Top Health Concerns in Your 20s: Substance Abuse

Young adults are at an increased risk for substance abuse.  People in their 20s usually go through significant life changes, such as increased freedom and new societal pressures related to starting new jobs, moving to new cities and leaving college.  Experimentation with and regular use of narcotic and alcoholic substances can be particularly harmful to young adults as their brains continue to develop well their 20’s.  But, the good news is that studies have shown that rehabilitative programs have the strongest impact on this age group.

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Alcohol Safety

Alcohol-related accidents are linked to nearly 50% of motorist deaths each year, and blood toxicity from too much alcohol kills thousands annually.

Many heavy drinkers in the 25-30 age group actually started prior to legal age. Because drinking alcohol is permissible, many individuals view drinking as harmless and are at risk for addiction.

Drinking socially with friends and family makes some open to excess and irresponsibility and poor judgment. This includes:

  • Losing inhibitions and sexual promiscuity
  • Inappropriate aggression
  • Dependence
  • Liver damage/Cirrhosis
  • Inability to maintain a good job
  • Damage to relationships

Help to quit alcohol consumption can be obtained through recovery centers specific to the appropriate age group and Alcoholics Anonymous groups.

Tobacco Usage

Smoking is one of the largest avoidable cancer causes, with 20% of American deaths from tobacco use annually.

Cancers linked to smoking are:

  • Larynx and esophagus
  • Mouth and throat
  • Lungs
  • Uterus and cervix
  • Kidney
  • Bladder
  • Stomach
  • Blood (Acute myeloid leukemia)

Medical problems linked to smoking are:

Smoking is an extremely difficult addiction to break because it has both a psychological component and physical dependency.  The daily ingrained habit can be socially pleasurable and the addicting but temporary high can be physically thrilling.

Immediate benefits of quitting include an improvement in taste and smell, breath and teeth improvement, decreased mucous and nasal congestion, decreased cough  and more energy for exertion without shortness of breath.

Quitting the smoking habit, while difficult, can be done if motivated.  Certainly dating and interviews to obtain a good job, which are big concerns in the 20s, are good motivations as well.

There are many options available between prescription medications, patches, gum, nicotine replacement inhalers and acupuncture treatments to help becoming smoke-free.  Discuss the options with your physician to select the program that works best for you.

Visit the Vitals Smoking Cessation Patient Guide to learn more about how to quit smoking.

Drug Abuse

This may start out with “clubbing,” socializing with friends or taking medication to stay awake, focus or deal with daily stresses.  However, drug dependency is a very grave problem leading to millions of medical conditions and injuries yearly.

Drug abuse contributes to violence, child abuse, spousal abuse, compromised driving, crime and an inability to maintain a job or relationships.

Typical drugs involved in abuse include:

  • Cocaine
  • Heroine
  • Marijuana
  • Prescription drugs
  • Inhalants
  • Amphetamines
  • Steroids
  • Club drugs

Drug addiction is a complicated illness associated with intense drug craving and compulsive activity to seek out the drug despite dire consequences. Addiction is uncontrollable and chronic, requiring long-term therapy or repeat care in a rehabilitation center.  Medications are used as well as therapy in the hopes that the drug of addiction will not be as violently craved or used in the future.  Setbacks are quite common.

In order to be most effective, treatment must be individually tailored to truly address the multiple needs of addicted individuals.  Counseling is required, often with medication to treat withdrawal symptoms.  Therapy and behavioral treatments enable the development of healthy life skills and allow for addressing other mental disorders that accompany this problem.


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