Teen drug use has witnessed a decline in recent years, yet a segment of adolescents continues to experiment with various substances, ranging from marijuana to prescription drugs. Understanding the dynamics of teen drug abuse is crucial for educators, parents, and healthcare professionals to address these concerns effectively.
Teenagers and Drugs
According to recent statistics, overall teenage drugs use rates are on the decline, with illegal drug use (excluding marijuana) among the lowest in over two decades. Despite this positive trend, it’s essential to recognize that a significant number of teens, approximately 2.08 million, still engaged in drug use within the past month. By their senior year, nearly 46.6% of teens have experimented with illicit drugs, underscoring the persistent challenges in preventing substance abuse among adolescents.
Reasons Behind Teen Drug Use
Understanding why teens turn to drugs is multifaceted. Several factors contribute to this behavior:
Peer Pressure: The desire to fit in and avoid feeling left out drives many teens to experiment with drugs if their peers are engaged in such activities.
Pleasure Seeking: The euphoric feelings induced by certain drugs create a pleasurable experience that some teens seek repeatedly, even if it means escalating drug intake.
Coping Mechanism: Teens dealing with physical or emotional pain, such as mood disorders, stress, or social anxiety, may turn to drugs as a means of temporary relief.
Performance Enhancement: Some students resort to stimulants and other drugs to enhance academic or athletic performance, believing these substances will provide a competitive edge.
Curiosity: Teens and drugs mix well because of curiosity, and they often experiment with drugs to understand the effects, contributing to the initiation of substance use.
Commonly Abused Drugs Among Teens
Despite the legalization of recreational use in some states, marijuana consumption among teens has seen a decline. Less than 6% of 12th-grade students use marijuana daily, with 80% of them perceiving easy accessibility. Still, the easy accessibility of marijuana and reduced perceived risks contribute to its popularity among adolescents.
Teen cocaine use is less prevalent than marijuana, with 2.3% of 12th graders reporting use in the last year. Limited availability and high disapproval rates (over 85%) contribute to its lower usage. However, the question arises: ‘Why are teenager doing drugs and why do teens use cocaine?’ A recent study found that combining cocaine with alcohol may be a factor, highlighting the social context in which cocaine use occurs.
Painkillers and Prescription Drugs
Teenager drug abuse often involves prescription painkillers like Tramadol, Vicodin, and Oxycodone. Accessibility within homes, especially when parents have these medications for chronic pain, contributes to their misuse. This trend raises concerns about the potential for addiction and long-term health consequences.
Spice and K2, termed “synthetic marijuana,” are created by spraying cannabinoid chemicals onto herbs. Once legal, the drugs now face restrictions due to the unpredictable and intense effects they can induce. Additionally, the varying chemical compositions also make the entire experience unpredictable and hazardous for teenagers.
Encouragingly, crystal meth use has seen an overall decrease (0.4-0.5% among 8th to 12th graders), with some regional variations. Perception of risk and limited accessibility contribute to its low prevalence, but localized concerns necessitate targeted interventions.
MDMA (also known as ecstasy) use is relatively uncommon (2.2% among 12th graders), and is often associated with party settings. Its appeal lies in inducing happiness and emotional connection, facilitated by its candy-like appearance.
Salvia, an herb with hallucinogenic properties, induces intense and often frightening hallucinations. While not illegal, the powerful experiences associated with its use require careful consideration.
Hallucinogens, a category covering LSD, PCP, DMT, ecstasy, salvia, ketamine, marijuana, and ‘magic mushrooms’ (psilocybin), alter perception and behavior. The potential toxic effects of these substances make them a concerning part of common teenage drugs.
Prescription amphetamines like Adderall, Dexedrine, and Ritalin, intended for conditions like ADHD, obesity, and narcolepsy, carry profound effects. They elevate blood pressure, suppress appetite, disrupt sleep, induce euphoria, and boost confidence
Teen use of cough syrup containing DXM remains low but consistent (3.2% prevalence). Legal accessibility, combined with its psychoactive effects, makes it an attractive option for some teens.
Inhalants, comprised of fumes from everyday products like nail polish remover, glue, and gasoline, offer a quick and accessible high for teens. NIDA data indicates a higher prevalence of inhalant abuse among 8th graders compared to 10th and 12th graders.
While the overall decline in teen drug use is promising, the persistent challenges highlight the need for ongoing education, prevention strategies, and support systems. Collaborative efforts involving parents, educators, and healthcare professionals are crucial in creating an environment where teens can make informed, healthy choices regarding substance use.