Drug Use & Teens
Drugs are used by all age groups, and drug addiction can happen whether users are 18 or 80. However, more teenagers use drugs than almost any other demographic. It is important to address drug use among teens in order to prevent addiction from developing and to treat those teens already struggling with addiction.
How Many Teens are Really Using Drugs?
Talking about teen drug use in the abstract doesn’t effectively show the scope of the problem. The reality is that as many as 40% of high school seniors have used an illegal drug in the past year.
In eighth grade, when most students are just turning 13, approximately 13% of students report using a drug at least once in the past year. Two years later, when students are in the tenth grade, that number skyrockets to 30%. By senior year, it reaches 40%.
Clearly, teen drug use isn’t a problem impacting a small percentage of the population. Forty percent represents a staggering number of American high school students. Plus, keep in mind that this survey asked students to report on their own actions. The reality is that many more students may have used drugs but been afraid to answer honestly in the survey for fear of punishment.
The Most Common Drugs Used by American Teens
The most widely used drug by teens in the United States of America is marijuana. Other commonly used drugs include cocaine, prescription medications, opioids and stimulants. Alcohol is also widely used by American teens and has the potential to cause a lasting addiction.
A little over 21% of high school seniors report that they used marijuana in the last month. Approximately 6% say that they use marijuana daily. Marijuana poses risks for all users, but it can be especially harmful for teens. Teenagers who use marijuana regularly can see a lifelong drop of IQ by eight points, even if they stop using drugs in adulthood.
Not only is marijuana use prevalent among American teens, it is also viewed as less harmful than other illicit substances. The legalization of medical marijuana in many states, along with recreational marijuana use in other states, is shaping the way that young people view marijuana use.
As many as 15% of all high school students report that they have tried amphetamines. These drugs are stimulants, and some teens mistakenly believe that using them can enhance performance, facilitate weight loss or lessen fatigue. However, amphetamines cause significant health problems and can rapidly lead to addiction.
Prescription drug abuse is a serious epidemic in the United States, and that epidemic impacts teens as well. Teens may abuse opioid painkillers, or they may used stimulants like Adderall or Ritalin that aren’t prescribed to them. Improper use of prescription drugs can lead to addiction, can cause fatal overdoses and can lead to jail time if users are caught and charged.
The Dangers of Teen Drug Use
On the most basic level, the dangers of teen drug use are similar to that of adult drug use. Drug use and abuse can lead to addiction, causing lifelong difficulty. Furthermore, drug abuse can cause health problems, career roadblocks and relationship trouble. It is also important to note the unique dangers that drug use poses for teens.
There are many factors that contribute to the development of an addiction. One of the most important is the age of a person when they first use an addictive substance. Using an addictive substance while the brain is still in development can increase the chance of addiction moving forward. This explains why 90% of Americans who have a substance abuse problem in adulthood actually started drinking or using drugs before the age of 18.
Drug abuse can also limit the potential of young people. Being addicted to drugs means that other areas of life will suffer, including things like academic performance, social interactions and athletic ability. It is very difficult for someone who is addicted to drugs to do well on college entrance exams or apply for internships. Unfortunately, these missed opportunities are difficult to replace, even if teens regain sobriety in adulthood.
How to Prevent Drug Use Among Teens
Knowing that teen drug use can cause so many lifelong problems, it is critical to help as many teens as possible avoid drug use, abuse and addiction. Awareness, education and oversight are three ways to minimize teen drug use.
Awareness is a big issue, and it is something that many parents and teachers may neglect. Teens need to know the direct impacts of drug use and they should be aware of the scope of the issue. If they see that opioid abuse can lead to lifelong addiction and overdose, for example, they may be less likely to cave into peer pressure and try it.
Education is also critical. Often, drugs go by nicknames, and teens don’t even know what they are taking. Learning the proper names of drugs, and the health effects of use can be helpful.
Finally, teens need oversight. Teenagers who have involved parents who track their friends and their whereabouts report lower drug use rates and higher test scores. Being involved is vital for parents.
Treating Teens Who Already Struggle With Drug Abuse or Addiction
Drug addiction is undeniably a serious problem for teenagers, but it doesn’t have to be a life sentence. Learn the signs of a drug abuse problem and better understand how to help teens that need assistance.
Uncharacteristic change is an indicator of drug abuse, but teens are always changing behavior, mood and style. Therefore, it is important to look for other signs. Major alterations to appearance and health may indicate an issue. Also, look for drug paraphernalia or lingo.
Teens, like adults, can recover from addiction on their own. However, medically supervised detox, followed by rehab or addiction treatment geared to that demographic will be necessary for lasting recovery.
Teens abuse a range of substances, including cocaine, alcohol and marijuana, and they can become addicted to them. While teen drug use is dangerous, the right awareness, education and treatment can help prevent abuse or assist in recovery.