Teenagers may be involved with psychoactive substances in various ways. Experimentation with alcohol and drugs during adolescence is common. Unfortunately, teenagers often don’t see how their actions today will have negative consequences tomorrow. They also have a tendency to feel indestructible to the problems that others experience. Using alcohol and tobacco at a young age increases the risk of using other drugs later. Some teens will experiment and stop, or continue to use occasionally, without significant problems. Others may develop a dependency, moving on to more dangerous drugs and causing significant harm to themselves. If teenagers consume these substances, they’ll get diseases at an earlier age. Some teenagers try to imitate those people who smoke because they see that these people seem to have a lot of fun, but they are not being rational. Many people act in ways and make decisions without thinking very much or being careful.
Adolescence is a time for trying new things. Teens use alcohol and other drugs for many reasons, such as curiosity, because it feels good, to reduce stress, to feel grown-up or to fit in a group of popular guys. It is difficult to know which teens will experiment and stop and which will develop serious problems. Researches show that teenagers at risk for developing serious alcohol and drug problems include those with a family history of substance abuse, the ones who are depressed, who have low self-esteem, and who feel like they don’t fit in on a group of peers. Drug use is related to a variety of negative consequences, including increased risk of serious drug use later in life, school failure, and poor judgment, which may put teens at risk for accidents, violence, unsafe sex, and suicide. Some of the physical signs when a teenager is consuming these substances are when they get fatigued, repeated health complaints, red and glazed eyes, among other symptoms.
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Also, their personality change, they get sudden mood changes, irritability, they have reckless and irresponsible actions, low self-esteem, depression, and lack of interest when doing what they have to do. Apparently, all the consequences that an adolescent can get from smoking and consuming alcohol are negative. Usually, they start breaking every single rule, withdraw from the family, get discipline problems, get low grades, have negative attitudes, and change their style of dressing and other social issues. There are several reasons why a teenager may take drugs or alcohol. Some teenagers are just bored and like to experiment, while others do it to be accepted by their peers. Teenagers who are shy, lonely and have a lack self-confidence may find that drugs and alcohol transform them. For them, these vices are like the key to their social success. When they are ‘high’, teenagers may find that their troubles are far away and unimportant. They may take drugs and alcohol to escape from family problems or to relieve the tension if they are not performing well at school.
Introduction. Our group is very interested in finding why is that teenagers decide to smoke and drink alcohol if most people are aware that this brings negative consequences. Many times, we may think that teenagers do this because they want to look cool. But if they are smart they’ll realize that they have a problem. Often, we see that teenagers smoke and drink alcohol at parties so that everybody will see them doing it, which is kind of gross. But, if you asked an adult person who is more conscious of his/her actions if he or she smokes, he/she will most probably answer that he/she is pretty embarrassed to say that they do, and if so, they will do it in their own, lonely space.
So, what’s up on some teenager’s mind that makes them think that smoking and drinking is good?… Many of us may have that question in our minds. And it’s exactly what we want to find out. In Psychology Today magazines we can find very interesting information of previous researches that some psychologists have done through the lasts years. On the Internet, we can also find a lot of information about this interesting subject. We’ll look up some information and review them in order to examine the factors that influence teenagers to decide to use psychoactive drugs.
Methods. In order to make our project, we’ll use retrospective and survey methods. With the retrospective method, we will review past researches in order to find the answers to our doubts. And with the survey, we will see which is the people’s opinion toward few stuff. We’ll ask some questions to twenty-five teenagers from our school and then we’ll review the results. Our research questions is…Why do teenagers decide to smoke and drink alcohol? Hypothesis
- Ha–> True Hypothesis. Teenagers use psychoactive drugs due to internal and external factors. Independent variable dependent variable.
- Ho –> Null Hypothesis
Internal and external factors are not a possible cause for teenagers to decide to use Dependent variable Independent psychoactive drugs. Variable Development of the Project
Survey Method. These were the questions that twenty-five teenagers answered in different ways.
- Have you ever used any type of psychoactive drug?
- Yes 23/25 – 92%
- No 2/25 – 8%
2. If your answer to question number one was Yes, then circle the letters that tell the reasons why you did it; if not, circle the letter for the reasons that you would use them sometime around.
- Because of curiosity 25/25 – 100%
- Because you were bored 23/25 – 92%
- Because you were feeling sad or depressed 24/25 – 96%
- Because your friends were doing it 21/25 – 84%
- Because you were on a party 18/25 – 72%
3. What type of drugs have you used?
- Alcohol 23/25 – 92%
- Tobacco/ cigarettes 16/25 – 64%
- Others 1/25 – 4%
4. Do you usually consume these drugs?
- Yes 5/25 – 20%
- No 18/25 – 72%
- I’ve never used them 2/25 – 8%
5. How many times have you consumed these psychoactive drugs?
- One time 2/25 – 8%
- Twice 6/25 – 24%
- Three times 1/25 – 4%
- More than five times 5/25 – 20%
- All the time 5/25 – 20%
- Only when I’m with my friends 2/25 – 8%
- Occasionally when I’m feeling bad 2/25 – 8%
6. How did you feel when you use these drugs?
- Good 11/25 – 44%
- Great 0/25 – 0%
- Regular 2/25 – 8%
- Awful 4/25 – 16%
- Normal 3/25 – 12%
- Better 2/25 – 8%
- Worse 1/25 – 4%
7. What other reasons did you have to choose to use these drugs?
- Because I was getting low grades at school 9/25 – 36%
- I was kicked out of a team 5/25 – 20%
- I was mad at my parents 5/25 – 20%
- I just wanted to feel cool 10/25 – 40%
- I was feeling very nervous for some reason 2/25 – 8%
- I had insomnia 1/25 – 4%
- I’m tired of being shy 7/25 – 28%
- This is what grown-ups do 11/25 – 44%
Retrospective Method. According to our information and through our comprehensible reading, people’s addictive behaviour is normal, and it’s a part of our nervous system. If this was rare by nature the capacity to be addicted could not evolve, survive or stay in each living organism. Everyone could have an addictive behaviour to things that we can obtain pleasure from them like eating, drinking, smoking, and sex; but then we find them very hard to give them up. People see addiction as a crime, a sin or a spiritual weakness and depending on who you asked to they will say that addiction may be caused by ignorance, poverty, personality traits, temperament, genes and heredity, or by the breakdown of family values. Also, people think that addiction is a disease that doesn’t have a cure and the only way to treat it is to avoid the addiction, lifelong abstinence and be in constant vigilance by the ones that surround you.
But all these ideas about addiction are not quite right because they mix the process of addiction with its impact. They don’t explain much about the subject so they can help us understand the addiction. Smokers use cigarettes to reduce anxiety, sadness, boredom. Depressed people use it to forget about their problems because nicotine can give pleasure and can ease the pain. If these kinds of people get used to cigarettes to regulate emotional states it would be very difficult to take it away if you don’t have an alternative to alleviate those states, so they will return to their addiction and it would become stronger than before.
It is too difficult for smokers to try leaving their addiction to nicotine. They would need the support of their family, peers or well-instructed people to help overcome his or her addiction. Because nicotine addictive people can not stay like half an hour without smoking it makes them too difficult to quit it. There are even smokers that are too use to nicotine that they can not live without it. Those people that are dependent on nicotine but would like to stop smoking, have to leave the cigarettes little by little because if they decided to leave it right away it would be prejudicial for their organisms. We have to see also the right time to stop smoking, it is just better to try quitting the cigarettes in a time when you are relaxed, without any pressure, most likely on vacations. Because if you decided to quit smoking just in the time that you are like stressful or very depressed and sad, it would affect the nervous system even more.
The regulated use of nicotine can cause the decline of memory, attention and reasoning just four hours after the last cigarette. This can change the electrical activity of the brain and there can not be a recovery of brain function, so some smokers might never normalize the working process of their nervous system. It isn’t easy to stop smoking, it takes a long time to leave the cigarettes, but there are some ways that help smokers overcome their addiction. The use of the patch or the gum replaces the use of cigarettes. After six months or more addicts can remain without cigarettes, but there are also nicotine-dependent people. They are the ones that can not live without nicotine, so they used the patch or the gum their entire lives. It’s better that way because if they’ve got removed from the patch or the gum they would only stay without cigarettes for a month and they would regain their addiction.
Alcohol is another addiction that can damage your body in an internal and external way. It can hurt the liver, heart, pancreas, arteries, throat, stomach and brain. It caused many suicides especially on teenagers killing more than 40,000 people each year. Alcohol acted in GABA, the prime inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. Alcoholics can pass their genes to their offspring making them inclined to be alcoholics, but that doesn’t mean that it’s their destiny. They had the last word, so it is each one’s decision if they become alcoholics or not. Leaving this addiction is not as easy as it seems. The alcohol treatment programs work for less than half of drinkers. They want addicts to drink with moderation or to live with the lack of it, but it is too difficult because alcoholics can’t control their drinking. Sometimes people think that it is too much pressure, that they can’t quit drinking, so they return to their problem.
It would make it easier to have the support of friends and family to overcome the addiction, maybe it could make them quit on their own. In other cases, people might want to stop drinking because they started to be rejected by their family, work or friends. Also, it might be an embarrassing moment they had had by the fault of their drinking problem or the illness they might feel that made them realize how bad alcohol is for them. People used alcohol to feel better when they have emotional disorders as anxiety, sadness, anger, fear or depression. They just want to forget their pain for a moment. Another factor of the use of this substance is because everyone is doing it. People let them convinced that drinking is the coolest way to party. Because friends or famous people do it they think that it’s all right, they just want to be well received by them or to look as enchanting or charming as them. These just make people dependent on alcohol to feel good with them, without knowing the harm it could be.
Conclusions. In conclusion, our hypothesis was correct because addictive people to cigarettes or to alcohol caused because their emotional states were in crisis. So, teenagers decide to use psychoactive drugs because of internal and external factors. They used nicotine and alcohol to ease the pain they have inside. Many addicts smoke or drink to forget about problems. Sad, depressed or even bored people used to forget about everything and feel pleasure instead of pain. At first, they used cigarettes and alcohol to try to escape from their problems doesn’t matter if they are from work or home or friends, they just wanted to forget them. Because they give emotionally distressed people pleasure and make them release that painful feeling they think that the only way to deal with their problem is continuing smoking or drinking.
Instead of getting professional help, they recurred to this addictive method, and when you realized how bad it is there is no way to turn back. Then, starts the struggle for leaving the booze or the nicotine. If you get support from your family, peers or a professional there is a chance to return back to their normal life. But if you are not willing to leave that addiction and not take it, as serious as it is there is a change that you could never leave the nicotine or the alcohol, or that the treatment last forever. So there you go quitting and smoking or quitting and drinking without knowing that this addiction can cost your life. People think that they can quit or start smoking or drinking whenever they want, but there is not as easy as they thought. Many times teenagers may do wrong choices/decisions or lame mistakes and then pay unexpected prices such as death, violence, or unwanted pregnancy.
They will have to need strength to decide what is better for them if the addiction or death. That is why they will need all the support of their family, friends, etc. People must know that the continuing use of alcohol and cigarettes do not affect just only the ones with the addiction, but the people in their surroundings. Because they are the ones that have to deal with a drunker or the smoker, the ones who suffered for them seeing the critical state in which they are. There’s also that the continuing use of alcohol and cigarettes damage the body. Too much alcohol causes cirrhosis and too many cigarettes cause lungs cancer. People don’t just drink because of emotional distress or family or work issues but because of peer pressure. They think that drinking a cup of smoking a cigarette as others do will make them important or friendly or even the best people ever. But they’re wrong, it just makes them get used to those bad habits without knowing how to overcome off the situation.
They shall not make what other people tell them to do, they need to make their own decisions without caring about what someone else might say. Each one knows why they choose to drink or smoke, and the consequences of doing it frequently. So it’s their choice to do what is best for them if continuing their addiction or regenerate. Through our survey, we could see some of adolescents opinions. We could see that most of them have already used psychoactive drugs. These teenagers are between fifteen and sixteen years old. Apparently, most teenagers decide to use psychoactive drugs for mere curiosity. Also, when they feel bad about something they think that this substance will just cut the pain off. Friend’s influence is an important issue because most of the teenagers just imitate their peers, so if some guy smokes and it seems that he has a lot of cool styles and girls around him, the other teens will want that too. It also seems that alcohol and cigarettes are the most common drugs that teenagers deal with, but this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t worry that much because this is just the beginning that might lead to the use of other substances.
But, according to our survey, still, we can see that there are some few teenagers that have made up their minds and have a lot of personalities because they don’t need drugs in order to live normally happy. But we can also notice that there are future addicts who reach for drugs any time the times get too tough and their best isn’t enough because they make them feel good. And there are also teenagers who simply drink alcohol and smoke because that’s what grown-ups do. On our project, we obtained clear answers, nevertheless, there could be some bias on the survey because teenagers may lie that they drink and smoke because it’s just “cool”. Anyhow, our hypothesis was correct and teenagers do decide to use psychoactive drugs because of internal and external factors such as lack of affection, peer pressure, psychological disorders and boredom.
- “Back From the Drink”. Psychology Today. November-December 2000: pages 54-56
- Rogers, Johnn Allison. “Addiction – A whole new view”. Psychology Today. September-October 1994: pages 32-52
- “Teens Who Do Not Experiment With Tobacco, Alcohol or Marijuana Found to be Better Adjusted”.
- “Patterns of Alcohol and Drug Use in Adolescents Can Be Predicted by Parental Substance Use Disorders” Biederman, Joseph October 2000
- “Prevalence of Adolescent Substance Use Disorders Across Five Sectors of Care” Aarons, Gregory A. April 2001