People at different ages experience different levels of health risk, but if there is one demographic that we seem to worry about the most it is teens and young adults. Understandably so, this age range bears some of the greatest “at-risk” incidences that will occur in one’s life. This is the peer pressure age range, the rebel time, the lawbreaker time, the risk-taking period, etc. This is the time period where a person is most likely to get into trouble, e.g. in the case of abusing drugs and alcohol. In our 21st century, we are seeing people in their teens and twenties abusing drugs and alcohol in a way that strikes fear into our hearts when we think of their future.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, there are a few rising trends amongst teen drug use that we should be concerned about. For one thing, while teens and people in their young twenties still do not do hard drugs as much as people in their late twenties and thirties do, overall teen and young adult use of marijuana is growing quite rapidly. The NSDUH warned in their mid-2017 report that marijuana often acts as a gateway drug for young people. They warned that increasing use of marijuana by teens was a sign that more serious drug abuse was certainly right around the corner.
According to the Monitoring the Future Survey, more high schoolers smoke marijuana than cigarettes by slight but very realistic margins. This shows how popular marijuana has become for the younger generation. Another key factor here is that young people have begun to use marijuana or hash oils in their e-cigarette vaporizers and other vaping paraphernalia, increasing their ability and means for using addictive drugs. This relatively new and “interesting” way of getting high on marijuana is perceived as one of the reasons why interest in marijuana has increased.
2018 will likely be worse for teens and young adults. Between 2016 and 2017, marijuana use went up by about two percent just as the measured, perceived risk that young people have in using marijuana went down. As young people begin to perceive less risk in using marijuana and as usage of the drug grows, it is likely that 2018 will see an even greater prevalence of it.
But that’s not all. Vaping will likely play a big role in marijuana use in 2018, as in 2017 one in ten high schoolers reported using cannabis in their vaping devices. Depending on where the individual got the juice from, they might not even know that cannabis was an ingredient.
Then there is the concern regarding marijuana being a gateway drug, and the worry about what drugs teens and young adults will go on to abuse later on in life if they start with marijuana. The easiest way to show that marijuana is a gateway drug is to understand the process of addiction first. This is to say that, though not everyone who smokes marijuana will go on to abuse hard drugs, it is very safe to say that almost all hardened drug addicts initially begin by experimenting with marijuana.
Of course, with the country’s very current and very concerning opiate epidemic, the biggest fear regarding young people who are already abusing marijuana is that they will use marijuana as a gateway drug for going on to abuse more dangerous opiate drugs. This is not an unwarranted concern either.
To combat the ever-present problem of young people abusing substances, the Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice met in a November of 2017 to discuss how to most efficiently implement a policy to address teen and young adult drug abuse. Luckily, the Department had been delivered some 56 recommendations from the White House’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis. So, the government and its various organizations are doing something to address this.
But we can do something too. The best way to address marijuana use and cannabis use in vaping is with prevention and education. Most young people in their late teens and early twenties are not yet addicted to hard drugs. However, they are setting the stage for hazardous, recreational substance abuse later on in life. This is why a stronger focus on prevention and education will be extremely helpful.
When teens and young adults learn about the risks involved with any kind of substance abuse, whether they get the information from their parents or from schools or both, they are far less likely to engage in recreational drug use. This must be the focus in 2018 to prevent the opioid epidemic from moving in on the younger generation.