Teen Substance Use Isn’t All Fun and Games
As prom and graduation season gets underway, many young adults will be faced with choices about drinking and drugs. From parents and teachers accepting teen substance use as a rite of passage, to the media’s glamorous portrayal of teen drinking on television and in movies, kids today are getting mixed signals about the perils of drinking and other drug use.
While it may seem like a constant party on TV, teenage substance use can have major consequences. Because teenagers’ brains are still developing, they are especially sensitive to the effects of substances and at higher risk. More often than not, substance use disorders start during these important formative years. In fact, those who start using any addictive substance before age 18 are more than 5 times as likely to develop an addiction compared to someone who starts using at age 21 or older.
Despite these facts, teens are drinking and using other drugs at an alarming rate. Research shows that 75% of all high school students have used addictive substances including tobacco/nicotine, alcohol or marijuana, and 1 in 5 of those using will meet the diagnostic criteria for a substance use disorder.
Our mixed cultural messages have to stop. It’s time we stop undermining the health and futures of our teens. We need to address teen substance use as the public health problem it truly is. First we must put an end to glamorizing teen substance use and end the widespread availability of tobacco/nicotine, alcohol, marijuana and controlled prescription drugs. Second, we need to address teen substance use in our health systems by routine screening to identify the problem and intervening to prevent the too often deadly consequences. Addiction is a disease that can be prevented and treated and we must do all we can to protect our young people from it.
For more information about teens and addiction check out Adolescent Substance Use: America’s #1 Public Health Problem.