Issue of Drug Usage among Emerging Adults

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Drug use has been associated with college life in the United States for as long as the start of the first institution opened its admissions to young adults. Allowing adolescents to leave the comfort of their parents’ home, and into a new unsupervised environment where one explore one’s identity and dreams. Thus, creating a new stage of development right after adolescents known as emerging adulthood that spans from ages 18 to 25. In this stage of development, one’s brain is still in the process of development and is a time where one begins to explore and develop certain characteristics. Among these characteristics are: age of identity exploration, age of instability, age of self-focus, and age of feeling in between (Arnett, 2004).

The reason behind exploring these characteristics has to do with the development of the prefrontal cortex, in which is responsible for complex cognitive behavior, decision making, personality expression, and social behavior. It is because of this developmental process of the brain along with students moving away from home for the first time that college students find themselves pressured with the growing issue of drug use in the United States. Drug use such as: alcohol, cannabis, codeine and “smart drugs” among college students can pose significant health, emotional, and behavior risk in their current life and also in the future.

First-year students are less likely to have used drugs than upper-classman (Brandt & Taverna 2014). However, throughout the decade’s drug use among college students has risen and has sparked a growing controversy in today’s society. In the United States, 2,179 full-time students drank alcohol and 1,326 full-time students tried an illicit drug for the first time, on a daily average out of the past year (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2016). Furthermore, students that are at higher risk of drug use are those who face personal issues in this new stage in life. These factors can be: stress, social anxiety, family pressure of getting good grades, competitive school atmosphere, and previous traumatic experiences (Colman & Trunzo 2015). Out of all of these factors stress and traumatic experiences are the greatest precursors to drug use in college.

In today’s society, 8 in 10 college students experience stress in their daily lives (American Psychological Association, 2014). This is about a 20% increase from a survey that was taken 5 years prior. As the process of getting a college diploma gets more and more stressful and competitive. Students are starting to seek methods to cope with their stress and escape from reality. 703,759 full time students in the United States used cannabis on a daily average (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2016). Cannabis use among students has become a growing issue in the Unites States ever since the legalization for recreational use in 8 states as of 2018. Thus, making cannabis easily accessible on a college community. Now smoking cannabis is more socially acceptable than smoking cigarettes in today’s society. Hence, more and more students are now turning to cannabis to help relieve their stress. However, studies show that about 30% of those who smoke cannabis may have or develop some degree of cannabis dependency.

Furthermore, those who begin using cannabis before the age of 18 are 7 times more likely to develop dependency (National Institution of Drug Abuse, 2018). This is probably due to the fact that THC potency in cannabis has nearly tripled in the past 20 years. In the 1990s the average THC concentrate was about 3.8% whereas, in 2014 the average THC contrition was 12.2%. Researchers still don’t fully understand the effects of high potency THC on the developing brain. However, researchers do know that smoking cannabis affects brain development and lung efficiency. Such as for short term use once can experience: Respiratory illnesses/infections, increased heart rate, increase blood pressure, paranoia. As for long term use can impair thinking, memory, and learning functions. Cannabis use among college students can also interfere with one’s productivity causing you to skip class, not engaging in active listening, procrastination, and getting low grades.

As more and more emerging adults are get admitted into college every year. Colleges are getting more impacted, in which leads to an increase atmosphere of competiveness. With the combined stress of working while taking classes, being competitive in school, along with parental pressure to get good grades. Contributes to the growing trend of college students taking prescribed medication such as Adderall and Ritalin, also known as “smart drugs”, in order to study longer and get better grades. Despite research showing that there is no evidence that proves that these substances increase long term academic performance and retention. “Smart drugs” misuse appears to be higher in college students (9.9%) than in non-college peers (2.4%) (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2016). Taking “smart drugs” recreationally can actually affects the human body in a negative way.

“Smart drugs” are categorized as a stimulant that are composed of amphetamine salts thus, making it a relative to methamphetamine (Meth). Whereas, methamphetamine is a schedule I drug that is classified as highly addictive and illegal substance but, “Smart drugs” are prescribed by doctors all across the nation. “Smart drugs” also known as legal meth messes with your brain chemistry producing more dopamine causing one to feel good and increases attention span. Increasing these levels of neurotransmitters causes one’s heart rate and stroke volume to rise increasing cardiac output making the heart work extra hard causing blood pressure to rise. If someone were to take “smart drugs” repeatedly they can develop hypertension which is accompanied with various of other long term health issues such as: vascular damage, myocardial infarction, kidney damage, stroke, and atherosclerosis.


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Issue of Drug Usage among Emerging Adults. (2022, Mar 31). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/issue-of-drug-usage-among-emerging-adults/

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