Substance abuse among adolescents has increased significantly over the last several years. For the purpose of this paper, adolescents can be defined at teenagers, or individuals of the ages 10-19. Substance abuse may be described as a mental condition in which individual over-uses specific drug(s) (either legal or illegal), to a degree that causes issues or restrictions on a person’s life. Substance abuse has the potential of causing many life-threatening situations for the abuser.
Throughout this work, the role of a nurse, specifically, will be explored in regard to identifying and taking care of adolescents suffering from addiction. Several articles and data will be provided to support the impact nurses have on adolescents struggling with substance abuse and their prevalence in the patient population. Steps nurses can take in order to provide responsible and sufficient care for their patients will be demonstrated.
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Due to the current opioid epidemic, as well as personal concerns for the safety of my future patients, this topic is relevant. Health care providers are often abusers primary source of education and care, which is why this is a topic that merits discussion and understanding.
It is common for adolescents to start experimenting with drugs, such as alcohol. Teens may be unaware of the risks and ramifications of consuming alcohol at a young age and in excess. A Topical Approach to Life-Span Development explains how drug abuse effects the brain. Addictive substances often have a similar chemical makeup, such as the presence of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is described as the neurotransmitter that gives the body pleasure, which explains why such drugs can become addicting as they elicit a pleasurable response (Santrock, 2016). Generally, when adolescents drink they feel more confident in social situations and, therefore, believe it is a tool to gain acceptance (Davies 2012). This explains why so many high schoolers and college students enjoy drinking and often over consume alcohol. In addition to raising levels of dopamine, adolescents can also over consume alcohol causing the opposite effect. Overconsumption results in a decrease in the natural dopamine produced by the body and sent to the brain. This then leads to a decrease in overall pleasure. Furthermore, due to addictive properties in many drugs, substance abuse can often lead to overconsumption, which can cause a lack or imbalance in hormone levels and the overall sense of comfort, or pleasure, in the human body.
Due to the expenditure of dopamine and pleasure, substance abuse can take a strong toll on the work ethics of students. Scandinavian Journal of Caring Services writes to explain how school nurses recognized substance abuse in students, identified them, and how they effectively treat the abusers (Pirskanen 2006). The results show that more than one fourth of the participants were binge drinkers.
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