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Teenager Case Study: Substance Abuse

For youth leaders, this is a study of a teenager who has a substance abuse problem and was released from a detention center. It involves a seventeen old male who abuses marijuana, alcohol, and ecstasy; and is also the son of two ministers. This story should help readers understand the dynamics involved with a teenage drug user and will also help youth leaders develop effective skills for reaching out to a troubled teen in need of support, especially after incarceration. A seventeen-year-old male, “Jimmy,” lived in a middle-class suburb.

Jimmy was referred to me by his sister, because she felt my knowledge and past experiences might be helpful in reaching him. Later on I decided to meet and conduct an interview at his house, with his sister present in an adjacent room. During the conversation, several facts emerged. Jimmy had been in trouble with the legal system, mostly for drug possession and motor vehicle infractions. He said he had been kicked out of high school because of his drug use. He had been using alcohol and marijuana since he was about 13. He had more recently been taking ecstasy.

When asked why he used drugs, he claimed it reduced his boredom and provided a way to escape and have fun. Additionally, it was discerned that his father worked long hours (in the mental health field), and was basically absent from the family. Later, I learned that his father denied his son’s habits. The family, which also includes a younger 16-year-old brother, had gone to see a therapist but Jimmy was an unwilling participant. Jimmy noted that he does have a problem with authority figures, like the police, because he believes they are corrupt.

Jimmy did admit that police have a job to do, in terms of protecting people from harmful practices. Jimmy also realized that there are consequences of drug use and that he was headed for a state prison sentence if he did not improve his actions. He learned that his mother could be arrested under law if he had drugs in her house; this bothered Jimmy. I researched about what state prison was like and told him all about it. Throughout the intervention, then I listened and affirmed the young man without condoning his bad behavior.

In the end, I gained his trust and told him that his personal feelings would be kept confidential. I recommended that Jimmy be careful when he with his peers, and I encouraged him to select a friend who would help hold him accountable. I shared my phone number with him. Jimmy’s behavior improved. The relationship between teens and drugs has been around for decades; however, this is not what you would call positive. Substance abusing (which is using drugs or alcohol in ways than can cause physical harm) is often associated with crime.

But why do youths take drugs? Youth take drugs for the following reasons: social disorganization, peer pressure, family factors, emotional, or rational choice. Social disorganization deals with drug abuse to poverty and disorganized urban environment. Drug use by youth minority group members has been tied to factors such as racial prejudice, low-esteem, social status, and stress produced from environment. The National Youth Survey found that drug use tends to be higher among urban youths.

From my past experiences, although I lived in a small country, in my school the drug problem was bad and the police officer and teachers that worked at my high school had no idea whatsoever what was going on right under their noses seriously, I remember people at football games found this place behind a shed where no one went and they used to smoke and do drugs, it was bad. But of course no one could say anything about anything they saw otherwise that person will get death threats and get their tires slashed in the parking lot and have to go to homecoming fearing for their life.

Like one time I remember this girl said something and everyone in the school hated her and she was instantly unpopular. So yes there is a huge drug problem and getting students to rat each other out is so not going to happen. In a perfect world maybe, but in the real world, not a chance. Jimmy is a classic case of a lonely teenager who is never with his parents and is basically always hanging out with his friends which are a very bad influence.

The pattern that I recognize from Jimmy is that he has been wanting to get his parents attention and the only way he gets it, is by consuming excessive alcohol or illegal drugs. Teens feel alone at home and family. They look for something attractive that pleases them. They don’t get enough attention from parents. They were not used to get enough attention when they were kids. But when they were kids there were a lot of childish things that could make them busy and temporarily happy. But when they reach 14, those things can not attract them anymore.

They still suffer from lacking of attention and the things that could be a relief for them, have lost their attraction. So they look for new things. Definitely these new things cannot be found in family. They are already disappointed about family. Parents should be trained and educated about these things. They should know that all of these problems come because of lack of attention from one or both parents. One hour attention to children and teens saves hundreds of hours of therapy in future. It prevents a lot of problems that addiction is only one of them.

By interviewing Jimmy I found that teenagers see taking / using drugs are just a way of teenage-hood, most youth will try some sort of drug, maybe just to try it out or maybe for a reason. This teen said he has taken drugs because it was something to do, and everyone else around him was doing it and it was seen “cool” to take drugs and that it was a way to escape from the real world. Interviewing Jimmy was very interesting because I could sort of relate what he is going through from when I was in high school. Luckily Jimmy is acting on time before he goes to the wrong path and becomes a failure in life.

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