Extreme Side Effects of Synthetic Drugs Among Adolescents

One population that has been greatly affected by the rising popularity of synthetic drugs, specifically synthetic marijuana, is adolescents. This is likely due to the fact that young people can often obtain the substances without going to a drug dealer, they are (falsely) perceived as being safer than street drugs and there is very little education on the dangers of these types of compounds. In an effort to combat this trend, a group of researchers has published a study that examines and highlights the grave dangers of using such drugs, especially on the developing brain of an adolescent.

One of the important factors of this study was that it was a longitudinal study. This means that the 964 high school students that were interviewed about their drug use, anxiety symptoms, depressive symptoms and any other emotional or physical ailment was conducted again on the same students a year later. This type of study allowed the researchers to document the changes, if any, that were being reported.

They found that students who exhibited depressive symptoms appeared to be more likely to gravitate towards the use of synthetic marijuana. This was important information because educators, health care officials and parents can learn to spot indicators before a child resorts to synthetic marijuana use. Preventing experimentation and abuse of this drug is vital because the side effects of synthetic marijuana are extreme. Suicidal thoughts and ideations, seizures, strokes, paranoia, extreme anxiety and depression are all common among young people who use these drugs.

And while the outcome of the study was to highlight the dangers of synthetic marijuana use, the researchers did not set out to make this the focus of their work. “Substance use is one of the risk factors that we were particularly interested in studying, and of course, we think alcohol, drug use and other mental health outcomes are important to examine in their own right. Over time, we became aware of synthetic cannabinoid use in adolescents and decided that it was critical to add that variable to our research as well,” explained Gregory Stuart, co-author of the study and psychology professor at The University of Texas.

Iceland May Have the Answer to Solving Teen Drug Abuse Problem

In almost every Presidential candidate’s speech, on the tips of the tongues of parents, educators and law enforcement is the ever-present problem of teen substance abuse. Even the most serious drug problems in the United States have moved from the back alleys of major cities to the homes of families in the suburbs. Teenagers are being confronted with heroin, cocaine, prescription painkillers and benzodiazepines.

There have been efforts throughout the country to curb the teenage drug problem, with mixed results. Some states issue mandates for their schools to increase drug and alcohol education, other states have increased funding for programs that deal specifically with underage drug use. However, it seems that Iceland has figured out an extremely effective method in reducing adolescent substance abuse.

The government in Iceland focused on changing the atmosphere that children in their country lived in. This means that they shifted their focus from policing substance abuse to promoting alternative recreational activities, strengthening family ties, improving competence and broadening cultural experiences. Highlighting these aspects of life drastically reduced the number of Icelandic teenagers abusing drugs and/or alcohol.

In fact, according to a study released by the Iceland government, 42% of teenagers admitted to drinking alcohol in the last five days when they were polled in 1996. After shifting their focus on the above areas, the government then polled teenagers and found that only 5% of teenagers drank within the last five days.

“Analysis of these surveys shows that affiliations with family, peer group effects and types of recreational activities available are the strongest predictors of the paths taken by adolescents,” explained Inga Dora Sigfusdottir, one of the study’s authors.

This unprecedented drop shows that the U.S. government may need to take another look at current drug education and prevention efforts. In fact, many critics of the U.S. government’s current prevention plans point out that too much focus is put on punishment for underage substance abuse. Since the amount of teenagers in the United States that abuse drugs has not been reduced drastically, studying more effective methods like those in Iceland may be necessary.