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Substance Use

Substance Use

Sample Answer 

Substance Use 

Teenage years tend to be very complicated because of the developmental changes that occur in the transition from childhood to adulthood. As a result, teenagers can be exposed to various mental health issues, one of the most common being substance use disorders (Chassin, Hussong & Beltran, 2009). It is important to understand the signs and behavioural changes that demonstrate substance use so as to help teens deal with their psychological issues. The case of Your Lot in Life represents an example of a teenager who is struggling with substance use, leading to significant behavioural changes, which his mom noticed. This case is a good learning example that can be used to better understand the issue of substance use in the teenage years.

Substance Use Disorders in Adolescents

Adolescent years are characterized by a lot of physical and psychological changes. As teenagers get older, they like to challenge themselves and experiment as they challenge themselves to grow into independent adults. According to Levy and Sundaram (2018), the adolescent brain is deliberately set up to take risks. The prefrontal cortex, the section of the brain that is responsible for careful decision-making, does not develop fully until the mid-20s. This explains why adolescents tend to be more experimental with their decision-making. They are more likely to see activities that offer an immediate reward rather than those that are considered as risks. Unfortunately, this characteristic often leads to the making of destructive decisions such as drug and substance use.

Psychological changes that occur in the teenage years may also trigger some co-occurring mental disorders that can motivate the use of alcohol and drugs. Some common mental health issues that affect teenagers may include depression, anxiety disorder, and bipolar disorders (Lai et al., 2015). Substance use disorder is a common comorbidity in patients who have been diagnosed with these mental illnesses. For example, a teenager who may feel depressed may turn to alcohol to tackle their mental and emotional issues. With time such problems lead to the development of substance use disorders.

Substance use in adolescents is also common because of social and environmental factors. Peer influence is one of the teenagers’ most common reasons for drug use. Young people tend to be in environments where they are exposed to such influence (Chassin,  Hussong & Beltran, 2009). For instance, teenagers who are in high school may be influenced by their peers to attend social events that may include alcohol and other substances. Because of the normalization of such substances within their circles, adolescents can easily be pressured to use them. Environmental factors can also influence the decision to use drugs. For example, the pressure to achieve good grades in school to have a better chance of success in life can lead to the use of drugs and alcohol or both. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to any behavioural changes that may occur in the adolescent ages to detect any possible chance of substance use, as in the case of the boy discussed in the diary.

Signs and Symptoms of Substance Use

The abuse of alcohol and other substances is considered to be a psychological problem. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition (DSM-5) lists the common signs and symptoms that are shared by people with a substance use problem (Hasin et al., 2013). These include emotional, psychological, and behavioural changes when a person uses a harmful substance. One of the main symptoms of a substance use disorder is its continued use, even when it poses a significant danger in a person’s life (Hasin et al., 2013). People with substance use problems tend to use it even when it has caused significant negative changes in their lives. They develop a dependence on the substance such that they cannot stop even if they want to. Alcohol and drug use is also considered a problem when it starts to affect the user’s work, social, and school life (Hasin et al., 2013). There are various factors that can be identified in the case of the son in the diary showing that they have a possible drug use problem.

One of the behavioural signs of drug abuse is increased secrecy and isolation. People who use drugs try as much as possible to hide their problems (Kann et al., 2014). For instance, in this case, the son avoided being in the same environment as his mother at all times. Another sign of drug abuse is increased aggression and irritability (Kann et al., 2014). This boy was always angry for no reason, and there are also punch holes in his room, which are signs of excessive aggression. Alcohol also causes significant changes in behaviour. A person who has a substance use problem may demonstrate behaviours that deviate from their norm (Kann et al., 2014). For instance, the boy, in this case, stopped cleaning his room or taking care of his responsibilities even though he had loved such tasks before. Alcohol use disorders also prevent concentration on one’s tasks, thus causing poor performance. This can be seen in the way this boy started performing poorly in school and at work, leading to the loss of his job. These are some signs that parents or caregivers can look for when trying to determine whether a teenager is using drugs or alcohol.

Treatment of Substance Use Disorders

            Once teenagers have been found to be using alcohol or drugs, it is necessary that some steps are taken to treat their condition and prevent reoccurrence. Several strategies for treatment and recovery have been examined by psychology researchers and found to be effective. First, there is a need for psychological interventions. Substance use is a mental disorder; thus, psychological intervention is essential to determine the cause of the problem and develop the best treatment options (Horsfall et al., 2009). Such an intervention is done through therapy with a psychotherapist or counsellor trained in the area of substance abuse. For instance, the boy, in this case, was taken to a teen rehabilitation centre, where he talked to a teen therapist. Therapy also helps to deal with any possible dependencies that may have developed as a result of drug use.

Environmental changes are also important when trying to treat substance use problems in teenagers. It is crucial to identify the triggers that caused the development of the problem in the patient’s environment and eliminate them. Triggers may include friends, drug exposure, or excessive money to access drugs (Najavits & Hien, 2013). The change of environment helps the affected person to be exposed to a new environment that supports recovery. This increases the chances of successful treatment. For instance, in this case, the mother of the affected boy destroyed the drugs, hid prescription drugs at home, and reduced the boy’s allowance to eliminate their ability to purchase drugs. Such changes reduce the chances for the bot to find and use drugs again.

Most importantly, support is important for people who are suffering from drug and substance abuse. Often, people with substance use problems tend to isolate themselves from their family and friends. One of the main goals of treatment is to help the patient to rebuild their social relationships. Social relationships help to promote the development of a healthier lifestyle because of their more positive influence. Therefore, when designing a treatment plan, it is important to develop strategies for strengthening the social relationships of the affected person.


            The case presented in Your Lot in Life is an eye-opener that draws attention to the substance use problems experienced by many teenagers. As this research paper demonstrates, substance use is a common problem in adolescent years. This problem is caused by the significant changes that occur as people transition from childhood to adulthood. However, there are signs that one can look out for to determine when the problem exists. Substance use is also a treatable problem if the right rehabilitation strategies are followed.


Chassin, L., Hussong, A., & Beltran, I. (2009). Adolescent substance use. Handbook of adolescent psychology, 1.

Hasin, D. S., O’Brien, C. P., Auriacombe, M., Borges, G., Bucholz, K., Budney, A., … & Schuckit, M. (2013). DSM-5 criteria for substance use disorders: recommendations and rationale. American Journal of Psychiatry, 170(8), 834-851.

Horsfall, J., Cleary, M., Hunt, G. E., & Walter, G. (2009). Psychosocial treatments for people with co-occurring severe mental illnesses and substance use disorders (dual diagnosis): A review of empirical evidence. Harvard review of psychiatry, 17(1), 24-34.

Kann, L., Kinchen, S., Shanklin, S. L., Flint, K. H., Hawkins, J., Harris, W. A., … & Whittle, L. (2014). Youth risk behavior surveillance—United States, 2013. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report: Surveillance Summaries, 63(4), 1-168.

Lai, H. M. X., Cleary, M., Sitharthan, T., & Hunt, G. E. (2015). Prevalence of comorbid substance use, anxiety and mood disorders in epidemiological surveys, 1990–2014: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Drug and alcohol dependence, 154, 1-13.

Levy, S., & Sundaram, S. (2018). Adolescence: A high risk time for substance use disorders. Harvard Health Publishing. Retrieved from:

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Substance Use 

Prepare a short (4-6 pages) research paper that identifies several key issues related to the scenario you chose for your Lot in Life. Incorporate at least 8-10 scholarly, credible, and current references to support your ideas, drawing primarily from government and community agencies as well as scholarly journals and books. Include in-text citations and a reference list in APA format.

Substance Use

Substance Use

You have noticed behavioral changes in your 14-year-old and are concerned that he may be using drugs or alcohol

My Scenario and part journal is attached.

Your paper should have a cover sheet that lists your name, the BEHS 343 section number and the scenario you have chosen. Your paper should be double-spaced and use a standard font (e.g. Times New Roman, 12 pt). Be sure to include a reference list at the end of your Part 2 assignment.

Paste your Part 1 assignment in at the end of this research paper.

Assignment Format and Referencing Style

Use UMUC’s online Guide to Writing and Research for the format, especially for how to cite your references. You may also wish to consult guidelines for APA style. (Do not use footnotes at the bottom of the page; rather, following APA, list your references at the end of the paper.)

Plagiarism is the intentional or unintentional use of another person’s words or ideas without giving credit to the author. Make sure you read chapter 5, Academic Integrity and Documentation, in the Guide to Writing and Research. The UMUC Undergraduate Catalog also contains a lengthy discussion on Academic Integrity and Academic Dishonesty. In cases of suspected plagiarism, the assignment in question will not be graded and the student may be reported to the Dean for sanction. Sanctions can include failing the assignment, failing the course, or in extreme cases, expulsion from the university.  

Web Resources

As you use the Web for information, you should be aware of the fact that the Web has both good and bad information, as well as information that is biased. There are many online resources devoted to finding and evaluating information on the Web.   A very detailed discussion of how to evaluate information can be found in the UMUC library website. Do not use Wikipedia as a source for your information.

Finally, sources that tend to have good information include the following: college or university department sites (be careful of student pages; some are very good, but some are not so good), professional organizations, governmental agencies, professional journals, and regularly published newspapers and magazines.

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