In recent months, many countries have enforced social distancing rules to curb the spread of coronavirus. Stay-at-home orders, temporary closure of businesses, and a ban on domestic and international transport have become the order of the day, forcing almost everyone – including children and adolescents – to stay at home. Now, researchers are identifying a potential complication of these social distancing rules– an increase in teen substance abuse.
Recent data from across the world have linked social distancing measures to higher rates of mental health problems, including anxiety and depression. Studies have identified a higher risk of these problems in countries where social isolation has been widespread and prolonged. Findings also reveal that these mental health problems may be more common in adolescents, who may find social distancing extremely difficult to cope with.
Teens have been away from school and their friends and exposed to news of deaths, disease, job losses almost round the clock as a result of the pandemic. These stressors may drive teens to anxiety and depression, for which they may increasingly resort to the use of psychoactive substances.
The researchers advise that parents be there for their children at this time, helping them get through the situation while looking out for any behavioral changes such as excessive worry, unhealthy eating habits, poor sleep, etc., that may predispose to or suggest substance abuse.