Think the results of the most recent “Monitoring the Future” national survey on drug abuse demonstrating a general decline across the broad spectrum of drugs are cause for celebration? Think again. While drug use among teens may be on the decline, more than a million young people between the ages of 12 and 17 still meet the diagnostic criteria for problem use or dependence on illicit drugs or alcohol in a single year, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. In other words, teen substance abuse in America is still alarmingly prevalent.
Here’s a closer look at the state of teen substance abuse in America, along with why drug rehab is so important—yet alarmingly underutilized—by the nation’s youth.
A “Rapidly Changing Phenomenon”
According to “Monitoring the Future,”
“Since the mid-1960s, when it burgeoned in the general youth population, illicit drug use has remained a major concern for the nation. Smoking, drinking, and illicit drug use are leading causes of morbidity and mortality during adolescence as well as later in life.”
So what, specifically, do tobacco, alcohol, and drug use look like among contemporary teens? Cigarette and alcohol use have been significantly declining over the past few years, while marijuana use has also dropped, but with a caveat: Despite the decrease in use, teen perceptions and attitudes about marijuana have become more accepting. Concludes “Monitoring the Future,”
“This fact is contradictory to the association that has existed between perceived risk and actual use for many years, in which they usually move in opposite directions with a one-year lag between a change in perceived risk and a change in annual prevalence.”
Meanwhile, use of psychotherapeutic drugs, hallucinogens, salvia, tranquilizers, heroin without a needle, crystal meth, and club drugs like GHB, Rohypnol, and ketamine have all held steady.
One particularly dangerous drug that rose over the past year among teens is “bath salts,” AKA synthetic stimulant cathinone, as well as the use of cough and cold medicines to get high.
The takeaway? The U.S. landscape of drug use changes quickly. And teens are particularly vulnerable to experimentation with alcohol and drug use due to feelings of indestructibility and immunity, along with their inability to associate actions with consequences.
Do You Know an At-Risk Teen?
“While some teens will experiment and stop, or continue to use occasionally, without significant problems. Others will develop a dependency, moving on to more dangerous drugs and causing significant harm to themselves and possibly others. It is difficult to know which teens will experiment and stop and which will develop serious problems.”
However, particularly susceptible are those who have a family history of substance use disorders, are depressed and/or have low self-esteem, and don’t feel like they “fit in.”
Meanwhile, even if teen drug abuse is decreasing, the fallout remains profound. All in all, more than 4,200 young people between the ages of 15 and 24 died from overdoses in 2015. The vast majority of these deaths were caused by heroin and other illicit opioids (2,343) followed by prescription painkillers (886), sedatives (665), cocaine (442), and alcohol (110).
And while there are no reports of young adults dying from an overdose of marijuana, “there are many reports of marijuana users seeking treatment in emergency rooms, reporting uncomfortable side effects from consuming high THC levels in smoked marijuana or marijuana edibles.”
Perhaps most troubling of all? Despite the million-plus young people who struggled with drug addiction in a single year as revealed by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, only 198,000 youths sought and received treatment at special facilities. Without this help, however, they may never admit that they have a problem, let alone put a sustained effort toward overcoming their addictions. This is why adolescent drug rehab is so critical to getting teens on the path to recovery: Not only does it acknowledge the unique circumstances that lead to substance abuse and addiction among teens, but it addresses the issues in the most relatable and effective way.
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