It is obvious that illegal drugs can cause problems to the user. This statement is especially true for teenagers as their brains and bodies are still developing. A new study highlights the potential adverse effects that using synthetic drugs can have on a young persons mental state.This may sound slightly obvious, but there are many reasons why young people should avoid using illegal substances. First and foremost would be the fact that narcotics use can lead to numerous health problems and the threat of addiction. Closely following this are the legal ramifications of being caught in possession of illegal drugs, which could include severe fines and potentially the risk of incarceration. New research has highlighted another danger of teenage drug use; an increased risk of developing depression later in life.
While the criminal repercussions and physical damage that can be caused by illegal drug use are well documented, the effects of substance abuse on a teenager’s mental state have not in the past been as widely studied. A new study recently published in the online edition of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health titled “Prospective associations between meth/amphetamine (speed) and MDMA (Ecstasy) use and depressive symptoms in secondary school students” aimed to tackle this shortfall in our clinical knowledge. It should be noted that this study only investigated the teenage use of two specific drugs, ecstasy and speed, not other substances such as cocaine or cannabis.
The study, undertaken over a five year period from 2003 to 2008, involved observing the mental health of 3,880 secondary school students from what are termed as disadvantaged areas in Quebec, Canada. Those students participating in the sample were initially surveyed about their consumption of speed and ecstasy when they were aged 15 to 16. In a follow up survey a year later the same students had their mental health assessed using accepted methodology.
From the survey the researchers learned that speed appeared to be more popular with 11.6% of students admitting its use. Only 8% of those questioned said they had tried ecstasy. A year later in the follow up those performing the study found that 15% of the teens scored in the upper end of the CES-D scale. This scale is a measurement of depressive symptoms. After adjusting for teens that had already experienced some form of depression or used other drugs the conclusion was reached that students who had used speed or ecstasy had a 60 to 70% increased possibility of developing depressive symptoms. This likelihood is compared against students who never used either drug.
Furthermore those students who had used both drugs had almost double the chance of experiencing depressive issues. The researchers summed up their findings by saying, “Our results provide, to the best of our knowledge, the first compelling evidence that recreational [ecstasy] and [speed] use places typically developing secondary school students at greater risk of experiencing depressive symptoms.”
The study states that further research is necessary to fully understand the interplay between the drugs in question and the brain. That said, from this data it seems clear that the recreational use of synthetic drugs such as ecstasy and speed can be damaging to the mental development of teenagers. Anyone who has suffered through depression knows how bad it can be at the lowest points. To wilfully increase ones chance of becoming depressed is not a risk worth taking.