Drug use is widespread and prevalent in nearly every community across the country. Every major city and many small towns have task forces that are dedicated to getting drugs off the streets and keeping citizens safe. Teenagers and young adults are especially at risk. But in order to fight this battle with drug abuse, we have to know the facts about teen drug use.
The following are 10 compelling facts about teen drug use that you need to know.
These days, the pressure to try drugs is greater than it ever has been, and it starts earlier – most middle school kids are exposed to drugs now. The challenge of educating kids is nothing new, and many parents and educators are facing the challenge and talking to kids to help keep them safe. And some teens are listening; they understand the dangers of trying drugs like cocaine and heroin. Unfortunately, they don’t always understand the dangers of medications that are prescribed by doctors.
Drug use today is taking on a new face – prescription drug abuse and addiction. Because teens know that these medications are prescribed, they may feel that they are safer to try, they may have seen parents or other adults use them. But there are two important facts to know about prescription medications:
Fact #1: More teens die from prescription drugs than from cocaine and heroin combined, due to the fact that they believe they are safer.
Fact #2: While the U.S. represents only 5% of the world’s population, it is responsible for 75% of the drugs taken worldwide. And, 60% of teens that abuse prescription medications get them from friends and family for free.
It’s absolutely imperative that as we educate teens (and younger kids) about drug use, we talk to them about the dangers of prescription and over-the-counter drugs as well.
Teenage Smoking is Still a Problem
While it’s declined dramatically over the last decade overall, smoking cigarettes is still an issue for teens. When they encounter peer pressure and the choice of what substance to try, cigarettes are often the winner.
Fact #3: As many as 20% of teens have smoked cigarettes in the past month.
Fact #4: Since it started to become an accepted alternative to smoking cigarettes, smokeless tobacco has continued to increase in popularity among teenagers.
Fact #5: It is estimated that as many as three million people born between 1990 and 2000 will die as adults from a smoking-related illness. Over 50% of those people will have picked up the habit as teenagers.
While we have been better about teaching our kids the dangers of smoking, we have to do even more. Teens with parents who smoke are more likely to start smoking themselves. As parents, we have to set a better example when it comes to smoking, by giving teens a real-life example of what it is to kick the habit.
Despite knowing the dangers, some teens will try illicit street drugs. Marijuana is fast becoming the most abused drug in the country, and even though its use is being made legal in many states, teens are abusing it in illegal manners. Whether you believe that it is a gateway drug or not, the use of marijuana by teens is a problem and it often introduces them to more dangerous illicit drugs.
Fact #6: By the time teenagers reach the 12th grade about half of them will have abused an illegal drug at least once.
Fact #7: High school seniors are using marijuana more often than they are smoking cigarettes.
Illegal drugs are often found at parties, both with high school and college age students. Our best defense is to arm our teens with the information that they need in order to be able to make the choice to say no.
Some Unexpected Substances
All of the above substances are what you might think of as typical drugs that people, including teens, abuse. However, there are some substances that you may not expect to have potential for abuse.
Fact #8: Aerosols, glues, and other household items are some of the most commonly abused substances that teens use. Huffing, or inhaling, the gases produced by aerosols and the fumes produced by household chemicals in order to feel a high isn’t something that typically crosses parents’ minds when they think about drug abuse and their kids.
Fact #9: Over half of high school seniors don’t consider the use of steroids to be dangerous or addictive.
As parents, we have to be aware that substance abuse doesn’t always mean an illicit or prescription drug addiction. Substances that teens will try may be in your home or garage right now. These types of abuses may be hard to spot, so we must educate ourselves on them to know what to look for.
Fact #10: Parents Can Make a Difference in Teen Drug Abuse
While the above facts may seem very disheartening, there is good news about teenage drug use. That is, that as parents, we can make a difference in teens’ lives and help them to be able to avoid becoming a statistic in the battle against substance abuse and addiction. It is up to us to equip our kids with the tools that they need to be able to make the right decisions when it comes to drug and alcohol use. Keeping the lines of communication open, educating teens and younger children about the dangers of drug and alcohol use, and being supportive and understanding about the challenges they are facing are our best defenses against substance abuse.
If you believe that your teenager is already abusing drugs or alcohol, the time to get help for them is now. There are many treatment facilities that are equipped to help teenagers with substance abuse issues. Don’t delay in seeking treatment; you could be saving your teen from a lifetime of addiction, or worse.
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