Is teenage drug use on the rise?

Has teenage drug use increased? Not exactly. While prevention initiatives may be helping, there remain some trends that parents must remain watchful about. More on trends in teen drug use here.

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Teens Are Experimenting And Getting Hooked on Drugs Younger Than Ever Before

According to the 2014 Monitoring the Future survey, teen drug use is down. The survey asks American 8th, 10th, and 12th-graders about their drug, alcohol, and tobacco use and their attitudes toward those substances. While it looks like various prevention initiatives are paying off, there remain some trends that parents must remain watchful about to keep the trend moving on a downward trajectory.

Here, we explore some of those major trends. And, we let you – THE PARENT – know what questions to ask and what to look for. Then, we invite your questions or comments about preventing teen addiction or substance abuse at the end.

Overall Drug Use Down

The parents of today’s teenagers are really the first generation to benefit from prevention initiatives. Now that they are parents, Gen X-ers and Y-ers seem to be passing the “Don’t Do Drugs” message on to their children. It is exciting and rewarding to see overall drug use among teenagers dropping, even if teen peer pressure and drug use are still a threat.

However, as parents we need to keep the message going. We cannot let a downward trend be a signal to relax our efforts to teach our teens about the dangers of substance abuse.

Exploring the trends: What parents should know

Before we pat ourselves on the back, we need to dig a little deeper into the results of the Monitoring the Future survey. For 8th graders, of the top 12 substances, seven of the top-most-abused come from the pharmacy or pharmacy department of any store in America.

Parents, more than half of the drugs our teens are abusing are likely in your medicine cabinet right now. The other five drugs are what you would know as “street drugs.” For 12th-graders, the distribution is the same, seven pharmaceuticals and five street drugs, however usage patterns are slightly different. In both groups, marijuana and hashish are the top most used but for eighth graders inhalants are second and for 12th graders Adderall is second, for example.

Pharmaceutical abuse of ADHD drugs

Two of the seven are widely prescribed by doctors to teenagers. The drugs Adderall and Ritalin commonly treat ADHD however they are also commonly abused by teenagers. Obviously this is a problem. Solving it is going to have to come largely from inside the walls of your own home. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Do your teenagers have free access to these drugs if they have been prescribed them?
  • If so, are you 100% sure they are not sharing them with their friends?
  • Is you teen using Ritalin or Adderall AS PRESCRIBED?

Pharmaceutical drug abuse can only happen when friends share with friends, when they are stolen/sold, or when the teenager to whom they are prescribed misuses the prescription. If you are a parent of a teenager who has been prescribed any sort of pharmaceutical it is important that you talk to your teen regularly about prescription drug abuse. You should also have a plan for monitoring your teens use either by not letting him or her have access to the prescription or by regularly counting the number of pills.

Cough it up: Cough medicines are also a problem

As you may be aware, grocery stores have restricted the sale of any over-the-counter substance that can be used in the manufacture of methamphetamine. That may lead to a false sense of security if you are not aware of how many other over-the-counter substances can be misused by teenagers.

One of the most common, and the only one to make the Monitoring the Future top 12, is cough medicine. Many liquid nighttime cough and cold preparations contain nearly the same amount of alcohol by volume as a shot of hard liquor. The very ingredient which does such a good job of controlling cough, dextromethorphan, can produce a high when taken in large doses. Teens who are just starting to experiment with substance abuse or those looking for a quick, but “legal” fix resort to ingesting cough syrup.

Talking about drugs helps prevent problems

Parents keep up the good work! Talking to your kids about drug abuse or addiction, including prescription misuse, is the only way to educate teens on the harmful effects of these substances.

If you suspect your teen is misusing drugs, don’t brush it off. Get help. Early intervention gives your teen the best chance to kick the habit.

About the author
Tyler is a freelance writer/journalist, with past experience as the head content writer and outreach coordinator for HelpYourTeenNow. His areas of focus include: parenting, education, social media, addiction, and issues facing teenagers today.
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