens and their families feel held. Through both our Intensive Outpatient Program and our In-Home Behavioral Services Program, we can tailor our services to individual needs. Our approach focuses on promoting emotional well-being, resilience, and healing through individualized treatment plans tailored to each client’s unique needs. We bring families into the treatment process as well, helping them navigate challenges and build stronger relationships. If your teen is struggling with substance use, get in touch. Together, we can build thriving families where children and their parents can access the care they need to lead healthier and happier lives.

Topics: substance abuse