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Adolescent health-threatening behaviors are common among teenagers, posing a serious health risk to the governments of most countries across the world. Teens are being exposed to these health risk behaviors at an alarming rate in various crucial aspects of their daily life (Badr, Taha & Dee, 2014). The majority of these adolescent health risk behaviors have ended in death and significant anguish for victims, family members, and relatives, as well as negatively damaging their relationship life (Blashill et al., 2017). Moreover, most families whose children engage in these behaviors have reported cases such as early pregnancy among girls forcing most them to drop out of schools while others lose their life trying to do abortion. High-risk behaviors range from unprotected sex, substance abuse, violence as well as arrogance in school and in the community. These practices have remained pervasive and expensive problems in Western communities, despite the efforts the government has put to prevent these attempts through intervention plans.
Sexuality is also another area where adolescents actively get involved. Most research conducted have proven that unprotected sex among teens has been a major problem in most communities of the 21st century. For younger women who are not engaged the frequency of getting in sexual activity is greater compared to that of men. However, with the increasing trend in social media and technology to campaign against unprotected sex among adolescents, most of them are using condoms to prevent the spread of diseases such as gonorrhea, STD among others. Furthermore, this group represents a high-risk population for the sexually transmitted diseases because they have a high inclination to ignore the advice of their elders and the dangers of the possible risk incidents. One domain of risk behaviors is substance abuse which includes the use of tobacco, illicit drug, and alcohol. Alcohol is a common form of substance use that adolescents utilize when in school, at home or when they are in a group. Therefore, this article will focus on substance abuse as one of the adolescent risk behaviors experienced by children in most communities of the world where drugs and substance are easily accessible.
Substance abuse is the dependence on a particular drug such as tobacco among adolescents and adults. The most common material used among youth is alcohol and tobacco. The 21st-century society where all aspects of life are attached to the technology, social media have supported the growth and frequent use of drugs such as alcohol among the general population (Valente et al., 2007). Alcohol consumption among these group of young people is rampant demanding the government to intervene and help most of these teens. Research conducted has proven that the growth of substance abuses among these group of population in the society is a result of peer influence (Kwan, Sussman & Valente, 2015). While others may engage in the use of these materials willingly, most always find themselves doing what others do to fit into a given peer group.
Scholars have revealed that the risk of an adolescent becoming a drug user depends on several factors that affect the various relationship and types of risk factors (Lewis et al., 2015). For instance, some teenagers get involved in substance use as a result of abnormal attitude and behaviors. However, some scholars and psychologist do agree that lack of parental supports is another factor that has permitted the growth of substance abuse among teenagers. Additionally, recent researches have exposed that the significant risk periods for drugs are the key risk ages of a child’s life. The first transition is when these youths and teenagers leave the guidance, security, and protection of their families and enter school. However, the biggest problem in their development occurs when they go to high schools, a stage of life associated with adolescence, extra social, emotional as well as educational hurdles.
Substance use has remained to be the hardest war that the government of most countries is trying to fight among the youths because of its prominent availability and other social activities promoting drug use. These drugs are readily available to these adolescents at a relatively lower price in almost every community. However, to already substance addicts the cost is not a problem since they are willing to spend any amount of money just to get the substance. There are some reasons already established as to why the number of adolescents engaging in health risk behaviors such as drug addiction has been increasing over the years despite the government’s efforts to reduce the hazard. Young peer teams often have some similarities that help them to associate with a particular behavior, values, norms and attitude. Peer culture, particularly among the adolescents, is a major factor in building an individual identity. Studies have exposed peer influence as a major factor that has promoted deviant behaviors such unprotected sex, violence and substance abuse.
Alcohol and other substance use among teenagers are one of the greatest public health concerns in most regions of the world, and its reduction and equability are the only strategies used to improve the well-being of the victims. Extensive studies conducted on the subject of adolescent and substance use have exposed that substance use victims also get exposed to deviant behaviors such as unprotected sex leading to unplanned pregnancy among girls. Salas-Wright, Vaughn, and Ugalde (2016) revealed that there are coincidental etiologies of drug abuse to play a role in exposing the youths and adolescents in contracting sexually transmitted diseases and early pregnancy (Salas-Wright, Ugalde & Vaughn, 2016). For instance, substance consumption can significantly precipitate the infrequent use of condoms during sexual intercourse, particularly in situations where the sexual encounter is extemporaneous. Salas-Wright, Vaughn, and Ugalde (2016) also showed that substance abuse and sexual risk behavior often correlate among adolescents. Adolescents and youths have continuously used drugs in their lives for many reasons;
Many teens use substances to fit in within a particular group. The fear of being isolated by a given peer group forces a lot of youths to drugs.
Some of the adolescents may participate in substance use to lessen some mental and physical feelings such as depression, physical pain, social anxiety as well as stress associated disorders.
Some use the drugs to make them build a sense of pleasure. However, the intensity of the euphoria varies with the type of substance used and how it is injected into the neurochemistry.
Some of the adolescents may use materials to have a test of new experience especially those that they view as thrilling or bold.
Alcohol and other substance use during adolescence stage and early adulthood often do not turn into long-term content utilization complications. Even though most of the adolescents participate in drugs such as marijuana, alcohol, tobacco among others in their final year in high school, a majority of them do not show substance use disorders at the adult stage. Nonetheless, there is a strong indication that early and heavy use of substances mainly marijuana and alcohol shows a later difficult life with substances at adult. Besides, the frequency at which the adolescents use materials, there are some characteristics and experiences with these drugs that play a role in the long-term complication with individual's mental health.
Substance use and abuse continue to affect the lives of adolescents in many parts of the world, therefore, contributing to the high rate of morbidity and mortality. There are substantial efforts made by the government of various states in the world mainly the US and Canada where substance abuse among adolescent has been growing rapidly over the last few years. Several types of research have proven that the most effective interventions and prevention measures should target an outstanding risk and protective agents at the family, individual or community levels focused on relevant psychosocial theories.
Some factors have been mentioned by various authors, psychologist as well as therapists required to establish the best prevention and intervention measures. These factors comprise the need to address the different risk and protective factors, provide developmentally suitable information focused on a given target group of adolescents and campaigning against peer pressure to engage in drug use. Besides, delivering information to the target group through interactive measures and creating cultural awareness.
Family Prevention Programmes
There are some preventive measures that the government and the community can put in place to prevent the use of substances among the youths and the adolescents. However, the most effective prevention program that has yielded good results is the utilization of family-based prevention program (Atilola et al., 2014) Family-based prevention measures include equipping the parents, guardians, and relatives with necessary skills and experiences to help them keep their children away from substance use. However, these strategies are always provided to the parents in the absence of their children, to teach them particular parenting skills, such as the best way to bond, nurture, and communicate with their children (Cordova et al., 2014). Besides, they are taught how to support their children’s prosocial skills and social experiences needed to withstand pressure from peers and teaching on setting rules and strategies of monitoring children’s activities when interacting with others.
Family Bonding is the foundation of a healthy relationship between children and the parents. Lack of family bonding in most families have resulted in children who have negative behaviors accompanied by substance use and violent activities in the community (Jalling et al., 2016) Parent supportiveness of children is one of the skills that parents should embrace to ensure the bonding between them is powerful and a healthy one. Furthermore, these training helps the parents to understand their children more and create a bond that will help them reduce the aggression to engage in deviant behaviors and activities.
Another type of family-based prevention strategy involves teaching both the child and the parent on family and parenting skills. All these types of family-based prevention aim at expanding the functioning of the family, communication skills as well as offering training to assist individual families to discuss and develop policies on substance use. Nonetheless, one of the primary limitations associated with family-based prevention program lies in the difficulty of having to persuade parents to attend and participate in the training.
Community and schools programmes
Besides, family-based prevention measures psychologist and other healthcare stakeholders have put more emphasize on the need to develop effective school and community programs as an efficient preventive measure to substance abuse among adolescents (Estrada et al., 2014). Introducing the program at early stages of an individual such as at pre-school or first grade can impact positively on the mental and physical well-being of child. Community-based prevention programs aim at educating the general public at major transition points such as at changeover to middle school can bear beneficial impacts on the population especially among those high-risk families and children. The advantage of such intervention and prevention measure is that it does not isolate the population under possible risk. As a result, reducing the labeling and thus strengthening the bonding to school and community. One of the current school prevention measures is reconnecting youth commonly known as (RY).
Reconnecting Youth (RY) is a school-based program for high school learners with minimal school success and a possibility of not completing their education. Adolescents who drop out of school have a higher tendency of participating in substance abuse. Therefore, if the community identifies such a victim, it is important to undertake the reconnecting youth program on the individual to reduce their aggression towards drugs (Robinson & Hamilton, 2016). However, community prevention programs that integrate two or more suitable programs such as school-based and family-based programs have witnessed good yields as compared to one that used a single program.
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