Teens, stress and substance abuse

2015-09-30 06:00

LET’S face it, being a teenager in today’s times isn’t easy and most certainly is not the same as it was in the seventies and eighties.

Teens face many difficulties and challenges, the feeling of having too much to do and not enough time. Teens are at a risk of stress overload, school, exams, family conflict, bullying, social problems, poor living conditions, etc., and having to deal with the constant changing social standards of our world. The added stress of their uncertain future along with all these other factors can affect our children in a negative way if not dealt with correctly. Teens having stress is a part of everyday life.

We know what stress feels like, but what is stress? One way to explain this is to say that stress is the body’s way of dealing with a demand. It involves the release of chemicals in the body to be prepared to take action. This becomes dangerous if not dealt with in the correct way.

More teenagers each year are turning to substance abuse (drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, etc.) to cope with their stress – especially when it comes to end-of-year school exams. If your body is already releasing chemicals within your body in response to the stress and you are adding in harmful chemicals, you can only imagine how this is a serious danger to your health and well-being. A more concerning fact is that each year we lose at least one teenager on the South Coast through their ways of “relieving stress” after or before exams, so it’s time to put a stop to it before it is too late.

Self-medicating and substance abuse is no way to cope, it only adds more stress to the person’s life and opens the path to a serious addiction problem.

Common symptoms of stress in teenagers to look out for include panic and anxiety attacks, headaches or muscle tension, moodiness, depression or negativity, loss or gain of appetite and the inability to sleep or concentrate.

Examples of effective ways to deal with stress for teens include relaxation techniques – simple breathing exercises to relax the body, listening to music or doing a hobby (creating balance within their timetable), talking about the problems – venting it to a trusted person or keeping a journal to write about it.

- Bianca Holman is the founder of Against Substance Abuse (NPO), “fighting to save the lives of our children”

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