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Teenage drug abuse in the United States is a serious concern. For example marijuana use, which is prevalent among teenagers, has been shown to interfere with short-term memory, learning, and psychomotor skills. Motivation and psychosexual/emotional development also may be affected.
Marijuana abuse by teens increases their risk in late adolescence of not graduating from high school, delinquency, having multiple sexual partners, and not always using condoms. Such marijuana use can result in perceiving drugs as not harmful. It may also result in long-term problems with cigarettes, alcohol, and other drugs. Studies show that teenage drug abusers tend to have friends who also exhibit deviant behavior. In addition, early adolescent marijuana use is related to later adolescent problems that limit the acquisition of skills necessary for employment and heighten the risks of contracting HIV and abusing legal and illegal substances.
All teenage drug abuse can have immediate and long-term health and social consequences. Overall, mental health problems including depression, developmental lags, apathy, withdrawal, conduct problems, personality disorders, suicidal thoughts, attempted suicide, suicide, and other psychosocial dysfunctions are frequently linked to substance abuse among adolescents. Drug abuse has been shown to increase the likelihood of psychiatric disorders.
Abuse of specific drugs exposes users to a range of serious consequences. Teenage drug abuse of cocaine is linked with health problems including eating disorders, disabilities, and death from heart attacks and strokes. Abuse of hallucinogenic drugs can affect brain chemistry and result in problems with learning new information and memory. Methamphetamines can cause rapid heart rate, increased blood pressure, and damage to the small blood vessels in the brain that can lead to stroke. Heroin use can result in slow and shallow breathing, convulsions, coma, and even death.
Young people who inject drugs expose themselves to additional risks, including contracting HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), hepatitis B and C, and other blood-borne viruses. Chronic injection drug users also risk scarred or collapsed veins, infection of the heart lining and valves, abscesses, pneumonia, tuberculosis, liver disease, and kidney disease. Additionally, teenage drug abuse has been strongly linked to delinquency. Arrest, adjudication, and intervention by the juvenile justice system are eventual consequences for many youths engaged in alcohol and other drug use.
Signs of teenage drug abuse include sudden and extreme changes in personality, physical appearance, social activity, or school performance. Personality changes may include becoming disrespectful and verbally or physically abusive, extreme mood swings, paranoia, confusion, anger, depression, and secretive behavior. Teens who abuse drugs may lie about what they are doing and where they are going. They may also steal, claim to lose possessions they once valued, have a lot of money, ask for money, and withdraw from family and family activities. With regard to physical effects, teens using drugs may exhibit a lack of hygiene and grooming, weight loss or gain, hyperactivity or lethargy, and insomnia or excessive sleeping. These teens may also drop old friends and activities, skip school, lose interest in school, receive low grades, sleep in class, lose concentration, and have trouble with memory.
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