For the youth of today, it is all too easy to get caught up in what one's peers are doing and give in to the pressures to use drugs and/or alcohol. Many teens are exposed to drugs and alcohol on a daily basis and it isn't uncommon for drugs and alcohol to be easily available in school and from friends and acquaintances. For many parents, it is a scary thought that one's teen might be exposed to drugs or alcohol, much less using or becoming addicted to these substances. It is easy for a parent to simply take their child's word that they are not using drugs or alcohol, and to be in complete denial that there is a problem, chalking it up to youth.
Most teens are most certainly not going to openly admit to their parents that they are using drugs or alcohol, for fear getting into trouble. However, a great majority of teens are using drugs and alcohol. If they have started using marijuana, they are probably using other drugs as well or soon will be. This can set a young person up for failure in school and in life, and put them on a path that may negatively affect them for the rest of their lives. It is not uncommon for teens to experiment with drugs, and while this might seem innocent it can all too easily spin out of control. It can start out with social and casual use, and then the teen might find they are unable to live life without getting high or becoming intoxicated with alcohol.
Statistics show that rates of rates of marijuana use among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders are higher than rates for any other illicit drug. About 38% of high school students have tried marijuana, and 19% currently use it regularly. Marijuana use is now ahead of cigarette smoking among youth, and as of 2010, 21.4 percent of high school seniors used marijuana in the past 30 days, while 19.2 percent had smoked cigarettes.The average age of someone using marijuana for the first time is also getting younger and younger, and dropped from 17.8 in 2008 to 17.0 in 2009. As of 2009, over 3M twelve to seventeen year-olds used marijuana in the past year. Daily marijuana use also increased among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders from 2009 to 2010, and among high school seniors it was at its highest point since the early 1980s. There is another problem with perception, as studies are showing that fewer young people are viewing regular marijuana use as a "great risk". So we will likely experience even higher rates of marijuana use in the coming years among teens.
After marijuana, prescription and over-the-counter drugs are the most abused drugs by 12th graders. Rates of OxyContin use, a powerful opioid narcotic which can cause effects similar to heroin, remains unchanged across the three grades and has increased in 10th graders over the past 5 years. Rates of use of the stimulant Adderall, which is commonly used to treat ADHD and ADD, and over-the-counter cough and cold medicines among 12th graders remain at very high levels as well. In a study of teen attitudes towards abuse of prescription pain relievers, teens reported the following:
These survey results make is very evident that there is an apparent lax attitude among teens regarding the illicit use and abuse of prescription drugs, which can have just as devastating an impact on one's health and well-being as any other recreational illicit drug. It also shows that teens are having no problem getting their hands on these drugs, and that parents should be more aware of how and when their teens are gaining access to them.
Alcohol is and has been one of the drugs of choice among teenagers. About 75% of teens have tried alcohol, and about 26% have had a recent binge drinking episode. Popular culture doesn't help with this matter, and the average teenager in the United States has seen over one hundred thousand TV commercials glorifying alcohol use. Statistics show that out of all Americans who binge drink, an estimated 7 million fall between the ages of 12 and 20. Unfortunately, about 10% of teens who began drinking after the age of 17 develop dependence. This means that they will probably never stop abusing alcohol until they seek help, because they cannot physically quit on their own.
Alcohol is also a gateway drug, and studies show that teens that consume alcohol are 50 times more likely to use cocaine than teens who don't. And much like prescription narcotics as stated above, alcohol is not hard to come by. An estimated 63% of youth who consume alcohol say that they initially got the alcohol from their own or their friend's homes. While it may seem like fun and games for teens who are getting drunk and having a good time while drinking, alcohol kills 6 ½ times more teenagers than all other illicit drugs combined. As a matter of fact, the leading cause of death for teens and young adults is motor vehicle crashes where alcohol was involved. Not to mention the fact that a teen under the influence of alcohol is much more likely to become involved in risky sexual behavior, and have unprotected sex which could ultimately result in pregnancy or a sexually transmitted disease.
Teens are also faced with peer pressure to use "party" drugs such as MDMA, also known as Ecstasy. Ecstasy is a stimulant drug which provides a kick of energy and sense of euphoria, and is commonly used by party-goers or on the club scene. An increase in Ecstasy use has been observed in recent years amongst 8th and 10th graders. While the increases have been slight, it still shows that parents need to be especially vigilant about what their teens are doing and what types of activities they are involved in. Recent studies show that fewer 10th graders see "great risk" in occasionally using Ecstasy, which means that they may not understand the health risks of using the drug as well as they should. Use and misuse of this drug can have devastating consequences, and can even result in death.
Inhalants are a rather new threat, but a threat nonetheless to unwitting users who don't realize the risks involved in abusing these powerful chemicals. Examples of things which can be inhaled are spray paint, glue, fingernail polish, correction fluid etc. These too are very easy to come across, and very easy for your teen to get their hands on. The inhaled chemicals get into the bloodstream very quickly, and within minutes of inhalation the teen will feel "high." The high is similar to one produced by alcohol and lasts only a few minutes. Unfortunately, inhalants damage vital organs, brain cells and other nerve fibers in the body, which may or may not repair themselves or fully return to normal function. Inhalants are very addictive and obviously very dangerous to use. Studies show that 14.9 percent of 8th-graders, 12.3 percent of 10th-graders, and 9.5 percent of 12th-graders have used inhalants. Parents should be aware of this problem so that they can be vigilant regarding the use of inhalants in their household and by their teen.
It can be hard to confront your teen about drugs and drug addiction, but it is important for parents to be aware of any drug using scenario so that action can be taken as needed. Don't wait until your teen's drug use has reached a crisis point. By this time, it may be too late and the teen will only be harder to reach and probably won't accept any help at this point. A parent must be diligent in spotting the warning signs of drug use so that they can take any steps necessary to fix the problem. As any parent well knows, this can take some investigating and digging. In the end, it will be worth it when the truth comes to light. Only then can you do something about it. Some common warning signs that your teen may be using drugs are:
A parent knows that it is best to go with your gut. If you suspect that your teen has been abusing drugs or alcohol, you are probably correct. Intuition is the best tool that a parent can use to confront the teen and take action right away. The longer you wait the worse the problem will become. So it may only require a casual conversation, or it may be necessary to have a meeting with a counselor or drug treatment professional depending on how the teen's drug use has progressed. Either way, it will be worth the effort in the end.
If a teen's drug use has reached a crisis point and they are in need of treatment, there are drug rehab programs designed specifically for teens which can get teens in the right environment to get treated for addiction. These types of drug rehabs typically deliver group, individual, and family therapy. This therapy provides a safe forum for the teen to be able to express their thoughts and feelings about problems, without being judged. Teens learn about family dynamics, chemical dependency, communication, conflict resolution, stress reduction, and a variety of other important topics which can help them cope with life better without the need to use drugs or alcohol. Teens are also more likely to voice real problems with professional drug treatment counsellors, and will be more willing to share sensitive information which might result in a breakthrough in treatment. Family counselling allows parents to remain involved in the recovery process and help understand their teen and their teen's struggle with addiction better. This will allow for a better relationship between teen and parent both during and following treatment.
Teen drug addiction is a reality, and parents need to be aware of how prevalent drug and alcohol abuse is among teens in society today. While it is not uncommon for teens to experiment with drugs and alcohol during their youth, this can very easily lead down a destructive path which could destroy a young person's entire future. A parent who has their teen's best interests at heart can become educated about the dangers of teen drug and alcohol use, and remain vigilant regarding their teen's activities in and outside of the home. If your teen is in need of treatment, focus all efforts on getting them that treatment so that they can continue having a healthy and happy future.