When a person uses drugs, a chemical reaction takes place within the brain. Depending
on the drug, a user may experience a surge of dopamine (the “happy” hormone), which
causes an intense wave of euphoria. Or, the drugs imitate the brains natural neurotransmitters and change the way a user’s body processes information. This can lead to
an array of different effects, like powerful sensory experiences, feelings of relaxation,
hallucinations, and changes in perception or sense of time. It can also trigger negative
reactions, like panic and paranoia, increased body temperature, heart palpitations,
breathing problems, and in-coordination. These short-term effects of drug use vary,
depending on the type of drug used. However, drugs of abuse have something in
common: they can pose the risk for long-term effects on a person’s physical and mental
health. This is particularly true for youth, who are at a critical stage of brain
Right now, you may be curious to learn about the long-term effects of drug abuse, and
whether it is really posing a risk to your (or your loved one’s) health. You may be a
parent of a teenager or young adult and concerned that their “recreational” drug use
may lead to more serious consequences. No matter your situation, it is important to
understand the effects of drug abuse on youth, and how that can impact one’s long-term
health and well-being. This guide will break it all down for you;
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), substance abuse
can affect the brain development and growth of youth. It can also lead to risky behaviors,
like driving under the influence, and contribute to a series of serious health problems,
both mental and physical. Drug abuse in adolescence can also heighten one’s risk for
overdose, or lead to long-term problems with drug use.
Of course, different drugs will have different effects on users. Some drugs, for example,
are opioids, which pose risk for respiratory depression. Meanwhile, stimulant drugs like
cocaine can cause heart attacks and strokes. Marijuana, on the other hand, poses risk
for learning and memory deficits. These are just some examples of the risks and longer-
term effects of drugs, generally.
The effects of drugs are exhaustive, and this blog is designed to show you just some of
the implications that drugs can have on adolescents and young adults. Most significantly,
substance use – particularly at a young age – can lead to fatal consequences. As reported
by the Office of Justice Programs, “Disproportionate numbers of youth involved with
alcohol and other drugs face an increased risk of death through suicide, homicide,
accident, and illness.”
If you or your loved one is using drugs or considering using drugs, know that the effects
can be serious and critical. It is up to you to educate yourself, seek help, and make a
difference. If you are concerned about your loved one’s drug use, and specifically its
development into a mental health or addictive disorder, please do not hesitate to seek
help. Early intervention can be vital to your loved one’s health and well-being. It is
never too early to seek treatment, but it can be too late.
Parents can play a critical role in helping their children onto a healthier path. If you are
a parent, the best way to help your teen in this moment is to create an open dialogue at
home. Talk to your teen about the dangers of drug use and the risks of drugs on their
health. Ask your teen questions, such as have they ever tried drugs, or do their friends
use drugs? These open, honest, and non-judgmental questions can establish a sense of
trust between parents and their children. This, in turn, can help you become a greater
support, alliance, and advocate for your child when they need you most.
If your child is displaying concerning signs of drug abuse, dependence, or other mental
health issues, the best thing you can do is seek help. Talk to your family doctor or reach
out to a treatment professional.
Compiled by K. Alfonce
Ajenda Kenya Organization

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