Last Updated on December 10, 2019 by Valarie Ward
Teens experiment with drugs and alcohol. It’s almost accepted as a fact of life today, but the average parent – the average person – has no idea how serious teen substance experimentation is or how quickly it gets out of control. For example, did you know that according to a national study’s findings, one in five students drink and do drugs and more than a third say it’s fairly easy not to get caught?
The 17th Annual Back-to-School Survey
Eileen FitzGerald, a reporter for NewsTimes.com, gave a summary of the findings from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse’s 17th annual back-to-school survey. For the sixth consecutive year, over 60 percent of the teens surveyed reported that drugs are either use at, kept at or near, or sold at school. In fact, according to 52 percent of the teens surveyed, there is a designated place on or near the school grounds where students know to go during daylight hours to use drugs, drink alcohol, or smoke cigarettes.
Substance transactions and use are rapidly becoming a part of school culture. “Kids are feeling much more emboldened to use at school,” comments Elizabeth Jorgenson, a privately practicing psychotherapist servicing teens in Ridgefield. Where there used to be a stigma among teens not to use drugs – especially among high-achieving students – because it would jeopardize their academic performances and futures, “that’s no longer the case,” says Jorgenson.
The Extent of Back-to-School Drug Use
With kids pouring back into school this month, just what is the extent of back-to-school drug use? According to Dorrie Carolan, the co-founder of the Newton Parent Connection – an organization dedicated to helping parents with struggling teens – teen substance use is rapidly becoming abuse and addiction situations.
“We’re not just talking about something petty,” says Carolan. “[Just yesterday] we had a kid overdose but they revived him.”
The use, misuse, and development of addiction to substances is rapidly becoming a growing problem in schools across the nation, including our local campuses and public schools. For the first time ever, the back-to-school survey looked at the impact of social media on teens and their choices. The survey found that 75 percent of teens said seeing pictures on social media of kids partying increases and encourages their want to party just like that.
Resetting the “Norm”
“The pictures [on social media] show other teens that [using is] not such a big deal. It changes the norm,” says Jorgenson.
As social media works to change the norm, parents still hold the most power to reset it! According to the back-to-school survey, teens whose parents express strong opposition to drug or alcohol use are less likely to experiment and use.
Resetting the norm starts at home; it starts with positive, influential role models and then extends into the school system itself. Schools need staff who are better educated about substance abuse, and both parents and schools need to crack down. Setting tougher boundaries for teens and following through on those rules if drug use becomes an issue is key.