The effect that alcohol and drugs can have on mental health, specifically the mental health of our children, can keep parents up at night worrying. You may find yourself wondering: exactly how does alcohol and drugs affect mental health?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 17.1% of high school seniors reported binge drinking (consuming 5 or more drinks on one occasion) in the past two weeks in 2020. And 14.3% of high school seniors reported using marijuana in the past month, according to that same 2020 NIDA survey.
By understanding the effects of alcohol and drugs on mental health, parents can take steps to protect their children from harm. Here’s how to better understand the effects of alcohol and drugs on childrens’ mental health, how to protect your children from the harmful effects of drugs and alcohol on mental health, and some frequently asked questions that other parents have asked us many times before.
The Effects of Alcohol on Mental Health
Alcohol is a depressant that affects the central nervous system. When consumed in large amounts, it can cause significant changes in a teenager’s brain, leading to behavioral and cognitive problems. These behavioral and cognitive problems can include difficulty with decision-making, impaired memory, and reduced inhibitions. Additionally, underage drinking can also lead to academic and social problems, as well as an increased risk of accidents and injuries. Here are some of the ways alcohol can affect the teen mental health:
- Increased Risk of Depression and Anxiety: Alcohol consumption can lead to changes in mood and behavior, leading to an increased risk of developing depression and anxiety.
- Impaired Cognitive Functioning: Alcohol affects the frontal lobe of the brain, which is responsible for decision-making, reasoning, and judgment. This can lead to poor decision-making skills, impulsivity, and risk-taking behavior.
- Disrupted Sleep Patterns: Alcohol consumption can disrupt the normal sleep cycle, leading to insomnia and other sleep disorders. Lack of sleep can further exacerbate mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.
The Effects of Drugs on Mental Health
Drug use among teenagers is a growing problem, with many young people experimenting with drugs such as marijuana, prescription drugs, and illegal substances. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that in 2020, approximately 35% of high school seniors reported using marijuana in the past year. Additionally, prescription drug abuse is also a concern, with many teens obtaining these drugs from friends or family members without a prescription. Here are some of the ways drugs can affect the mental health of children:
- Increased Risk of Psychosis: Certain drugs can cause psychosis, which is a severe mental disorder characterized by a loss of contact with reality. Symptoms of psychosis include hallucinations, delusions, and disordered thinking.
- Increased Risk of Depression and Anxiety: Just like alcohol consumption, drug use can lead to changes in mood and behavior, leading to an increased risk of developing depression and anxiety.
- Impaired Cognitive Functioning: Drugs affect the brain’s ability to process information, leading to poor decision-making skills, impulsivity, and risk-taking behavior.
How to Protect Your Children from the Effects of Alcohol and Drugs on Mental Health
As a parent, you play a crucial role in protecting your children from the harmful effects of alcohol and drugs on their mental health. It’s important to have open and honest conversations with your children about the dangers of substance use and to educate them on the risks associated with alcohol and drug use. By being informed and proactive, you can help your children make healthy choices and prevent substance use disorders. Here are some steps you can take:
- Educate Your Children: Talk to your children about the risks associated with alcohol and drug use. Help them understand the long-term consequences of substance abuse on their mental health.
- Set Clear Rules and Boundaries: Set clear rules and boundaries around alcohol and drug use. Let your children know that you do not tolerate substance abuse and that there will be consequences for breaking the rules.
- Monitor Your Children: Keep an eye on your children’s behavior and watch for any signs of substance abuse. If you suspect that your child is using drugs or alcohol, seek professional help immediately.
You may also want to consider exploring the benefits of joining a teen program that provides educational information and professional guidance regarding alcohol abuse and mental health.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some frequently asked questions that we get from parents of teens in regard to how alcohol and drugs affect mental health:
How do I know if my child is using drugs or alcohol?
Parents may be concerned if they notice changes in their child’s behavior, such as a sudden drop in grades, changes in friends, increased secrecy, or mood swings. Physical signs of drug or alcohol use may include bloodshot eyes, dilated pupils, slurred speech, or coordination problems.
How does drug or alcohol use affect the teenage brain?
The teenage brain is still developing and drug or alcohol use can disrupt this development, leading to long-term consequences. It can impact decision-making, memory, and learning, and increase the risk of addiction. Using drugs or alcohol can increase the risk of developing mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, and psychosis. It can also worsen pre-existing mental health conditions.
How can I talk to my child about drugs and alcohol?
Parents can start by having an open and honest conversation with their child about the risks and consequences of drug and alcohol use. It’s important to listen to their concerns and provide support and guidance. Parents can also provide accurate information about the effects of drugs and alcohol on mental health.
Get Help for Your Teen
When it comes to the effects that drugs and alcohol can have on mental health, early intervention is key. If you suspect that your child is struggling with substance abuse, seek professional help immediately. If you do not work with a professional in the field of substance abuse for your teen there is the potential for missed or incorrect diagnoses. On the other hand, working with a teen treatment center, like Visions Adolescent Treatment, can provide your teen with a structured environment and access to professional support, leading to improved chances of successful recovery.
Alcohol and drug use can have a significant impact on anyone’s mental health, but it particularly damages the mental health of teens. As a parent, it is essential to understand the risks associated with substance abuse and take steps to protect your children. By educating your children, setting clear rules and boundaries, and monitoring their behavior, you can help prevent substance abuse and ensure that your children’s mental health is protected. Contact Visions Adolescent Treatment to discover how we can help your teen today.