Teens are a high-risk group for drug abuse, and the most important one to reach out to. When it comes to drug-free education efforts, teens are our future, our children, and the hope of our nation.
Teens are the hope of America’s future. Our future lies with them. More than that, they are our children, today. They are statistically one of the highest risk groups for drug abuse. This is primarily because of peer pressure, newfound social freedoms, new social situations, stress from home or school, and curiosity. According to the National Institute on drug Abuse, alcohol and tobacco abuse in 8th to 12th graders continues to decline. However, a survey conducted by the University of Michigan reports that over 35% of 12th graders use marijuana more than any other drug, and the same shows down to 8th graders. While some areas do seem to be in decline, those who do abuse illicit and prescriptions are at risk for addiction and overdose.
How many high school students use drugs?
According to a University of Michigan survey, more than 35% of 12th graders use marijuana, a higher rate than any other drug. The same is true of 8th graders. Alcohol and tobacco abuse in 8-12th graders continues to decline, but those who abuse illicit drugs and prescriptions are at risk of addiction.
Why Do Teens Experiment With Drugs?
Teens experiment with drugs for many reasons. Some of the most common reasons include:
- The urge to trying new things
- Peer pressure
- Stress from school activities
- Emotional issues from family problems
The reasons a teen might try drugs are varied and numerous. In most cases, teens decide to try drugs or alcohol for the first time due to:
- Curiosity – The teen years are a time when young people are open to new experiences, and they may wonder what drugs are like. Most often, they have been inundated with warnings about the dangers of drug use, but they also might be curious to know what being “high” is like, or if the drugs are as dangerous as the warnings make them seem.Teens’ brains are not fully developed in the area of the brain responsible for thinking ahead and understanding consequences, so they can often feel invincible with the belief that bad things, like addiction, won’t happen to them. Unfortunately, this is often not the case.
- Experimentation – Teens often want to try as many new things as possible, and drugs are unfortunately one of the most common experiments they attempt. Drinking alcohol is also a very common activity teens engage in.
- Peer Pressure – Kids in their teen years often want to feel like they are part of the group, or that they “fit in.” Sometimes they may drink or try drugs in order to fit in with a particular crowd or friend, or they may do it to appear “cool” or worldly to impress others. While some will do this with no long-term consequences, others will become addicted. Sometimes, just one time can lead to addiction.
- Stress – Between social pressures, extracurricular activities, and classes – teens have a lot on their plates. Add in the stress of attempting to decide on a college and major, and some may find themselves overwhelmed. Sometimes, teens turn to drugs and alcohol to help them cope with the rigors of high school and the first few years of college. The drug Adderall is especially common among young people because, as a stimulant, it helps them stay awake longer to get more studying done.
- Emotional issues – It has been shown that teens who come from broken homes, those with dysfunctional home lives, or those with mental illness or mood disorders are more likely to use drugs and alcohol. This is usually because the drugs help numb their emotional pain and allow them to escape from negative feelings. Self-medication is a dangerous cycle, however, and one that quickly leads to substance abuse and addiction if the underlying issues are not dealt with quickly.
Signs that a Teen may be Using Drugs
Signs of teenage drug addiction include:
- Failing grades and performance at school
- Constant hunger
- Laughing for no reason
- Mood swings
- Smoky odor from their room
- Slurred speech
- Low energy
- Loss of interest in favorite activities
- Secretive behavior
- Sudden need for money without any reason
Parents and teachers are the first line of defense when determining which teens are at risk of drug use, and which are already using. It’s not always easy to distinguish between drug abuse symptoms and normal teen angst, but there are some signs that your teen is using drugs.
- Sudden decline in school performance such as bad grades or missed assignments
- Constant hunger or “the munchies”
- Laughing for no reason
- Mood swings
- Odor emanating from their room that smells like smoke
- Slurred speech
- Lack of energy or lethargy
- Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
- Secretive behavior
- Sudden need for money with no explanation of why it’s needed
What to Do if You Suspect Drug Use
The first thing you need to do if you suspect your teen may be using drugs is talk to him. Have an open discussion and express your concern. Don’t go in with accusations, because your teen will shut down and go on the defensive. Let your teen know that you love him or her and that you want to help them deal with whatever they are going through.
If he/she admits to using drugs, you’ll need to ask additional questions to determine how often, what drugs are being used, and how serious the drug abuse is. You may be able to stop the habit before it becomes a full blown addiction. Ask your teen why they decided to use drugs in the first place. If emotional or stress related reasons are to blame, you can arrange for counseling or a plan of action to prevent further drug abuse. If an addiction is suspected, you will need to get proper treatment for your child immediately.
Additional drug tests are offered by your doctor or another medical professional. If it is determined that drug abuse has been going on, approach your teen again with express your concern. Present your case in a loving, non-accusatory manner to ensure you get the bet response. Treatment is far more effective when the patient is a willing participant.
If You are Abusing Drugs
If you are currently abusing drugs, it is important to understand the very real risks of overdose, addiction, and permanent damage: physical, emotional, and relationships.
Prescription drugs are prescribed by a doctor for a reason. They are dangerous. They either carry the likelihood of death by overdose or dependence. Abusing prescription drugs can also lead to criminal charges, because the abuse of any prescribed medicine is a crime. Over the counter drugs can also have chemicals that are deadly in high doses, and can also form addictions.
Street drugs such as meth, coke, ecstasy, etc., all carry numerous dangers. They can be cut with poisons or toxins to make the dealer more money, but may kill you. Dealers are not chemists. They are not doctors. They are drug pushers. They want your money, and do not care what they have to do to get it from your pocket, to theirs. They may not even realize that they are essentially killing you with their product. To sell you drugs to begin with, they already don’t care one way or another.
Marijuana may not carry the same levels of risk as far as overdose, but many are now discovering that dependence is all too real. Creating the habit of operating daily under the influence of a mind or mood altering substance leads to dependence. Being high also impairs your judgement. Not like alcohol, no, but it does, in fact, impair your judgement. It slows down your thinking and reaction times, as well. This can not only present a danger, but it also prevents you from doing your best in school or being aware in social situations.
Treatment for Drug Abuse
If you or your teen has become addicted to drugs, the best course of action is likely an inpatient facility. These rehabilitation centers combine approaches to ensure patients get the best synergistic therapies. Medically supervised detoxification periods are done, followed by counseling to get to the root of any addiction. Ongoing counseling and therapy, including peer or group therapies, are also offered as a continued approach to healing that is far more effective than outpatient programs alone. The important thing to know is that you are not alone. Whether you or your teen is suffering from addiction, help is ready and available. All that is needed is for you to take the first step. Get the help that is needed right now.
Because many drugs are dangerous when they are stopped abruptly, it is important that patients have the proper supervision before attempting to get clean.
If your teen is using drugs, know that there is hope. Addiction experts are available to help them get on the right track to recovery.