Teens and Drugs—The Problem Continues
In December 2011, The National Institute On Drug Addiction had some good news and some not-so-good news. The good news was that more teens are making wiser choices concerning not to smoke or drink alcohol. The not-so-good news is that a different group of teens are choosing to use marijuana and prescription drugs without batting an eye.
Cigarettes and Alcohol:
For teens 14-16 years of age, smoking has declined! That’s optimistic news! However, almost 29% of 17-18 year olds remain steady smokers. However, according to teens who were polled, the increased information available via the internet, concerning the dangers of smoking, complete with graphic videos and photos, is making an impression on at least some youth who are taking the information seriously. Those teens with a good dose of wisdom and foresight are paying attention to the effects of cigarette smoking on the human body.
Alcohol reduction among teens is even more promising since there seems to be a noticeable decline among middle-school and high-school students, according to NIDA studies, who are shying away from drinking alcohol at all levels—first-time use, occasional use, daily use and binge drinking.
It would be nice to say that the usage of marijuana is on a downward spiral, as well, but that is simply not the case. Among 17 and 18-year olds studied, almost 37% of these children used marijuana a minimum of one time during the course of a year. That may not sound like much but it is disheartening when one realizes the 37% figure is up almost 32% from 2005 to 2011.
As one moves into 2012, on average, 17% of 10th graders and almost 23% of 12th graders used marijuana socially and regularly, meaning 1-2 times once a week; and 6.5% of 12th graders used marijuana daily.
Prescription Drug Use:
Again, for teens 14-16 years of age, prescription drugs have infiltrated our children’s lives at a constant and disturbing rate. Three of the most-abused prescription drugs include:
1) Vicodin, an opioid painkiller
2) Adderall and Ritalin which are stimulants used to treat ADHD and
3) OxyContin, which is another opioid painkiller.
Would you be shocked to learn that every day in the United States, an average of 2000 teens use prescription drugs that are not intended for them? As of 2012, 15% of children even as young as 12 years old up to 17 years of age admitted to using prescription drugs for non-medical reasons.
How In The World Do Teens Acquire Prescription Drugs?
If you have teenagers, you need to be especially vigilant with any prescription medications since teens will (I know from experience) sell pills--that are prescribed for them--for quick cash to friends and acquaintances, especially before and after school. Some teens will actually remove all the pills from their bottles and refill the bottles with aspirin or other pills or even candy, hoping Mom and Dad don’t notice. They will attempt to do this before parents have a chance to see what the original pills ever looked like. Some pills can go for $25 a piece or more.
Teens also steal pills from the bottles of unsuspecting friends or relatives’ homes. Almost half of seniors polled said that opioid drugs, other than heroine, can be fairly easy to obtain or very easy to obtain, depending on who one knows—how’s that for a wake-up call?
Parents, Be Proactive!
It’s very easy for any parent to presuppose their child would never become involved in the drug scene, but drug usage among kids and teens is a stark reality. Whether one lives in the city or a small town, doesn’t matter—drugs are everywhere and all ages, ethnicities and economic backgrounds are embedded in the drug culture.
The first step for parents is to become aware of the drug problem and gain as much information as possible concerning what certain drugs look like and how they can harm one’s body and mind. Then beginning to speak with one’s child as early as 8-10 years of age and including discussions of drugs, tobacco and alcohol as a topic of conversation that becomes natural, interesting and educational. Establishing dialogue at an early age will keep the door open as kids get older and become naturally less inclined to share their thoughts. News which includes the use of steroids in professional sports, for example, can act as a perfect springboard for casual conversations concerning drug use. Use any ‘teachable moments’ as they emerge.