Why is Teenage Drug Abuse on the Rise?

Our staff writer looks into the rise in teenage drug abuse. Partying with innocent drugs like cigarettes, alcohol, and marijuana is usually the gateway to more dangerous substances like OxyContin, heroin, LSD, and cocaine.

The teenage years are ones of change, learning, discovery, and for many, experimentation.

Some may try drugs such as marijuana and alcohol, but what may originally be viewed as harmless dabbling could lead to dependency and the use of harder drugs, such as cocaine and heroin.

The case for perceiving drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana as a gateway to abusing harder and more dangerous drugs is legitimate. Experimenting with marijuana, ecstasy, and even cigarettes is the usual starting point for teens. While some teens may never move on to more dangerous drugs like OxyContin, hallucinogens, or cocaine, others quickly become hooked on getting high and trying to find that elusive better feeling.

Teenage Drug Use Today

Here are the startling numbers concerning teenage drug use today:

  • According to the Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking, the “peak years” of alcohol experimentation are in seventh and eighth grade, which are when students are between 12 and 14
  • In a survey conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 38.9% of eight graders in the US reported to having tried alcohol. 32.1% admitted to drinking within a year. 15.9% drank within the past month of the survey
  • In the same survey, 28.8% of 11th graders and 43.1% of 12th grade students reported that they had alcohol within the past 30 days of the poll
  • A 2007 Connecticut School Health Survey found that 26.2% of the state’s high school students participated in binge drinking at least one time within the 30 days before the survey

In an article in the New Canaan News, according to Ginger Katz, who launched the non-profit agency Courage to Speak Foundation, which seeks to educate parents and their teens about substance abuse, it takes 10 years for an adult who is 30 years to be chronically addicted to alcohol, while it takes a teenager who is 15 less than 15 months to reach the same stage of alcoholism. Because a teenager’s body is still developing and are not fully developed until they are 24, they can become much more quickly addicted to drugs.

…it takes 10 years for an adult who is 30 years to be chronically
addicted to alcohol, while it takes a teenager who is 15 less than 15
months to reach the same stage of alcoholism.

Why Teenagers Start to Abuse Drugs

Katz feels that the danger to teens is greater than ever, due to the increased purity, availability, and strength of today’s drugs. She had a 20-year old son who died of an overdose of heroin. He began by experimenting with marijuana his sophomore year of high school.

The sense of entitlement and feeling of invincibility by some teenagers contribute to their risk of drug use. Some may drink simply because they do not feel that they fit in. After they start drinking, they develop a more uninhibited attitude towards the use of stronger drugs, like ecstasy, LSD, magic mushrooms, heroin, and pain killers.

The numbers are backing up that assertion, as teenage prescription drug use is on the rise. Teens have relatively easy access to these drugs, such as OxyContin and Vicodin, as they could be found in the medicine cabinets of many homes or they could have friends who may have been prescribed them.

Adderall is also a popular drug often illegally abused by teenagers, as it allows them increased alertness and concentration while studying. Some may never discontinue usage of the drug throughout their lives, as they feel it gives them the competitive edge over their classmates, and later, their co-workers. This same dependency could lead to abuse of other drugs down the line (like cocaine and amphetamine), which they feel could provide them similar benefits of “better living through chemistry.” Use of these pills easily leads to other forms of narcotics, such as heroin, especially since it is being marketed by dealers as a drug that can be snorted.

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