Self-Medication Among Teens

Self-medication is the act of using drugs or other substances to change a person’s mental or emotional state in order to cope with stress or mental illness. Many teens tend to turn to self-medication in the form of marijuana as they navigate through tense situations within high school, college, or the workplace. While this drug is currently being legalized across the country and is beneficial to many people, it can easily be abused through self-medication. This new wave of drug use shows that many people are using drugs to ease the pain of a mental illness instead of for recreational purposes.

               This creates a dependence as many of these young adults begin to rely on outside substances and use them on a daily basis. Marijuana has recently been legalized in many states for medical and recreational use. Though the legalization of marijuana is beneficial to many people. But according to the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, as this substance becomes more accessible those who suffer from anxiety or depression are at risk for becoming too reliant on this drug to ease their pain. While marijuana has many medicinal purposes such as helping those who suffer from glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, and various types of cancer, extended use by the average person can result in more harm than good. Though the chemical properties of the drug are not addictive, people can become addicted to the feeling that its use provides. This self-medication ultimately leads to dependence.

A study conducted in 2002 by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute found that out of 1601 students that were followed for five years, 7% were daily marijuana users by the age of 20, and 6% of these daily users reported a struggle with mental health through anxiety or depression. As this drug is aiding their difficulties with mental health, many of the young adults who were examined in this study reported a continued lack of motivation and energy, and found that when they tried to decrease their marijuana use that their symptoms of anxiety and depression worsened. When teens rely on marijuana to accommodate mental health problems, it becomes more difficult to control the use of this substance.

“Self-medication is basically using drugs to find relief, mostly from anxiety or depression,” states Franklin psychology teacher, Bill McClendon. He notes that young adults who are dealing with anxiety tend to self-medicate because they “need something to slow them down.” This aids they cycle of self-medication because it’s not the drug itself that is addictive but the way it helps those who are suffering.

With its recent legalization in many states, it is often easier for teens to find access to marijuana then it is for them to obtain help from a professional, such as a counselor or therapist. This leads them to self-medication. Hopefully resources for teens and young adults who are struggling with their mental health will continue to expand so more people won’t feel like they have to turn to drugs to cope with their current situation.

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