The Rise of Drug Use Among Those Under the Age of 20
Drug use, abuse and addiction is a problem for all demographics. There is no gender or age group that is immune to the risks associated with drug use. However, the demographic with the highest reported drug use is people between the ages of 18 and 20. Explore what this means for young people as well as the reasons behind the high drug use and abuse in this age range.
How Many Young People are Using Drugs?
Across the United States, approximately nine percent of adults have used illicit drugs in the past 30 days. If you look just at the demographic of people between the ages of 18 and 20, however, that percentage skyrockets.
Among Americans between the ages of 18 and 20, almost 23 percent report using drugs in the past month. That is 250 percent higher than for the total population. This represents millions of young people and nearly one quarter of that entire demographic bracket.
Most people might guess that young individuals, particularly teens and those in their early twenties, would be more likely to use drugs than other demographic groups. However, what is interesting to note is that drug use is consistently higher among 18 to 20 year olds than it is compared to people who are either 16 or 21.
Of course, that is not to say that drug use isn’t a problem among younger teens. Eight percent of 14 and 15 year olds report using drugs in the past 30 days, and 16 percent of 16 and 17 year olds also report the same.
Most Commonly Used Drugs Among Those Under 20
A wide variety of drugs are consumed by those under the age of 20. However, young people are more likely to use certain drugs as well as less likely to use others.
Marijuana is the most commonly used drug among young people under the age of 20. This is roughly in line with the general population. Nearly 20 million individuals across all age groups use marijuana each month. That number is steadily growing and marijuana is regarded by many young people as the preferred drug of choice.
Marijuana is far from the only drug consumed by young people in the United States. It is the drug most likely to be used in combination with other drugs. Young people who already use marijuana are more likely than the general population to also try, abuse or become addicted to other drugs.
Across the entire population, prescription drugs are the next most common drug of choice. For young people, however, the second place spot actually goes to stimulants like amphetamines.
Stimulants are frequently used among young people for a number of reasons. On college campuses, stimulants like Adderall are taken to provide a burst of energy for things like staying up late, studying for exams or losing weight. Unfortunately, stimulants carry incredible health risks and they can also be addictive.
Nearly five percent of drug users under the age of 20 report that they use cough syrup recreationally. This is a growing trend, and it is one that is most common among teens. Teens consume large amounts of cough syrup in order to get high, despite its potentially addictive and harmful effects.
Other drugs that young people under the age of 20 are likely to consume include salvia, ecstasy, synthetic versions of marijuana and tranquilizers.
The Dangers of Drug Use
The dangers of drug use, abuse and addiction are well documented, and most apply across the board to all ages. However, there are some specific dangers of drug use that are most applicable to young people. Trying drugs at a young age can hinder physical and mental development, worsen or cause mental illness, lead to the development of addiction and throw a wrench into future plans of success.
When young people use drugs, those drugs could play a role in development. In some cases, teens can even suffer from lifelong lowered IQs. Mental health conditions may be worsened, as many young people may try to self-medicate by seeking out the effects of drugs rather than going through standard counseling therapy.
Drugs can become addictive to people of any age, but research strongly suggests that young people are at greater risk. If drugs are consumed while the brain is still finalizing development, then individuals might be more likely to struggle with addiction.
Finally, there is the risk of missing out on important life stages because of drug abuse or addiction. Young people who struggle with drug addiction, for example, may not decide to attend college or begin a promising career path. Young people might sacrifice their future, their financial stability and their family relationships if drug addiction develops.
Factors Contributing to Drug Use Among Young Adults
There are a wide range of reasons that young people use drugs more than other age groups. Peer pressure, the desire to experiment, the need for self expression and a streak of rebellion may all be factors. There are also genetic, societal and cultural factors that could play a role. Finally, the legalization of marijuana may increase its social acceptance and use among young people.
Young people throughout history have wanted to test their limits and prove their worth to peers. Boredom, the desire to drown out feelings of angst and a desire to fit in are all common reasons that teens decide to use drugs. Some teens and young adults also struggle with awkwardness or social anxiety and they might use drugs as a way to avoid those feelings.
Individuals who grow up in families with drug abuse or addiction may also be genetically predisposed to fall victim to addiction. Plus, seeing drugs used frequently might make drug use seem normal.
The recent uptick in young people using marijuana can also be attributed to legalization in some states. If marijuana is portrayed in a positive light for recreational or medicinal reasons, more teens might be inclined to try it themselves.
Drug use is highest among those under the age of 20, which means this group is most in need of treatment. Thankfully, addiction treatment can be successful no matter what the age of the patient.