Despite the claims of social and news media, drug abuse among high school students and teens appears to be declining, reports the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). However, the evidence may seem confusing among reports of new synthetic drugs being used by teens and the subsequent problems caused in their communities. Parents should be aware of what constitutes drug abuse and what signs to watch for in their teen children.
Decline in prescription drug abuse among teens
Overall, prescription drug abuse among teens has declined over the past 5 years. Vicodin abuse rates dropped from 9.7 percent in 2009 to 4.8 percent in 2014. The use of narcotics dropped by one percent between 2013 and 2014. This decline may be the result of enhanced efforts to increase awareness of drug abuse in teens.
Although prescription drug abuse includes the use of narcotic painkillers and sedatives, it also includes the nonmedical use of stimulants, such as Ritalin or Adderall. In addition, over-the-counter medications such as Robitussin, a cough medication, can be easily purchased and can be equally addictive and harmful.
Misconceptions regarding teen drug abuse
It would be incorrect to say using any drug once leads directly to an addiction. However, NIDA explains what can happen after that first step is taken:
- Repeated drug use changes brain function, causing a person to crave repeated doses of the drug
- The majority of those with drug or alcohol abuse disorders begin using substances before age 18 with addiction developing quickly
- 2 percent of those who begin drinking alcohol before age 14 eventually develop alcohol dependence
- Approximately 25 percent of those who abuse prescription drugs by age 13 or younger develop an addiction to prescription medications
It is interesting to note that in 2009, 69 percent of 12th-graders viewed prescription drug abuse as harmful and 52.4 percent viewed marijuana abuse as harmful. In 2014, these numbers had dropped to 55.1percent and 36.1percent, indicating a more liberal view of drug abuse on the part of teens.
If addiction to prescription drugs or alcohol is present, a comprehensive treatment program for teens which begins with detox and provides healing therapy can educate them as to how to avoid future drug use and the risk of relapse. This can be the defining factor in cases when the initial exposure to drugs or alcohol occurs during the formative years of adolescence.
Dangers of prescription drug and alcohol abuse
Underage drinking is defined in the U.S. as consuming alcohol before reaching the age of 21 reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, underage drinkers between the ages of 12 and 20 drink 11 percent of all alcohol consumed in the U.S.
The combination of increased use of alcohol among teenagers and the decreasing perception of danger regarding prescription drug abuse, results in a greater risk for accidents or injuries among teens, according to Dr. Ron Weathermon and Dr. David W. Crabb of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. This may include risk of overdose, hypoxic brain injury and other permanent, irreversible neurologic deficits.
Prescription drug abuse among teens is changing and parents need to know what it means for their children. Although perception of risk continues to play a significant role in these cases, drug programs for teenagers can help teens understand how a seemingly innocent action can progress into an addiction with devastating physical and mental health consequences.
Sovereign Health Group staff writer Kristin Currin is a mindful spirit swimming in metaphysical pools with faith as her compass. Her repertoire includes writing poetry, lifestyle articles and TV news; editing, radio production and on-camera reporting.