“I feel spiders on my face”, “I didn’t feel any pain when my hand went through the glass window”, these are just some of the experiences that I hear from young people who abuse alcohol and other drugs.
There is no exact science as to why young people use substances and there is no exact science as to why they continue to use them. What is certain are the impacts that their use has on themselves, others and society. The effects on young people who have a substance addiction are very intense. Substance abuse has been linked to poor mental health, self-harm, homelessness, crime and relationship breakdowns.
Young people use drugs for a variety of reasons such as curiosity, to enhance or minimise a feeling, to cover up previous trauma or abuse and peer pressure. When a young person is trying to avoid or escape a negative feeling they are more likely to continue to abuse the drug and the cycle of addiction starts.
Some of the common substances used by young people that come to our services are alcohol, cannabis and the methamphetamine, Ice. These are some of the impacts that have been observed:
Alcohol: violence, aggression, stomach problems, financial strain, family problems that lead to being kicked out of home, criminal matters involving violence and police intervention, many time resulting in apprehended violence orders.
Alcohol abuse is difficult to discuss with young people because alcohol consumption is engrained in Australian culture and as a result young people struggle to identify that their drinking is a problem. At Youth Off The Streets we focus on providing education to young people on the dangerous impacts that alcohol abuse and binge drinking has on their health, relationships and society.
Cannabis: violence, agitation, paranoia, financial strain, criminal matters, disengagement from school, family relationship breakdowns, psychosis and addiction. Many young people minimise the impacts of cannabis and fail to identify the serious impact the drug can have on their mental health such as drug induced psychosis, anxiety and depression.
Ice: impacts observed through counselling intervention include significant weight loss, paranoia, violence, depression, health and physical deterioration, addiction, financial strain, criminal matters, disengagement from school, psychosis, impacts on relationships, family breakdowns and homelessness,.
Next to Marijuana, Ice is the most used drug by the young people that engage in our services. It is one of the most damaging, addictive drugs out there and has profound negative effects on the young person’s life and on the people that care about them.
Most recently, we had one young person who put his hand through a window and didn’t feel the pain until the next day where he ended up in hospital because he nearly tore his tendons. There was another young person that described ice as evil because it is one of those drugs that you don’t want to share, so he said you lie to your friends about having it and damage relationships along the way.
In order to treat young people affected by drugs, our Dunlea Alcohol and Other Drug Youth Service provides services such as drug education, harm minimisation strategies, counselling and other information.
There are also services within the community that young people can access for support around the issue of substance use. Supporting young people around their use can be a long process and if you are a family or friend who is helping a young person with their use, you also need to take care of yourselves through this process.
Numbers of services you can contact are:
- Kids helpline: 1800 551 800
- Lifeline: 13 11 14
- Mental health crisis line: 1800 011 511
- Cannabis information line: 1800 30 40 50
- Alcohol and Drug Information Service NSW (ADIS): 1800 422 599