February 26, 2020
This is the second of a 3-part series about teenage substance abuse trends for 2018, as released by the Monitoring the Future project.
It would be an easy mistake to minimalize some of the MTF’s findings.
Some parents may even think, “Why is it such a big deal – isn’t it NORMAL for teens to experiment?”
It IS true that most parents drank alcohol or experimented with drugs when they were younger. Likewise, because marijuana is enjoying an increasingly-legal status, many parents believe that casual recreational use of “minor” drugs is a mostly-harmless personal activity.
But medical science has advanced considerably over the last generation. For example, when today’s parents were themselves teenagers, addiction was not viewed as an actual medical illness. Right now, it is universally accepted that a Substance Use Disorder (SUD) is in fact a diagnosable disease of the brain with distinct symptoms and established treatment protocols.
Of special relevance, we now understand more about how the use of addictive substances triggers physical and chemical changes within the brain. Most significantly, we have learned that teenagers’ brains keep development until they reach their early 20s.
This is critical information – adolescents and teenagers are at much greater vulnerability to the lasting – and sometimes permanent – damage caused by substance abuse. And here’s the thing – the younger the teen, the greater the damage.
Take marijuana, for example. Here is what can happen to a teen who “just” smokes marijuana:
Knowing lifetime risk is important, because it lets parents know what their opinions. But it is even more important to understand which substances teens are abusing RIGHT NOW. “Current use” is when drug use and drinking is no longer just experimentation – it is a regular practice.
12th-grade past-month illicit use (rounded):
The most worrisome realization is how much drinking and drug use occurs among younger teens – 1 out of 5 15-16 year-olds and around 1 out of 12 13-14 year-olds
But just as striking is the availability of intoxicants.
Allow that last statistic sink in for just a moment.
13-year-old adolescents can’t drive a car, and they aren’t allowed to work, they can’t see an R-rated movie, but over 10% of them have little problem finding crack cocaine.
That single representative fact alone shows why we all should be concerned about teen substance abuse.
Since 1978, Teensavers has provided expert, evidence-based care for teens in crisis due to addictive or behavioral disorders. If your family needs help, contact Teensavers Treatment Centers TODAY.
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