Drug Use on the Rise among American Youth

Alcohol use is a costly social and personal problem and while our youth should not be using alcohol at all, statistics indicate that in the US, alcoholism is on the rise, with nearly 30 per cent of all adults in the US having had an alcohol use disorder (AUD) at some point in their lives. In Muslim social circles, the issue of alcoholism is sometimes evaded, largely because of associated stigma and shame.

Data collected has little to say about drinking among Muslims, because most surveys do not take religious affiliation into account. One report published in 2013 by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding found that 9.1 per cent of students surveyed at one university said they had used alcohol at least once in their lifetime, which is significantly less than a 2010 federal survey showing that over 60 per cent of American full-time college students had used alcohol in the previous months. Still, it is important to understand that the pressure to consume alcohol is one that affects youth across the board.

A new study published in prestigious journal, JAMA Psychiatry, has found that alcoholism is a particularly worrisome problem in the youth, with 27 per cent of those aged 18 to 29 having had an alcohol use disorder and 7 per cent having had severe AUDS in the past year. This suggests that more efficient prevention and intervention campaigns are necessary.

Not only are more youths drinking; they are also over-indulging/bingeing, with serious consequences for their health. Binge drinking involves drinking for or more drinks on a single occasion (for females) and five or more drinks (for males). It is responsible for one in 10 deaths among adults aged 20 to 64 in the US and it is associated with many long lasting health problems, including heart disease, stroke, cancer, liver disease, chemical dependency, STDs and alcohol poisoning. Among the youth, binge drinking is associated with cognitive impairment, since the brain continues to grow in adolescence, and learning and memory can be impaired.

If you suspect your child is drinking or binge drinking, it is vital to put fear and shame aside, so the problem can be tackled before it becomes more serious or long-lasting. Studies have shown that alcohol use disorders and specific psychiatric conditions (such as anxiety and borderline personality disorders) go hand in hand, and that often, alcohol is a means of escape for youths attempting to mask symptoms of mental disorders. Trained therapists can help identify any underlying problem your child may have, so that all conditions can be diagnosed and addressed. This way, children can stop ‘self-medicating’ through alcohol and prescription drugs.

The JAMA study showed that despite the significant rise in alcohol disorders in the US, very few people seek help (around 20 per cent only). The most popular source of help is 12-Step groups, though health practitioners, rehabilitation centers and outpatient clinics are also helpful for those battling addiction. Research shows that there is a three-year gap between the average onset of AUDs and the time individuals seek treatment, which shows that patients often wait until the problem is serious before seeking help.

In top rehabilitation centers across the globe, youths are taught valuable techniques to battle triggers for alcohol use, including stress, social pressure and a fear of being segregated. Through therapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, recovering addicts are encouraged to understand how their thoughts and behavior are intertwined, and how negative thought patterns can function as a trigger for alcohol use. Trained therapists help their clients channel emotions in a more useful and positive manner. Additionally, youths are taught vital skills such as controlled breathing and mindfulness, to keep worry and negativity at bay.

Rather than fear repercussions, we should act in the manner that is best for our children by providing them with vital skills for facing life’s vicissitudes (and conditions like anxiety), since there are many effective, drug-free ways to achieve mental and spiritual wellbeing. Religious education can also go a long way towards emphasizing the importance of keeping a healthy body and mind. As the Qur’an states, we cannot attend prayer and remember Allah if our minds are clouded by drink and other substances. We do not need artificial stimulants to help us face life’s vicissitudes; all we need is our faith.

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Melissa Talbot writes for a living now, prior to this she worked in health and social care. When she took a career break to become a mom she decided to concentrate on writing full time and now puts together pieces on well being and health.

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