The current COVID-19 pandemic now has over seven million confirmed cases around the world with a rising death toll. According to the experts at the World Health Organization, the crisis is likely to stay for a very long time regardless of the control over coronavirus spread in some of the countries.
Consequently, various negative outcomes of the pandemic are expected which may range from an increase in mental health disorders to unemployment and economic uncertainty. In addition to these changes, another challenge for health care workers and parents may be the increase in substance abuse in teenagers and young adults.
Recent studies have linked the fear of contracting coronavirus, work-related stress, and lack of human interaction to a significant increase in the risk of having mental health disorders including anxiety and depression in all age groups. The problem is expected to be worse in families with limited access to healthcare facilities.
Therefore, social disturbances, family fights, and resorting to drugs and alcohol is expected behavior, especially in middle-aged adults. However, substance abuse in teenagers may also be a big threat, according to new reports.
Young adults and adolescents may use recreational drugs or consume excessive amounts of alcohol not only as a means of tackling stress but merely for killing time due to the lack of social activities and shutting down of educational institutes.
Elisa Trucco, who is an assistant professor of psychology at the Florida International University in Miami and affiliate of the FIU Center for Children and Families explains “Teens are spending significantly more time at home and greater exposure to headlines regarding COVID-19 can increase anxiety,”
“It’s important that parents talk with their teen about how they are feeling during this time given the increased risk for substance use.”
According to data from previous research on trauma-related behaviors, disasters, and health crises can cause long-term effects on the mental health of nearly all the people even after the event is over.
For instance, according to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, the instances of substance abuse increased by thirty-five percent three years following Hurricane Katrina in the US.
The majority of the people assume that such effects are only likely to last for a few months following traumatic events such as Hurricane Katrina or the current COVID-19 pandemic, but in reality, the impact of exposure to stress and trauma can remain for several years without treatment.
At the moment, substance abuse in teenagers can pose even greater challenges especially for those who are smokers or e-cigarette users, as the coronavirus infection is likely to be more severe as it primarily targets the lungs of the affected person.
The number of teenagers and young adults using vapes and e-cigarettes has already increased in the past few years, which means a large portion of them are vulnerable to the coronavirus infection.
Research has shown the aerosol from using vapes can damage the lungs to a significant extent and make them more susceptible to infection such as COVID-19. Therefore, it is important for parents to keep a check on teenagers and young adults at home.
According to Trucco, lowering the risk of substance abuse in teenagers can simply be done by reducing stress levels from constantly watching the news. Taking breaks from updates from the COVID-19 pandemic is fundamental for the mental health of not only teenagers but other people at home.
In addition, make sure to consume a healthy diet, getting seven to eight hours of sleep, and fulfill the daily physical activity requirement as it will maintain the health as well as help with keeping stress levels low.