Intense Physical Activity Predisposes Teens to Substance Use Disorders

Regular physical activity is important for everyone as it boosts self-esteem, keeps active and energetic and lowers the propensity to serious illnesses. For teenagers, who go through a lot of hormonal changes and hence the issues related to mood and emotions, regular workouts help them deal with the physical and emotional challenges of everyday life. However, according to a new study, teens engaged in regular and vigorous physical activity are prone to develop substance abuse problems.

Members from the Royal Australian and New Zealand School of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) conducted a survey on nearly 3,500 teenagers and concluded that those who worked out for more than four days a week were susceptible to develop substance abuse problem. The researchers analyzed the physical activity of 14-year-old teens and then evaluated their mental health outcomes at 21 years.

Lead author Dr. Shuichi Suetani said that teens who engaged in high-intensity workouts were susceptible to drinking alcohol as young adults. This was found to be true especially for young girls.

Differing opinions

Dr. Matthew Dunn, senior lecturer in public health at Deakin University, and Dr. Mark Hutchinson, professor at Adelaide University’s Medical School, found that exposure to alcohol and drugs takes place because of environmental and societal pressures as well.

Dr. Dunn said that there is nothing new when it comes to sports and consequent exposure to harmful substances. He said that multiple sociocultural things could drive a teenager toward drug or alcohol abuse. As per him, if a teenager is a part of a club or a team that receives sponsorship from an alcohol company, there is an understated pressure to drink.

As per him, when an individual is around athletes and peers who abuse alcohol and other substances, one gets inevitably drawn to try these addiction-forming substances. However, when children are under supervision, they are less likely to go astray.

Dr. Hutchinson said that exclusive sports clubs and competitive environments could be the gateway to substance abuse. He is of the opinion that teens who follow the group mentality by mimicking other people’s unhealthy behavior could be damaging their future.

Children are impressionable and do not know how to say no to such advances or make sensible decisions. Moreover, their brains are still in a developing stage, so they can suffer from the consequences in a more serious way than adults. The affected teenagers may ultimately require affordable drug and alcohol treatment at good addiction facilities.

The RANZCP research also established that the serotonin release during an intense workout could be responsible for pushing the teens towards alcohol and other substances but the finding was refuted by Dr. Hutchinson because of dearth of data supporting the view.

Talking to teens about substance abuse

Teenage is a vulnerable time when many young boys and girls are not yet capable of making informed choices and are likely to feel disoriented later. Parents can play a pivotal role in guiding their children about the perils of alcohol and substance abuse. It is important to talk and keep the communication channels open.

Some ways in which parents can address this issue are:

* Get involved in the child’s life without intruding. Set rules for partying, homecoming, friends’ time, play time and other activities. When children know that they are being monitored closely, they are less likely to indulge in substance abuse.

* Parents should remind teens about the deleterious effects of alcohol and substances on physical health, academic and sports performance, social interactions as well as family and romantic relationships.

* Parents should encourage their teens and show appreciation even when the achievement is small. Positive reinforcements can go a long way in keeping them away from negative influences.

* Children should be encouraged to pursue a hobby, try a new activity and volunteer. Their screen time should be minimal and parents should know all the friends and acquaintances their child is mingling with.

Road to recovery

Use of alcohol and other substances can be detrimental to the functional and structural abilities of the brain, especially during the adolescence. It’s a phase full of emotional upheavals and physical transformations that increase the likelihood of indulging in wrong habits. Substance abuse can lead to legal troubles, financial woes, drop in grades, unsafe sexual practices and much more. It is therefore prudent to stay away from substances and seek immediate help when required.

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