Drugs are everywhere; in movies, magazines, books, music, school, and life in general. It is inevitable that at some point in teenagers’ lives they will be exposed to drugs. There are many things that affect teenage drug use; the mental health of today’s teens, how we are preventing drug use, and the media. Ultimately, though, drug abuse is a growing epidemic that is costing many lives.
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The term “drug” is defined as any chemical substance that , when absorbed into a living organism, alters normal bodily functions. This means prescription pills, herbal drugs, alcohol, and other drugs. In the U.S., alcohol is the leading abused drug among not only teens but adults as well even though alcohol is not commonly thought of as a drug. 50% of High School Seniors have admitted to drinking and 53% have admitted to using illicit drugs. Not only that, alcohol kills 6 ½ times more people then any other drug combined. If that isn’t shocking enough 60% of teens said drugs were sold or kept at their school and 20% of eighth graders admitted to trying marijuana. Clearly what we are doing is not helping this pressing problem.
For too many young people, the media portrays the “good life” as an endless round of parties and glamour. Idols, like fashion models, have admitted that they hold off hunger pangs by smoking a cigarette and many celebs have been caught drinking underage and using drugs in their pursuit of “fun.” It has become the new “cool” thing to do.
Not only has it become cool but with the economy going down and divorce rates going up, the life of a teenager has done nothing but become harder. Drugs have become a quick escape, an easier way to relax and get away from day-to-day issues such as homework, family life, and personal appearance. Schools preach about the evils of drugs and parents pray that their child will not fall victim but in reality children represent a growing share of the drug using population.
It is only human nature to rebel against restraint. If you teach children that drugs are nothing bad and evil and all the scary things will happen if you use them, you hope that it will steer them away from drugs. However, at the same time there are many people – a number of them members of their peer group – trying just as hard to convince teens that they illicit drugs are good, ok, and fun. The question is, which message is likely to be more believable? Take one hit of a joint and you will die or that one hit will make all your stresses go away?
Parents hope that the first message is more believable but it’s not. Kids are not stupid; they see plenty of friends who have used drugs and are not dead. So the scare tactic approach is just not working. It would be far more effective, in fact, if children were taught both the pros and the cons of drugs. Do not give them half the information, give them the full story. If your child does take the hit and doesn’t end up in the hospital, dead, not only will he or she hide drug use from you, they will learn not to trust everything you say as well. In their mind they are thinking “Well, they lied to me about the effects of drugs — what else did they lie about?” and feel more open to experimenting with drugs. If the full story is given from the beginning, the curiosity factor is gone and trust is still unbroken , allowing drug problems to become recognized and dealt with more easily.
At all events, what we have been doing has not helped to decrease the number of using teens. The number of deaths is rising by the minute and the number of users is rising even faster. Our future has a drug problem and unless we fix it now, we are in for some hard times.
_Caitlynn Cooper is a student at Anoka Ramsey Community College_