How Substance Abuse Affects Student Health & Performance

Instructor: Donna Ricketts

Donna Ricketts is a health educator with 15 years of professional experience designing health and wellness programs for adults and children.

Learn how substance abuse affects student health and performance by looking at mental and physical health risks associated with drug use as well as possible risks to sport and academic performance.

Substance Abuse

Have you ever felt nervous or shaky after taking medicine? This is your body having a reaction to the chemical substance. Now think of your body going through this on a regular basis, due to abusive use.

Substance abuse is the harmful, excessive use of drugs such as alcohol, prescriptions, over-the-counter medicine or some other type of chemical substance. Such use brings a multitude of health risks like mood swings, high blood pressure, organ damage, and lack of focus and concentration. All of these can affect your general health as well as your performance at work or school.

Unfortunately, these risks are even greater for young people because their brains and bodies are still developing during the adolescent years. Let's take a more detailed look at how substance abuse affects student health and performance.

Teen Development

As students reach puberty and adolescence, there is still a lot growth that needs to take place. A lot of physical changes, sure, but there's also a lot going on in their brains. For example, the limbic system (the part of the brain responsible for controlling emotional outbursts, thoughtless behavior, stress hormones, and planning ahead) is still maturing, until an individual's early 20s.

Such changes can bring on conditions of emotional struggles like stress, peer pressure, curiosity, and the desire to just fit in. These states may influence a teen to become involved in risky behaviors such as experimenting with drugs or alcohol.

Effects of Substance Abuse

Substance abuse among youth can negatively impact a student's mental as well as physical health. The CDC states that youth in America abuse alcohol more than any other drug. The psychological health of teens that use drugs can deteriorate and even lead to permanent brain damage.

Mental Health

Substance abuse affects teen mental health by causing:

  • Mood swings, aggression and recklessness.
  • Depression: panic attacks, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.
  • Difficulties with social interactions and normal day-to-day functions.
  • Developmental issues like inhibited perceptual ability and neurotransmitter disruption.
  • Also, youth who abuse alcohol can develop problems with memory and retention.

Physical Health

Drug usage among teens can affect physical health as well. According to the CDC, excessive alcohol consumption contributes to the deaths of more than 4,000 youth a year. Substance abuse could result in:

  • Delayed puberty causing damage to the reproductive system.
  • Engaging in unsafe or unwelcomed sexual behaviors.
  • More car accidents and other injuries, such as wounds and bruises from physical altercations due to excessive alcohol consumption.
  • Binge drinking and death related to alcohol poisoning.

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