In today’s age, it seems like kids are starting to do things younger and younger, from wearing makeup to using cell phones. It seems that this trend of “younger, younger, younger” has pushed itself knee deep into the bog of drinking, drugs, and potential addiction. Kids are starting to use dangerous drugs regularly at the beginning of their teen years. Is this because the easy access, the fact that so many of them see this behavior at home, the skewed information they receive, or a myriad of other reasons?
While many people want to believe that it is older teenagers who begin experimenting, a study from Columbia University has published statistics showing that the average age for teens’ first drinks, first cigarettes, and first time using drugs was between 13 and 14 years old. That seems like a startlingly young age to some people; however, I found it to make sense, as that was when I first tried these things.
This shouldn’t be excused as simple experimentation, however, as 20 of the 75 percent of high school students who’ve used tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, or cocaine fit medical criteria for addiction. High school kids are using controlled prescription drugs, inhalants, ecstasy, cocaine, alcohol…whatever they can get their hands on.
Unsurprisingly, they also do not know moderation. While they drink less frequently than adults, they drink more in quantity than any other age group (with 4.9 drinks as the average). With addiction such a highly publicized ‘hot topic,’ how and why are younger and younger children able to get drugs?
Unfortunately, faulty information and easy accessibility could feasibly be reasons that teenagers are abusing drugs. Almost 50 of surveyed teens believe that prescription drugs are measurably safer than street drugs, a bit of incorrect information which could lead to drug abuse and addiction. These drugs are easily available in many teens’ own medicine closets. They don’t have to see a drug dealer, they don’t believe they’re doing anything illegal, and they don’t have to pay for their drugs.
Many teens, especially athletes and those diagnosed with ADHD, are already in possession of controlled medications, making it especially easy for them to up their own dosages, provide to their friends, and all the while be oblivious to the trail they are blazing for themselves.
Information on the part of the parent is also skewed in that many adults believe that every teen is going to try substances, and that it’s normal, therefore allowing their kids to get away with inappropriate behavior. Many children also grow up with adults who use substances inappropriately or, in 17 percent of children’s cases, with a parent who’s dependent. When kids grow up this way, they often get the message that it’s okay to drink or use to excess, and their families often provide them with the drugs or alcohol that they desire. Children and teenagers are presented with a barrage of incorrect information, and coupled with how easy it is to find booze and pills, the result is often disastrous.
Ultimately, kids are still kids – they need some sort of active, engaged guidance. They need it at home, from their family, from school, with education, and from friends. With good examples and honest communication, they have a better chance of not falling into this trap.
We might never have an exact answer of why the underground “age limit” has been pushed down, but we do know what we can do about it now, in the present. These are the facts; let’s teach them to our kids so that they know what they’re up against.
Park, A. (2011, June 29). Teens and Drugs: Rite of Passage or Recipe for Addiction? Retrieved January 31, 2013, from TIME.com: http://healthland.time.com/2011/06/29/
Tanenbaum, S. (n.d.). 13 Sobering Facts About Teen Substance Abuse. Retrieved January 31, 2013, from everdayhealth.com: http://www.everydayhealth.com/kids-health-pictures/13-sobering-facts-about-teen-substance-abuse.aspx#/
The Truth About Prescription Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Retrieved January 31, 2013, from drugfreeworld.org: http://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/prescription/
Filed under: Addiction, Substance Abuse · Tags: Addiction, ADHD, adolescent drug use, alcohol, Alcohol Abuse, Alcohol and Drugs, Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Drug Abuse, drug use, substance abuse, teenage drug use