Did you know that the human brain keeps developing until the age of 25?
Anything that disrupts this development process – including substance and alcohol abuse – will affect the overall capabilities of the brain.
You may have seen seniors or peers use drugs and alcohol and maybe at some point of time even felt tempted to take a swig. But did you ever ask what that one puff of smoke or that one swig of beer will cost you?
Any kind of trauma or substance that affects the brain’s internal wiring will impede normal brain functions. Taking drugs is one of the many ways you can damage the delicate organ that is your brain. How, you may ask.
Well, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), our brain depends on neurotransmitters, which are basically chemicals that transfer message signals from one part of the brain to the other. Each neurotransmitter attaches itself to a similar receptor – as a key fits into a lock – to travel the right path.
When you use drugs, it interferes with and disrupts the normal patterns of the neurotransmitters, resulting in the signals being delivered at the wrong destination. The chemical structure of the drugs is made up in a way that can imitate the composition of a neurotransmitter and behave like it to connect with a receptor, thus altering the activity of the nerve cells. Therefore, the signals emitted by the brain reach the wrong destinations and this can resets the way your brain and body react and act in certain situations.
Long term use of drugs can permanently affect the way your brain retains and processes information. In turn, this will affect the way you think, remember, behave, learn, concentrate, and solve problems.
This is why school districts and individual school authorities are introducing quality drug prevention programs from the new school year, so as to make the students aware of the adverse effects of drugs and alcohol abuse on their mental and physical health and overall life.
Drug Abuse Among Middle and High School Students
Drug and alcohol abuse have emerged as major problems in school environments around the world. This has affected students between the ages of 13 and 18 years. A 2016 survey conducted by the NIDA found that 23 percent of 8th graders have already tasted a few sips of alcohol, 9.4 percent of have used marijuana, and 5 percent have used other kinds of illicit drugs.
The use of various kinds of drugs and alcohol is already present in high schools and colleges and is increasing with each passing day. Due to these risks, it is important for students to be aware of the effects these drugs can have on their academic performance by affecting brain functioning.
Research has found that the extent of drug abuse is inversely proportional to the quality of academic performance among teenagers and young adults.
Common Drugs Used by Students and Their Effects On Their Health
Adolescents and young adults are known to use illicit drugs, alcohol, addictive substances, opioids, and OTC drugs. Due to the different chemical compositions, each of these drugs affects a student’s academic performance in different ways. Here, we will have a look at the most common types of drugs used by students and how they affect their life.
1. Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol abuse has emerged as the most common problem among teen-aged students. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, excessive alcohol consumption has resulted in the deaths of more than 4,300 underage youth every year. Moreover, adolescents and young adults between 12 to 20 years of age illegally consume 11 percent of all alcohol in the US, out of which 90 percent of alcohol is consumed during binging drinking sessions.
Effects of Alcohol Abuse on Student’s Academic Performance
A night of drinking will be followed by cognitive deficits that will linger for up to 48 hours, preventing a person from focusing or paying attention to their studies and classes. Moreover, heavy drinking on school nights will lead to high blood alcohol levels the next day, making them too hungover to wake up and get ready for class. Even if they manage to wake up and attend the classes, the quality and quantity of information processed and retained will be quite low.
Apart from this, people tend to sleep longer due to the hangover that can severely disturb the natural REM cycle, leading to increased anxiety, irritability, and jumpiness the next day and immense fatigue the day after.
NIDA reported that 0.7 percent of 8th graders, 3.4 percent 10th graders, and 5.8 percent 12th graders used marijuana on a daily basis in 2018 in the US. It has also been reported that 1 in 6 people who use marijuana, took up this habit in their teens and 25 to 50 percent are still addicted in their adult lives.
How does Marijuana Affect Academic Performance?
At some level, marijuana has similar effects on our sleep cycle as alcohol and keeps a person buzzed for a minimum of two days. What marijuana essentially does is that it crushes down the neuronal activity taking place in the hippocampus, thus adversely affecting memory, concentration, and attention spans.
Apart from this, marijuana abuse also increases the heart rate significantly, affects the blood pressure, weakens the heart muscles – all of which can be quite detrimental to those suffering from panic attacks and anxiety. As it takes days for the effects of marijuana to wear off, students using this drug are prone to exhibiting poor academic results and reduced intellectual capabilities.
3. Prescription Drugs
Apart from alcohol and marijuana, opioid abuse and addiction among young adults is another serious problem the US is grappling with. For example, Ritalin, Adderall, and Concerta are stimulants that improve energy levels, enhance brain activity, and increase alertness. Due to these effects, students usually resort to these drugs to help them focus while studying. However, the irony is that regular use of such prescription drugs, which are taken to sharpen the mind, will do the exact opposite in the long term.
Effects of Prescription Drug Abuse on Students’ Performance:
While prescription drugs are used by students to improve their academic performance in school, long-term use of these drugs has been associated with academic problems. Opioids have been linked to brain damage, reducing the person’s ability to take appropriate decisions and behave productively in stressful situations.
Why Join Drug Prevention Programs at School?
With the new school year knocking on the door, it is time to join quality drug prevention programs to help yourself and your friends maintain an impeccable academic record as well as good health. Here are some of the reasons why you might consider joining a drug prevention program at school:
- Drug prevention programs provide a safe environment where people can clearly communicate their fears and addictions to the program leaders. This will enable the program coordinators to communicate with and support the students to stay clear of drug abuse.
- The drug prevention program will help the school authorities stay aware of the drug incidents taking place inside the premises of the institution, which in turn will allow them to help the students involved in these incidents by providing them with proper counseling and care.
- These programs also help the students understand that the teachers are there to help them and are not just authority figures whose job it is to discipline them.
Drug prevention programs not only help students develop core life skills but also establishes an important line of communicate between them and the teachers at school. It is important for the students to see the teachers are a safe place to confide their fears and addictions, if they want to stay clean and build a good academic record.