The Effects of Substance Abuse on Students

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

How does substance abuse affect the student population? You might be surprised to learn it can lead to way more than just failing grades. This lesson points out many other negative consequences of substance abuse in students.

What is Substance Abuse?

Maybe you know of a classmate who is abusing drugs. Now, when I say abusing drugs, I mean a very specific thing. It's not just using a drug here and there for 'fun'. Substance abuse is a term that carries with it a far greater meaning. Substance abuse refers to an inappropriate pattern of using a drug such that its use results in negative consequences upon a student's physical and/or psychological well-being. The drug can be legal or illegal, it doesn't matter.

Let's go over these consequences as we follow along the life of Jack, a student in high school who abuses drugs, who is also your friend.

Effects on Health

Jack used to be the definition of Hercules. Ripped, could run for miles, and seemed to be just one of those guys who could play any sport well. Then he turned to drugs. What happened? Now his weight seems to fluctuate back and forth. Sometimes he's horrifically skinny and other times he seems to put on a bit too much weight.

He seems to have developed strange tremors when he moves his arms. This could be due to stimulants, like amphetamines. He slurs his speech when he talks to you. This might be a sign he is using depressants, like barbiturates. You notice he becomes easily winded and has trouble breathing if he exerts himself even a little bit. Moving up the stairs seems like a difficult activity for him. He also complains of a lot of stomach pain when you eat lunch with him in the cafeteria. These are just a few of the problems associated with substance abuse.

People who abuse drugs can develop gastrointestinal problems, cardiovascular diseases and respiratory disorders, as well as neurological and musculoskeletal conditions, to name just a few.

Effects on Performance

As a result of many of his physical problems stemming from the drug abuse, Jack has been kicked off the football and soccer teams, both of which he was captain of. That's mainly because he can no longer throw nor kick the ball as accurately as he used to and because he simply gets tired after just a few minutes of play. He is now unable to bench press as much as he used to. He used to run the mile in six minutes flat and now has to walk the entire time when the students are tested during gym class. Abuse of drugs such as cocaine can contribute to all of this and more.

But his performance in school doesn't just drop off there. It also extends to the classroom. You see, Jack was not only a great athlete, he was a really great student who got straight A's and was in all sorts of honors and AP classes in high school. Not only has he dropped out of several classes altogether but he has flunked others and is in danger of being held back an entire year. This is because substance abuse affects a person's attention span and memory. Jack simply can't stay focused long enough anymore to study anything and has trouble recalling even simple facts for a multiple choice test. Such brain damage may stem from the abuse of inhalants, like spray paints, as well as other types of drugs.

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