Preventing teenage drug and alcohol use is, and should be, a top priority among lawmakers and health experts in the United States. It is no easy task, but the mental health community knows that the longer one can refrain from using mind altering substances during the developmental stage of life, the less risk they have of battling addiction down the road. Naturally, there are always exceptions. A person can make it to their later years without abusing drugs or alcohol; only to have an injury, be prescribed opioid painkillers and develop a dependence/addiction.
There isn’t a formula for determining how or when a person will develop an addiction. To be sure, research can show us who is at greatest risk giving an indication of targets for prevention efforts. However, it is well known that addiction has the propensity to shine on anyone, regardless of age, race or gender. And it is the young people who are the greatest risks of forming an unhealthy relationship with drugs and/or alcohol.
With America in the throes of an opioid epidemic, it is easy to become fearful about what young people are experimenting with, as many drugs can lead to an overdose. However, opioids are taking lives every day of the week, it would seem young people are responding to education and prevention efforts. Researchers at the University of Michigan have released this year’s survey on teen substance use, with some encouraging findings.
Monitoring the Future
Every year, about this time, the Monitoring the Future survey is published, effectively opening a window on the mindset of young people regarding drug and alcohol use. The findings this year indicate adolescent drug and alcohol use rates have dropped dramatically, numbers that have not been seen since the early 1990’s, The Washington Post reports. Teenage cigarette, alcohol and illicit drug use are at historic lows—unparalleled since the pinnacle of the 90’s “war on drugs.”
In 2016, only 28 percent of high school seniors reported using cigarettes in their lifetime, compared to 63 percent in 1991, according to the article. The findings regarding alcohol use were just as promising, with a little more than 36 percent of high school students drinking alcohol in the previous year, compared to 67 percent in 1991. Illicit drug use (excluding marijuana) this year was low as well, with:
- 5 percent of 8th graders reporting use.
- 10 percent of 10th graders.
- 14 percent of high school seniors.
Americans against the changing tides of marijuana acceptance in this country have long argued that legalization would lead to increased teen use. Which, when you think about it, seems to make some sense. However, the Monitoring the Future survey paints a different picture than you might expect. The findings indicate that teen marijuana use has stayed fairly level, despite legalization efforts, the article reports. Naturally, some experts are scratching their heads.
“We had predicted based on the changes in legalization, culture in the U.S. as well as decreasing perceptions among teenagers that marijuana was harmful that [accessibility and use] would go up,” said Dr. Nora Volkow of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). “But it hasn’t gone up.”
The data mined by researchers this year is great sign. Hopefully, the mindset of the 50,000 students who were interviewed for the survey holds course. It is also important to keep in mind that many teenagers are already struggling with addiction, a mental illness that will follow them into adulthood. It is paramount that young people living with addiction seek treatment and find recovery.
If you have a young adult child who is addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, please contact Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat. Our young adult program is centered on the various need needs and sensitivities of the emerging adult.