Drug Abuse and Depression in Adolescents

Depression is a psychiatric disorder characterized by an inability to concentrate,insomnia, loss of appetite, anhedonia, feelings of extreme sadness, guilt, helplessness and hopelessness, and thoughts of death (Jormer and Coyne 7) . Depression can occur in all

types of people, including, the young, the old, the rich, and the poor. Adolescents in particular seem to be at risk for becoming depressed (Jormer and Coyne 20) . Adolescents living in poor neighborhoods may be at an increased risk because of additional problems that poverty may cause. There are, in fact, many things in an adolescent’s life that can contribute to depression, drug abuse being a major factor. Drug abuse is a major cause of depression in adolescents who live in poor neighborhoods.

Drug abuse is defined is the habitual use of drugs to alter one’s mood, emotion, or state of consciousness. As a teenager, using drugs can be an easy habit to obtain (Cockett 5) . A teen may begin drug abuse because all of their friends are trying it and the peer pressure is too great to resist. Or maybe the teen is going through a stage in his or her life where they feel the need to experiment with drugs. Adolescents are also known to partake in more risk taking activities. After a teens first drug experience a gateway may be opened for addiction and drug abuse (Cockett 20) .

There are signs and symptoms of drug abuse that are noticeable in adolescents. These signs can be noticed in the physical appearance of the adolescent, as well as the adolescent’s emotional state. Physical signs may include serious symptoms such as tremors or something more minor like changes in eating habits (Finding Hope and Health: Alcohol and Drug Abuse and Depression 1) . There may also be noticeable changes in the teen’s academic performance. Drug abuse has been known to lower a person’s work ethic. The result of lowered work ethic is often a significant drop in grades, and also an increase in the number of classes missed (Blackman 2) .

Living in a poor neighborhood means living in a poor household. There are many disadvantages to living in poor households. One disadvantage for teens is that they are at a greater risk to become addicted to drugs. This may be because of a lack of parental supervision. Often in poor households there is only one parent present. In these single parent homes it is harder for the parent to make time for their children. This is because they are forced to work low paying jobs with long hours. Another factor that may lead to a lack of supervision is both parents having to go to work and having to work long hours because the family is poor. A parent talking to their children about drugs is a major step in the prevention of drug abuse so if there is a lack of parental supervision this major preventive step may not be taken. Another reason teens in poor households become drug abusers lies in their surroundings. Drugs are easy to access in poor communities. The drugs are easier to access because of visible drug dealers so-called “bad neighborhoods” that often go hand in hand with poverty. If a teen sees these drug deals happening they may become curious and become involved in drug usage, or perhaps even drug sales. It also may seem to be the norm if teens see it all the time (Saxe 1) .

Drug abuse in poor households can lead to a depressive state in teens. In poor households there may be a lack of social support. Social support has a major impact on the health of adolescents. There are many ways to produce good health, and central to this process are people, as members of households and members of communities. A lack of social support means that adolescents in impoverished households may not have anyone to talk to about their problems with drugs, which could put them into more of a tailspin. This may cause them to spin out of control and may lead to a depressive state. The surroundings in poor neighborhoods add to lifestyle problems. In homes where poverty is prevalent, there is an increased risk that the family will experience physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. There may also be a family history of drug abuse or other addictions in poverty-stricken homes. Also, if a family is living in poverty, they may already have many other problems and may feel like they are not going anywhere in live. This leads to feelings of hopelessness and may put an adolescent to go down the path of drug abuse and depression (Leukfeld and Bukoski 9) .

There are signs and symptoms of depression that are noticeable in teens. The depressed may start to wear a different style of clothing, or may begin to dislike what used to be their favorite activities. There are also emotional changes that occur due to depression. The depressed teen may start to develop a more aggressive personality, or may start to frequently talk about death. The depressed teen may become more prone to conflict, and start to get in trouble with authority figures (Teen Depression 4) . However these symptoms may be difficult for guardians to notice. This is because guardians often discard these signs and treat them as no more then teenage mood swings (Blackman 1) . Blackman states that “Adolescence is a time of emotional turmoil, mood lability, gloomy introspection, great drama and heightened intensity. It is a time of rebellion and behavioral experimentation.” (1) . Another sign that may be noticeable is the academic performance of the teenager. Depression makes the teen have trouble concentrating on their school work. The lack of concentration combined with lower interest levels, results in to a poor academic performance (Teen Depression 3) .

There are certain problems regarding depression that arise in poor households. The only way to combat this mental illness is an effective treatment strategy. This is where the problems start. It makes it difficult to treat depression if the underlying problems that cause depression remain. In poor neighborhoods, many of the residents are single parent families. There is a lack of supervision in single parent homes due to the absence of a parent or guardian. Another frequently arising supervision problem is that two parents must work. The two parents are forced to work because there is a shortage of well paying jobs in poor communities (Mallory and Stamler 285) . So both parents must both work low paying jobs in order to provide the necessities for their families. Treatment facilities are an important tool in the battle against depression. In poor neighborhoods there may be basic hospitals, but there may not be any specialized facilities that will better treat depression. There may also be no access to treatment facilities due to financial barriers. Income and socioeconomic status greatly influence health. The lower the level of income in a family, the more problems there are. An example of this would be the lack of transportation that is available to go to the treatment facilities. Another example of a problem associated with low income families is the low amount of income will not be enough to pay for the specialized treatment. Poor households may also be unable to afford insurance which would cover the treatment or their lower paying jobs may not provide insurance. These factors often leave the depression undetected and therefore untreated (Mallory and Stamler 286) .

Depression is a major problem in today’s world. The number of adolescents that are committing suicide is increasing at a rapid rate. Most of these teens that are committing suicide are suffering from depression (Blackman 1) . There is a need to find ways to combat this illness. In order to combat depression, we must first combat some of the problems that cause depression, such as drug abuse (Sharp and Marrs 522) . During recent years the government has been waging a war on drugs. This effort has been somewhat unsuccessful. In order to successfully combat drug abuse we need to address the issue of poverty (Perkins 1) . First of all there needs to be access to good jobs with adequate income, as well as benefits to the employees. We need to create an effective child benefit system to combat poverty in Canadian households. There needs to be more accessible and affordable early learning and childhood programs. These programs must be available so that children can be educated and looked after in good quality childcare while their parents work. There is also a need for national affordable housing programs. These housing programs will greatly improve impoverished living conditions. These ideas are possible if our society and government continue to be aware of the major problem of poverty (Mallory and Stamler 287) .

Works Cited
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Joiner, Thomas, and James Coyne. The Interactional Nature of Depression. Washington:
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Leukefeld, Carl, and William Bukosi. Drug Abuse Prevention and Intervention Research:
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Mallory, P. and S. Stamler. “Poverty and Homelessness.” Community Health Nursing: A
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Perkins, Anne. “Drugs War ‘Must Target Poverty’.” The Guardian 29 March 2002: A5.

Saxe, Leonard. “Drug Sales Are More Common in Poor Neighborhoods.” Online posting.
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Sharp, Kathy & Marrs, Joyce. “Depression: The essentials.” Clinical Journal of Oncology
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“Teen Depression.” Depression Learning Path. 2005. 24 November 2005 .

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