Substance Use and Young People

Young people are increasingly being exposed to drugs and drug culture at an earlier and more intense way. The ages between 15 and 25 years of age are when people begin to experiment with drugs, new social groups, music and their sexuality. The most popular drugs for youth are marijuana, ecstasy and other club drugs. Legal highs and synthetic research chemicals are also becoming more popular with this easily influenced and high risk group.

Research has shown that over 20 percent of young people in the United States have used marijuana in the past 30 days, up to 8 percent have used prescription medication for non-medical purposes and up to 4 percent have used ecstasy and other club drugs. Surveys from Australia suggest that up to a third of all young people have tried illicit substances, with marijuana and ecstasy being the most popular. This figure is similar to youth drug use trends in the United Kingdom.

Young adults will often begin to explore the world of drugs and alcohol as a way to fit in with other people, develop their social group and to see for themselves what drug culture is. This experimentation can be harmless, but it can also lead to long lasting consequences. Impeding brain development, unwanted pregnancy, social anxieties and health problems can all be the result of experimentation that turns out badly. Additionally, the risk of developing serious substance addiction can lead to long term health problems and family dysfunction.

Experimentation with Drugs and Alcohol

Experimental drug use is the first stage of substances use. It is the time when a person will begin to explore what drugs are, what reaction they have to them and also the social aspects of drug use. This curiosity is usually relatively safe and in most cases people will be cautious about the substances they take, who they are with, how much they will take and what they are doing.

Dangers arise through experimenting with drugs when individuals combine substances, go on drug binges or engage in high risk activities such as unsafe sex. Inexperience and nativity can lead to many dangers so individuals considering experimenting with drugs should research the safest ways to take them and take precautions to reduce the risks of harm.

Peer Pressure and Substance Abuse

Peer pressure is defined as the influence a person or group of people inflict on another person that makes them alter their opinions or behaviors. Many youth find that their friends pressure them into making choices they may otherwise have not made such as taking drugs, drinking alcohol or having sex. Without conforming to the behaviors and attitudes that their peers may experience embarrassment, ridicule, bullying and abuse. Many young people will take drugs to stop this negative behavior and also to find unity with their friends.

Drug use is often an activity that youth will do together and they bond over the events associated with their drug use. Parties, festivals, music events are all places that young people will go to have fun, be with their friends and take substances. For youth, taking drugs is seen as a strengthening of friendships, of exploring exciting and dangerous things together and in some cases a path to adulthood. Within the group of youth taking drugs together, there is a kinship and level of support that they may otherwise not find. Their friends will share their substances, offer emotional support, listen to their worries and fears without judgment.

Clubbing and Substance Abuse

One activity that many young people like to participate in is nightclubbing and listening to dance music. There has been a distinct rise in the popularity of dance music and the opening of many new exciting and interesting bars and clubs in the last 20 years. Dance festivals and raves have also increased in popularity and every year there are hundreds of events held across Australia, America and Europe. These events feature DJ, dancers, excitement and usually drugs. Most nightclubs and dance music events are promoted as drug free but despite police and security on site, many drugs are still taken or experienced at these places.

Young people will often indulge in potentially dangerous cocktails of drugs when they are nightclubbing. Club drugs such as ecstasy, ketamine, GHB and amphetamines are sold to enhance the experience of dance music and the culture associated with it. But when a person buys a drug in a nightclub or at a dance music event, they may not even be aware of what the drug is or how it may make them feel. In some cases, drugs can also have fatal interactions with other substances like alcohol.

Legal Highs

One of the most potentially dangerous substances that many youths are indulging in are the drugs known as legal highs or research chemicals. These drugs are incredibly dangerous as their effect, toxicity and interactions with other substances are unknown. These legal highs are readily available in herbal high shops and online and can legally be purchased without identification over the counter.

Research chemicals are drugs that have been manufactured to mimic the effects of other, illegal drugs like MDMA, LSD and marijuana. The risks of taking research chemicals is potentially greater than taking other illicit substances because of the lack of information surrounding the effects of the drugs on a person. Young people may think that these drugs are safer than taking other illegal substances but this is not true. The risks associated with taking drugs such as amphetamines, MDMA, GHB and ketamine are well known and have been researched for a long time by health workers. Additionally, in the case of an overdose or emergency, doctors and nurses will have the knowledge to be able to help a person quickly and safely. If a person takes an unknown substance that causes an adverse reaction, they may find themselves unable to help them.

Bath Salts are one of the most popular of the legal highs that are available. This drug is unpredictable and dangerous and reports of people falling into unconsciousness, repeated binging on the drug, psychosis and violence are common. The long and short term effects of the drug on the body are unknown and may contribute to brain or liver damage.