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Drugs and Teens
Teenagers may be involved with legal or illegal drugs in various ways. Experimentation with drugs during adolescence is common. Unfortunately, teenagers often don’t see the link between their actions today and the consequences tomorrow. They also have a tendency to feel indestructible and immune to the problems that others experience.
Using alcohol and tobacco at a young age increases the risk of using other drugs later. Some teens will experiment and stop, or continue to use occasionally, without significant problems. Others will develop a dependency, moving on to more dangerous drugs and causing significant harm to themselves and possibly others.
Adolescence is a time for trying new things. Teens use drugs for many reasons, including curiosity, because it feels good, to reduce stress, to feel grown up or to fit in. It is difficult to know which teens will experiment and stop and which will develop serious problems.
Who is At Risk?
- Teenagers at risk for developing serious alcohol and drug problems include those:
- with a family history of substance abuse
- who are depressed
- who have low self-esteem
- who feel like they don’t fit in or are out of the mainstream
Teenagers abuse a variety of drugs, legal and illegal.
Teens and Substance Abuse
Tobacco: Teens who smoke are three times more likely than nonsmokers to use alcohol, eight times more likely to use marijuana, and 22 times more likely to use cocaine. Smoking is associated with a host of other risky behaviors, such as fighting and engaging in unprotected sex.
Prescribed medications (such as Ritalin, Adderall, and OxyContin)
Inhalants: Known by such street names as huffing, sniffing and wanging, the dangerous habit of getting high by inhaling the fumes of common household products is estimated to claim the lives of more than a thousand children each year. Many other young people, including some first-time users, are left with serious respiratory problems and permanent brain damage.
Over-the-counter cough, cold, sleep, and diet medications (such as Coricidin)
Marijuana: About one half of the people in the United States have used marijuana, many are currently using it and some will require treatment for marijuana abuse and dependence.
Stimulants: The possible long-term effects include tolerance and dependence, violence and aggression, malnutrition due to suppression of appetite. Crack, a powerfully addictive stimulant, is the term used for a smokeable form of cocaine. In 1997, an estimated 1.5 million Americans, age 12 and older, were chronic cocaine users.
Club drugs: This term refers to drugs being used by teens and young adults at all-night dance parties such as "raves" or "trances," dance clubs, and bars. MDMA (Ecstasy), GHB, Rohypnol (Rophies), ketamine, methamphetamine, and LSD are some of the club or party drugs gaining popularity. Because some club drugs are colorless, tasteless, and odorless, they can be added unobtrusively to beverages by individuals who want to intoxicate or sedate others. In recent years, there has been an increase in reports of club drugs used to commit sexual assaults.
Depressants: These are drugs used medicinally to relieve anxiety, irritability, tension. There is a high potential for abuse and, combined with alcohol, effects are heightened and risks are multiplied.
Heroin: Several sources indicate an increase in new, young users across the country who are being lured by inexpensive, high-purity heroin that can be sniffed or smoked instead of injected. Heroin has also been appearing in more affluent communities.
Steroids: Anabolic steroids are a group of powerful compounds closely related to the male sex hormone testosterone. From 1998 to 1999, there was a significant increase in anabolic steroid abuse among middle-schoolers.
The use of illegal drugs is increasing, especially among young teens. The average age of first marijuana use is 14, and alcohol use can start before age 12. The use of marijuana and alcohol in high school has become common.
Drug use is associated with a variety of negative consequences, including increased risk of serious drug use later in life, school failure, and poor judgment which may put teens at risk for accidents, violence, unplanned and unsafe sex, and suicide.
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