Continuing Medical Education

Mental health of and substance use by adolescents

Quarraisha Abdool Karim


Almost 40% of the population of sub-Saharan Africa are between
the ages of 12 and 24 years. Adolescence is a time of important
biological, physiological, neurological, behavioural and social transitions
towards adulthood. This period of transition is characterised
by higher impulsivity, increased sensation-seeking behaviour, higher
risk-taking behaviours relating to substance use and/or sexual experimentation,
an increased sense of self-awareness/invincibility, and
a higher importance of social relationships involving partners and
peers rather than parents and older siblings. Not surprisingly, the
psychological stressors of going through adolescence, coupled with
major hormonal, physiological and identity development and peer
pressure (to fit in with dominant peer norms), result in enormous
stress levels that sometimes lead to a variety of mental health disorders,
e.g. inadequate coping and/or support structures.

Author's affiliations

Quarraisha Abdool Karim, Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa, Durban

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Mental health; Substance use

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2016;106(6):547. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2016.v106i6.11026

Article History

Date submitted: 2016-05-10
Date published: 2016-05-10

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