Substance Abuse in Youth

by Carson M.

As youth become older, they are exposed to an increasing number of factors that can negatively affect their development through sport and leisure. One of the main factors that influenced drop out in older youth’s participation in sport in my community was the use and exposure to alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. Growing up, I experienced a large number of my friends drop out of sports that they once found so much enjoyment and overall benefit from because they made the choice to go out drinking on the weekends instead. As early teenagers, my friends had very little knowledge on the long-term effects that these choices would have on them and I feel as though they changed for the worse because of it. Aside from the negative health effects that can be caused from substance abuse, they were also putting themselves at a disadvantage in development of social skills, self-worth as well as meaningful relationship development with peers and adult figures that come with the participation in sports.

In a study completed by Wade-Mdivanian (2016), it was found that after youth attended a summer conference that focused on substance prevention, a significant change was found in relation to improved knowledge of alcohol, tobacco and other drug, risks, attitudes toward use, self-efficacy, perceptions of leadership and future participation and involvement. Although some of the facts show a decline in youth usage (such as cigarette smoking) it has also been identified that the use of drugs and alcohol has been consistently rising. A study completed in the US reported that over a third (35.8%) of all youth surveyed reported having used an illicit drug during their lifetime and nearly half (48.4%) of the youth participants identified as having used alcohol. With these staggering numbers being found I believe that it is necessary to address this problem early within youth and educate them on the risks associated with these substances before they can stumble upon them on their own.

By teaching youth at a young age that drugs and alcohol are bad for their health, it could give them a reason to say no and provide them with knowledge on why this is the right choice to be making. I remember as a kid being offered various drugs and alcohol at sporting events, and I always felt confident in declining in response because I was educated by my parents as to why these things were bad for me and the negative effect that they could impose on the rest of my life. By implementing programs to educate youth on the effects of substance abuse, youth will feel empowered as they will be educated on the matter and have the ability to influence the outcome of their own life and events through the choice of making good decisions.


Wade-Mdivanian, R., Anderson-Butcher, D., Newman, T. J., Ruderman, D. E., Smock, J., & Christie, S. (2016). Exploring the long-term impact of a positive youth development-based alcohol, tobacco and other drug prevention program. Journal Of Alcohol & Drug Education60(3), 67-90.

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8 Responses to Substance Abuse in Youth

  1. leannewright2 says:

    Carson great post! this is a topic that deffinetly needs to be addressed more as it is currently a serious problem facing our youth today.
    growing up I had many of the same experiences of peers dropping out of sport and recreation because they found other opportunities for past times such as drinking and using illegal drugs. I remember being told ” I have better things to do” than attend practices especially on weekends. being a competitive dancer trying to qualify for nationals starting in middle school this is something i always struggled with as i often felt i was missing out on many events with my peer group as i was constantly training and i always felt pressure from my peers to drop out of sport as well.
    i believe sport gives youth the best opportunity to develop a positive self sense of self worth and have the best chance at a positive future. if a child is motivated and committed to their sport they will generally stay out of trouble and not participate in illegal activities for much longer. sport allows youth to learn to prioritize which is an important future life skill. youth participating in sport also generally have a better understanding of the importance of health as they are put through tough physical workouts and learn the importance of nutrition. these youth will understand the importance of taking care of their bodies compared to youth not participating in sports.
    we must start educating young athletes about the danger of alcohol and drugs at an earlier age so they are aware and understand the importance of taking care of themselves. if we can stress the danger than can take place we can keep youth involved in sport longer and in practices on the weekends and not out drinking.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Carson, great post about something different and very important!
    Through the advanced world of technology in today’s society, youth are being exposed to age inappropriate content such as drugs and alcohol on social media daily. As someone who uses social media on a regular basis, I have noticed that it has become much easier for everyone, including youth, to access these types of substances. They can simply go on social media and either see content of someone else abusing drugs or alcohol or even contact someone who can provide them with these things just by the click of a button. The statistics of the study which you provided in your post proves that youth are falling into this negative trend and that this problem needs to be addressed by all individuals and groups who are working with youth in the sport and recreation world. By exposing youth to the realities of today’s world and educating them in sport and recreational environments can allow them to build skills of resiliency to overcome these temptations. The use of drugs and alcohol are preventable if the proper education is provided; sport and recreation programs and organizations are a place where youth can go to escape these types of behaviours. They can also encourage and provide youth with the tools to build the resiliency (having role models, constructively using time, and receiving support from others) to overcome adversity when it is presented.

    Brittany A.

  3. Kunderhi says:

    Very interesting blog post Carson! This is a topic in today’s society that needs to be addressed quite seriously. I also had a similar experience with drug and alcohol abuse in sports while I was growing up. Once I got into middle school and especially early high school years, many of my friends started to smoke cigarettes, marijuana and drink alcohol. They also started to enjoy doing that instead of participating in sports on the weekends. This was very frustrating for me because I loved sports all throughout school, and when my friends started having different interests than me, it made it very difficult to connect and relate to them. Not only did it effect my relationship with them, but it started effecting their school because they had different priorities than doing homework in the evenings. It started effecting their relationships with their parents and younger siblings because they were always hiding stuff from them.

    After reading the results from the study you provided information from, I definitely agree that this is a problem that needs to be addressed! Youth need to be educated on the importance of sport and leisure participation (long term and short term), as well as the risk factors associated with drug and alcohol use. This could be done by parents informing youth, schools informing youth, and another very important one would be if their own peers could influence them to not engage in these bad behaviors.

    Kendra U.

  4. acamero5 says:

    Good post Carson, I think you made a lot of great points and had an interesting view on this topic considering you had the opportunity yourself as a youth to participate in substance usage. You’re lucky you were educated about the negative effect of substance use/abuse can have on you, as it could have really changed your life. I feel that today most people are aware that substances such as alcohol, tobacco, and drugs are bad for you but are not completely informed on how they can impact your life in the long run.
    Back in High school I played on the school’s hockey and football team, and although alcohol and drugs were definitely not uncommon, the big thing seemed to be tobacco products. Many of the football guys would have at least one cigarette or “dart” before and after each practice (we practiced four days a week), and would also smoke multiple at parties. Where as with the hockey team, the big thing was chewing tobacco/”dipping”. Before and after every practice, on the bus, even between periods of games sometimes guys would have a dip in. They did tis because it was a quick and easy head rush, there was no smoke, and you could just spit into and empty bottle/cup. I never participated in tobacco usage with my teammates because I was also taught as a child the negative effects it could have on you, and my mom was a dental assistant growing up and told me many stories about people coming in to her work place and having to get growths removed, which really turned me away from it.
    Some guys did it for the head rush, some did it to “look cool”, and some guys even did it just to fit in. I had a friend that was doing it in our hotel room one time with about half our team and he literally turned to me once they all left and said: “I hated that, I just did it cause (our captain) offered me one”. He spent the rest of that night throwing up from it. At the end of the year we took a poll in the room and it turns out I was the only one on the entire team who had never done chewing tobacco (including our coaches). And to this day I am very happy I did not, our captain at the time did it religiously and now has barely any gums left in his mouth and he says it hurts to brush his teeth.
    All in all I thought you made some very good points, education can be a massive reason as to whether or not people partake in substance usage like this. Not as many people are educated about the negative effects of it as they should be, and it’s kind of scary because it tends to be more common at younger ages; people in grade 9/10 seem to be going to parties and getting drunk, drugs are becoming more common, it seems to be getting easier for youth to be able to get a hold of tobacco products, etc. And these can have negative impacts on not only youth in sports, but the development of youth in general, and if they are educated on substances such as these, then hopefully they can make the proper choices when it comes down to it.
    Alex Cameron

  5. Ryan L. says:

    Great post, Carson! This is a great topic choice, as alcohol and drug abuse is a reoccurring theme among today’s youth. It is interesting, but not surprising to see that nearly half of all youth have tried alcohol; clearly, more needs to be done to address this issue. We often only emphasize the negative physical health effects of drugs and alcohol, but fail to include the negative impact that they have on development. Although sport and recreation leaders should be warning youth about the harmful effects of drugs and alcohol, I believe this responsibility lies mainly in the hands of parents. As youth approach adolescence, they are likely to be exposed to alcohol and/or drugs; whether or not they choose to engage in these negative behaviours is often dependent on the perceptions that their parents or guardians have on the issue.
    I believe that one of the main reasons as to why drug and alcohol continues to be such an issue is that parents and other adults often use a problem-based approach, which sees youth as “problems to be managed”. Rather than using a problem-based approach and telling youth not to use drugs or alcohol, youth should be viewed as “assets in the making” and reminded that alcohol and drugs can prevent them from reaching their full potential. Doing so provides youth with a sense of purpose, maintains their motivation to be successful and productive members of society, and improves their resistance skills (ability to resist peer pressure). If we are able to significantly reduce the consumption of drugs and alcohol among youth, then we are well on our way to decreasing youth dropout and ensuring that more youth receive the developmental benefits of sport and recreation.

    Ryan L.

  6. agreggnb says:

    Great post Carson. It is good to hear about the positive effects the summer training camps are having on youth in sports. It is important that youth learn from a young age about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, so that they do not drop out. While drugs and alcohol are dangerous on their own, once the youth member drops out of the sport, there is a higher chance of their physical health dropping further, due to inactivity. Playing sports on a team or in a club gives the participants a friend group and a support group. These people usually have common interests, and can help to motivate each other to stay healthy. Playing on a team also helps to incentive the players to stay in shape. If they drop out of the team because of drugs or alcohol, they may lose that incentive and no longer see a reason to be active. This can have long term negative effects on their health.

    The other side of substance abuse that youth need to be aware of is Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs). A common form of PED for athletes are steroids. While these drugs may help the athlete perform better and recover faster, there are many side effects that can both affect the athlete immediately and in the longer term. Some of these side effects include gynecomastia, high blood pressure, and heart disease. As youth grow into higher levels of sport their are more people taking PEDs. If youth are warned about the potential negative consequences of PEDs early they may be less likely to take them as they progress in their sport.

    Alec G.

  7. bleblan3 says:

    Hey Carson, thought I’d offer my opinion based on this as I personally have experienced the same small town consistencies that you have and can agree with you on several notes. As my father has been a recreational alcohol drinker and drug user for many years, it has become apparent that it is apart of every day life, even at a young age. Although I have never participated for fear of wrath from my mother, I regularly was offered opportunities for enlightenment. I bring this into the mix because I want to stress the fact that peer pressure is not necessarily as big of a factor in small towns as I have been led to believe.
    Albeit I have had friends around me fall victim to the horrors of social and over used recreational substance abuse. A lot of attention is pinpointed to the fact that youth are dealing with a lot more stress then the average adult, but what is not taken into account is the truly personal side to what they are experiencing. The fact is, adults no loner have the capacity to know what it is like to be a youth, and frankly would most likely scar them in the sense that those who are different are castrated.
    The fact of the matter is, we must attain a better relationship with youth then ever before. Not merely for supervision, but understanding what a student or youth may have experienced. Substance abuse is no laughing matter and cannot be taken lightly. That is why I personally recommend a change of scenery and the continuation of important relationships to overcome any misconceptions and fears one may have. Everyone is different in their own way.

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