Youth and stress

Youth and mental health disorders

Substance abuse

Even though substance abuse starts during adolescents or early adulthood, only 45% of youths have heard of this disorder. Many of them think that substance abuse is when an individual consumes drugs, cigarette or alcohol to a point where he/she intoxicates themselves. Dr. Stéphane Potvin, researcher at Fernand-Seguin Research Center, explains that substance abuse consists of abuses and dependences on certain substances. These can be depressants (e.g., alcohol), stimulants (e.g., cocaine, amphetamine) or hallucinogens (e.g., cannabis, PCP, magic mushrooms). Are youths right to think that tobacco is included as part of these substances? "Yes, in the same ways as cocaine and cannabis", says Dr. Potvin. Some experts are starting to think that eating fast food in an abusive and incontrollable way would be a considered substance abuse as well.

But what leads to substance abuse? Many youths mentioned that it is caused by peer pressure. Dr. Potvin agrees that peer pressure is a very important factor, but we cannot ignore other factors such as socioeconomic status, culture and genetic predispositions. To avoid these pressures, Dr. Potvin thinks that it is important to know that there are many things in life that are cool to do that do not bring about all the disadvantages of drugs.

Dr. Potvin brings up a few important facts about substance abuse and youths. In fact, many of you may be surprised to hear that boys are two times more at risk than girls to become substance abuser. Also, it is important to know that you can eventually become a substance abuser after only one consumption, depending on one’s predispositions.

To sum up, just about half of adolescents have a good idea of what substance abuse is all about. It is important to remember that the consumption of certain substances (ex: tobacco, alcohol, cannabis) is sometimes wrongly trivialized. This is why it is important to continue promoting awareness and minimize the potential repercussions of the first consumption.

Next page: Schizophrenia