Young People are Abusing Drugs at Earlier Ages

Research indicates that young people are misusing drugs and alcohol at increasing rates and at younger ages too. This is absolutely something to be concerned about. When young people misuse drugs and alcohol, they put themselves in harm’s way and invite much greater risk upon themselves than older adults do. This is not to say that older adults don’t experience risk when they misuse drugs and alcohol, but it is to say that young people put themselves at even greater risk when they partake in drug and alcohol misuse than any other age group or demographic.

Unfortunately, while young people are most likely to experience severe risk and danger when they misuse drugs and alcohol (as compared to older adults), people are also more likely to begin experimenting with drugs and alcohol when they are in their teens or early twenties. This presents a difficult situation, where Americans are putting themselves in harm’s way and putting themselves at considerable risk, all at a very young age. This problem has to be addressed.

The Reality of Young Adult Substance Abuse

The National Institute on Drug Abuse has done a lot of research into the young adult substance abuse situation in the United States. The short story? It’s getting worse, and quickly too. According to NIDA research:

  • By the time they reach the end of high school, seventy percent of young people will have misused alcohol at least once. Half of them will have experimented with drugs. Forty percent will have smoked their first cigarette. Twenty percent of them will have experimented with prescription drugs of some kind.
  • NIDA has been able to prove that young people seek out risks and new experiences because they are “biologically wired” to do so. Young people desire new things and new feelings and new adventures, so they are more likely to jump forward into something risky like drug experimentation or alcohol misuse.
  • When young people misuse drugs and alcohol, such an experience tends to leave a lasting effect on them. Because young people still have developing brains and minds, they pose a far greater risk to their mental faculty and brain development than older adults do. Older adults can harm themselves with drugs, certainly, but young people can harm themselves even more. When young people misuse drugs and alcohol, they actually risk causing permanent damage to their brains or to their mental development.
  • Another factor that NIDA has explored is the halting and overall cessation of mental faculty and cognizance that almost always comes right after a young person starts misusing drugs and alcohol. When a young person misuses substances, it can alter and even rewire certain brain channels, and this can halt further development. This is why drug addicts and alcoholics in their thirties will often behave as though they are in their teens. They started misusing drugs in their teens, and development and maturity essentially halted at that point.

These are just some of the insights that NIDA has discovered in their quest to learn more about the factors and circumstances, risks and dangers of young adult substance abuse. All of the information points in one direction. It is absolutely crucial that young people abstain from drug and alcohol misuse.

Preventing Drug Abuse Amongst Teens and Young Adults

Studies indicate that there are already at least two million American teenagers who meet the criteria for drug addiction or alcoholism. Records also indicate that there are another five million Americans in their early to mid-twenties who meet these same criteria. This amounts to about eight million addicts from the age range of twelve years old to about twenty-seven years old. These are eight million addicts who need help, who need rehabilitation services, and who need assistance in overcoming their addiction struggles.

There are essentially two ways for reducing a drug problem, two approaches for creating a sober society of young adults and teens:

  • Prevention. Prevention amongst young people is key, and this approach is highly underutilized in our current culture. Prevention efforts should be increased ten-fold because prevention is the act and effort of stopping addiction from occurring before it even occurs. Education, better law enforcement efforts, more community action, events to raise awareness, parents talking to their kids about the risks attendant with drug and alcohol misuse, these are all great examples of prevention at its best.
  • Rehabilitation. For those who are already addicted to drugs and alcohol, prevention just simply is not going to work. When a young person is hooked on drugs and alcohol, they will absolutely need the help of an inpatient drug and alcohol addiction treatment program to assist them in coming down off of drugs and alcohol. Inpatient drug and alcohol addiction treatment centers are perfect for helping young people address both the physical and physiological aspects of their addiction habits, as well as the psychological and spiritual aspects of their addiction habits.

By increasing our efforts in both of the above areas, we should be able to make some real progress with helping young people overcome addiction. It might take some effort, it might several years, but if we all do our best to help prevent young people from becoming addicted and help rehabilitate those who are currently addicted, we can reduce and eventually remove this problem for good.

Sources:

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-adolescent-substance-use-disorder-treatment-research-based-guide/introduction

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/126/4/791

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3734705/

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