Drugs; they’re prevalent in communities across the nation. Every major city and small town seems to have a task force dedicated to getting drugs off the streets. And our teenagers are at risk. But before we go gung-ho in the war against drugs and substance abuse, we need the facts. Specifically, we need the facts about teens and drug use in our local community.
We’ve discussed how drug use is affecting our local youth. We covered the facts about heroin abuse in Charlotte. We spotlighted the eight most commonly abused drugs in our nation. And most recently, we shed light on the benefits of substance abuse treatment over incarceration for drug use. Now, we’re presenting 10 hard-hitting facts you need to know.
Prescription Drugs Kill
The pressure to try drugs is high, and our youth face it as early as middle school. The battle to educate is nothing new, and most parents are taking up arms admirably. A large percentage of our youth know the dangers of experimenting with drugs like heroin and cocaine. In fact, they know the dangers well enough to say no.
Today’s drug use is taking on an entirely new face, the face of prescription drugs. MedicineNet.com has prepared a 14 slide show detailing the facts and statistics of prescription drug abuse. It’s a presentation every parent and mentor should view and share with their youth, but there are two jaw-dropping facts to realize about these drugs:
- Fact #1: More teens die from prescription drugs than heroin and cocaine combined because they think prescription drugs are safer to abuse than street drugs.
- Fact #2: The United States alone represents 5 percent of the world’s population. It also represents 75 percent of the drugs taken globally. 60 percent of teens who abuse prescription drugs get them for free from friends and relatives.
Our teens are under the impression that prescription drugs are safe to abuse due to their medical nature. It is imperative we educate them about the dangers these drugs, as well as over-the-counter drugs, pose.
Smoking is Still a Problem
Cigarette smoking has declined dramatically over the past decade, but it’s still a problem for our youth. When faced with peer pressure and the choice of which drug to try, a cigarette often wins out.
- Fact #3: One in five teens has smoked within the past month.
- Fact #4: Smokeless tobacco started to become an accepted “cigarette alternative” in 2008. Since 2010, its popularity and use have steadily increased.
- Fact #5: It is estimated that some six million children born between 1983 and 2000 will die as adults due to a smoking-related illness. More than 50 percent of these children will pick up a smoking habit during their teens.
One of the most influential things we can do as a community is kicking the smoking habit. For decades, we’ve taught our children the dangers of smoking and inhaling secondhand smoke. Yet, we ourselves still light up a cigarette. Our youth learn by example. Help your teen say no to smoking by giving them a real life example of what it is to kick the habit for good.
Illicit and Illegal Drugs
Despite preventative measures, some teens opt to try hard drugs. Marijuana is one of the most abused illegal substances in the country, but in some states, it’s become legal, splitting it between illegal and prescription drugs that teens abuse.
- Fact #6: By the time teenagers are high school seniors, approximately 50 percent will have abused an illicit drug at least once.
- Fact #7: According to org, in 2013, more high school seniors used marijuana on a regular basis than cigarettes.
Illicit drugs are usually encountered at parties, particularly college-level parties. The best defense is education. When our youth are armed with knowledge, most will make the choice to say no.
Unexpected Substance Abuse
While all of the substances we’ve covered are somewhat expected or stereotypical drugs, there are unexpected substances that our youth can be exposed to right inside the safety of our homes:
- Fact #8: Glues, aerosols, and household items are some of the most commonly abused and under detected substances teens try.
- Fact #9: 54 percent of high school seniors don’t view the regular use of steroids as harmful or addictive.
Substance abuse doesn’t necessarily mean a prescription or illicit drug problem. A substance can be just about anything, and it’s not unusual to find our youth experimenting with household items in an attempt to get a high. This type of abuse can be hard to spot, which is why it is vital to know and watch for the signs of addiction.
Fact #10: You Can Make a Difference
Our youth are facing an ever-changing sea of peer pressure and choice. It’s up to us to equip them with the tools they will need to make smart decisions. However, even the most well equipped decision maker makes mistakes.
According to DoSomething.org, roughly half of high school seniors don’t see a problem with trying crack or cocaine once or twice. In fact, many teens think they can try any drug just once, maybe twice, and it won’t be harmful.
It’s our job to properly education them. They need to understand how serious addiction is and just how quickly is can form. A dependency can result from trying a drug just once or twice.
Perhaps the hardest hitting fact about teens and drug use is this: Your continued support and understanding can be the single thing that saves them from a life destroyed by substance addiction and abuse. It’s up to you to make a difference, and if we all work together toward the same goal, we can build a strong community that sees a steady decline in teen drug use.
Getting Our Teens Involved
Outside of educating our youth, we can encourage them to take an active role in fighting back against drug use. Introducing them to local and national campaigns presents them with an array of positive influences capable of supporting good decision-making for years to come. You can get them started by exploring campaigns at DoSomething.org.