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Adolescent substance use called America’s #1 public health problem
If you have teenagers in the house, or pre-teens who are on their way to adolescence, this blog is for you. And if you have teens in trouble with substance abuse, or know of any who are, keep reading, because you’re already involved.
Addiction experts and social scientists at Columbia University have reported that substance use and abuse by America’s teenagers should not be taken lightly. Rather than treating it as a harmless phase that all teens go through, it should be at the top of our list of adverse social situations.
The massive, 420-page report from the University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASAColumbia), says it all by its title: Adolescent Substance Use: America’s #1 Public Health Problem. Smoking, drinking, using illegal drugs and misusing prescription drugs “is by any measure a public health problem of epidemic proportion, presenting clear and present danger to millions of America’s teenagers and severe and expensive long-range consequences for our entire population,” the scientists said. Ignoring or minimizing the problem not only adds to the soaring medical costs of substance use and addiction, it puts the future of America at risk, both socially and economically.
The report details the messages that pervade American culture that promote teen substance abuse, and then it examines the results:
- Widespread impairment of physical and mental health among millions of teenagers because of risky substance abuse
- Countless injuries, suicides, homicides and other fatalities related to substance use
- Risky driving, risky sex, and drug-related violence and crime
- The tragic losses of educational and life opportunities for tens of thousands of substance injured and addicted young people
- The terrible impact on families of the loss of sons and daughters to addiction
- The immeasurably negative loss to America’s vital work force
Adolescent substance use is also responsible for “the largest preventable and most costly public health problem in America today” says CASAColumbia. Teen substance abuse itself is costly, but research has shown that almost all adult substance abuse and addiction begins in adolescence:
- Annual costs directly stemming from teen substance use include $68 billion for underage drinking and $14.4 billion for substance-related juvenile justice programs.
- Annual costs to federal, state and local governments for all abuse and addiction are at least $468 billion a year – roughly $1,500 for every single person in America every year – and most of the problems originated in adolescence.
This comprehensive report drew from sources all across the country, including:
- National surveys of 1,000 high school students, 1,000 parents of high school students and 500 school personnel (including teachers, principals, counselors and coaches)
- Analyses of 7 national data sets
- Interviews with approximately 50 leading experts in a broad range of fields related to this report
- 5 focus groups with students, parents and school personnel
- A review of more than 2,000 publications
CASAColumbia say that educators, health professionals and parents need to become more aware of the seriousness of the situation. Everyone needs to learn how to identify at-risk teens, while the health care system needs to provide more and better treatment for kids already in trouble with substance use and abuse. The report is aimed at everyone who has a stake in our future, and is in a position to do something about it:
- Health Care Professionals
- Educators and Community Organizations
The report has a comprehensive list of recommendations for each category of involvement. If you’re in this list, you’re involved. You can download your own copy of the report here.
Here at Novus, we couldn’t agree more with the CASAColumbia recommendations. Novus isn’t an adolescent treatment center, but we do deal with dependence and addiction on a daily basis. And it’s vital to understand that so many adult patients can trace the beginnings of their substance use problems back to their teenage years.
Picture credit: CASAColumbia
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