Are Young People Abusing Drugs at Younger Ages?

It is rare that anyone would insist that substance abuse is not a serious issue. Most understand that we have a substance abuse problem far worse than what addiction looked like in the 1990s. However, it is easy to observe discrepancy when it comes to some of the more intricate, detailed aspects of addiction. Young adult substance abuse, for example, is one such area of the addiction arena that receives a lot of attention for how serious it has gotten. However, there is discrepancy even here because some studies show that substance abuse amongst young people has decreased, while others show that it has increased.

According to the Monitoring the Future Survey, the percentages for substance abuse amongst high school-age teens peaked in 2000 at over twenty-six percent for eighth graders, forty-five percent for tenth graders, and fifty-four percent for twelfth graders. These percentages measure the young people who abused some kind of substance (drugs or alcohol) at least once within their lifetimes. Since then, the percentages for young adult substance abuse have increased and decreased like a roller coaster, sometimes skyrocketing into the high twenty-range percentile for younger teens and the high fifty-range percentile range for older teens, other times dropping into lower percentiles for all age-ranges of young people.

The Monitoring the Future Survey does show through their research that substance abuse amongst teens is not as prevalent in 2017 as it was in 2000, but the Monitoring the Future Survey is not the only organization that studies this problem. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration also studies young adult substance abuse, operating survey analysis and research in a similar method as the Monitoring the Future Survey. According to SAMHSA, while it is true that alcohol abuse amongst young people has receded in recent years, illicit drug use has either stayed the same or increased, depending on each, individual drug. Marijuana, for example, is skyrocketing in prevalence amongst young people, as are prescription drugs and hallucinogens.

The Risks of Young Adult Substance Abuse

There is no “safe age” to abuse drugs or alcohol at. That concept itself is sheer folly. However, some age groups of substance abusers tend to be more at risk for dangerous consequences, and the age range of 18 to 28 is known for being the most at-risk age for, “Negative consequence of substance abuse.”

This is why we must carefully monitor young adult substance abuse trends, and attempt to help young adults when possible. People in this age bracket are more likely to die from substance abuse than other ages are, more likely to overdose, more likely to sustain an injury of some kind, more likely to make a rash decision, more likely to hurt someone else, more likely to commit a crime, etc. The list goes on and on.

Young people are also the most likely to spread substance abuse to others through peer pressure and a closer group dynamic, which makes this demographic the toughest to remove addiction habits from. Basically, this age group is not only the most at risk for substance abuse problems, but it is also the group that needs help the most. While all addicts of all ages and all walks of life certainly need our help, we can never turn a blind eye to our youth and the future leaders of America, many of whom now suffer from cruel substance abuse problems.

We must not get distracted by discrepancies about, “Whether or not young adult substance abuse is really up or down.” Rather, we must accept the fact that substance abuse is still a huge issue for young people, and take it upon ourselves and within our communities to help them. If survey data truly does show that young adult substance abuse is down, then that should act as an incentive to keep working to reduce it further, not to rest on our laurels.

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