According to figures released by HealthDay News, the battle against American adolescent substance abuse is far from over. Today, over a third of US teens admit to actively using drugs and/or alcohol on a regular basis.
What do these projections mean for the future of American youth? How can parents and educators help keep kids off drugs? It can be difficult not to feel overwhelmed by these statistics, but the first step to turning this unfortunate trend around is to understand why teens turn to drugs in the first place.
Why Drugs and Alcohol
Drugs and alcohol have been a means of escape from reality for both teens and adults for decades now. In the US, trends may change and popular drugs come and go, but our youth seem to be going with the ebb and flow of substances both new and old. Today we see kids as young as 11 and 12 trying drugs and alcohol for the first time. What drives this drug and alcohol-seeking behavior?
A number of personal situations can cause kids and teens to turn to drugs and alcohol. For example:
- Peer pressure
- Personal appearance anxiety
- Being overweight
- Desiring to fit in or “be cool”
- Stress (academic, familial or social)
Substance Abuse: The Underlying Cause
There may not be a “one size fits all” answer to understanding why teens turn to drugs, but there is a common denominator which underlies each of the above mentioned situations which can act as risk factors for adolescent substance abuse.
The reason an individual (whether adult, teenager or child) turns to substance abuse is to escape unwanted feelings. This could be very simple or extremely complex.
For example, a child or teenager could be the subject of ridicule for abstaining from drugs. By using drugs, he/she may hope to escape that and instead be perceived as “cool.” A more complex situation could involve a teenager who, going through tough situations at home or in his/her own life, may turn to drugs and alcohol as a way to numb the uncomfortable feelings of depression, anxiety or fear.
In both of these examples, individuals are seen to use drugs as a means of avoiding some uncomfortable or destructive situation in their life. Sometimes mere boredom is reason enough for teens to start drinking or using drugs.
The vast number of potential situations is too great to estimate, but by understanding the most reasons kids turn to substance abuse, we can look for warning signs and prevent adolescent drug abuse-related tragedy.
Analyzing Youth Substance Abuse Trends
Experts at our Narconon Michigan Freedom Center facility agree that the development of substance abuse habits at a young age puts such individuals at high risk of later life problems, patterns and dependencies.
Marijuana continues to be the most widely used drug amongst American teens. A recent study collected data from over 70,000 teens between the ages of 12 and 17. 13% of these youth admitted to regular marijuana use with 7% admitting to abusing narcotic painkillers such as Vicodin and Oxycontin.
Prescription painkillers have become a growing concern for both drug enforcement groups and parents, because these powerful opioid drugs (synthetic opiates) can be physically damaging if not lethal. Much anti-drug focus has been shifted to prescription drug abuse because these pills are largely available in one’s own medicine cabinet. If not properly stored or disposed of, they can very easily get into the wrong hands.
Keep your household safe by educating your kids early and often on the dangers of drug abuse. If you suspect something is wrong or that your child may be abusing drugs, do not hesitate to communicate with them on the subject right away. For more information on effective drug education by Narconon Michigan Freedom Center see our most recent press release at: http://www.prweb.com/releases/Narconon-Freedom-Center/Michigan-Drug-Education/prweb11008073.htm.