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Teenage Drug And Alcohol Abuse Called America’s #1 Health Problem
A powerful new study, by the prestigious National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University, is ringing alarm bells for America and Teenage Drug And Alcohol Abuse.
- 90 percent of Americans who meet the medical criteria for addiction started smoking, drinking, or using other drugs before age 18.
- 1 in 4 Americans who began using any addictive substance before age 18 developed an addiction, compared to 1 in 25 Americans who started using at age 21 or older.
- 75 percent of all high school students have used addictive substances including tobacco, alcohol, marijuana or cocaine; 1 in 5 of them — 20 percent — meets the medical criteria for addiction.
- 46 percent of all high school students currently use addictive substances; 1 in 3 of them meets the medical criteria for addiction.
- Finally, and this is crucial: Adolescence is the most critical period for starting to use drugs and alcohol, because the teenage brain is still developing and is more vulnerable to harmful and addictive effects.
The scientists at CASA state loud and clear: Teenage substance abuse is America’s #1 health problem, because today’s teens are the country’s future. And the problem is getting worse, not better.
Parents of school-age children need to wake up and handle their own substance use and abuse problems, so they can effectively deal with the threat to their children, and to the country.
Addicted parents need alcohol detox, prescription drug detox
Parents of teenagers and pre-teens are major players in creating the drugged population that could sink America. America’s countless millions of drug-taking, alcohol-using, cigarette-smoking, and overly permissive parents are cultivating an entire generation of future prescription drug addicts and alcoholics.
More adult Americans, parents included, abuse alcohol than any other substance. But drugs of all sorts are also found in average homes. If it means a parent should get into prescription drug detox or alcohol detox and rehab — or even just quit smoking — then that’s what it’s going to take to help save their kids, and America, from self-destruction.
Until parents clean up, it can be tough to keep the kids clean. But if enough parents take responsibility, they will not only help save their kids from a life of alcohol addiction and abuse or prescription drug addiction, they could also bring pressure on the entertainment industry to knock off the glamorization of drug and alcohol abuse that teenagers are bombarded with every day.
It’s not just parents who are driving drug and alcohol addiction
The messages that teenagers and pre-teens hear that encourage smoking, alcohol abuse and drug abuse, says the new study, are largely created by adults who market prescription drugs, movies, television shows, commercials, music, games — the list of influences is huge, and the messages are unavoidably everywhere.
“Most communities are dense with alcohol and tobacco outlets. Prescription drugs are advertised as a cure for every ill. Marijuana is marketed as medicine. The entertainment industry largely portrays teen substance use as fun and without adverse consequences,” the CASA study says. Also, the study adds, access to addictive prescription drugs, illegal street drugs and alcohol is easy throughout the country.
What most parents, and people in general, don’t know, says CASA, is that one out of every eight high school students (11.9 percent, or 1.6 million kids) already have a diagnosable clinical substance use disorder involving nicotine, alcohol or other drugs.
Pre-teens and teenagers emulate what they watch on television, what they see at the movies, the song lyrics they listen to, what other kids are doing. But the most powerful message is what they get at home, the one sent by their parents. Too many parents show, by their own actions, that drugs and alcohol are the key to relaxation or just socializing. These are powerful messages that should not be sent to children.
Parents who enter drug or alcohol detox set a good example
Parents who set a good example — particularly if they enter detox and rehab to handle existing drug problems — have a much better chance of keeping their kids safe from alcohol and drug problems. Parents who are themselves substance users and abusers seldom take effective action. They just set a bad example. If parents have real substance abuse problems, they need to get into whatever detox program they need — prescription drug detox, illicit drug detox, or alcohol detox.
The CASA study sums up the big picture this way: “The consequences of teen substance use are staggering in both financial and human terms. Teen use also threatens the health and lives of those who don’t use. And because teens who use these substances are likelier to become dependent than those who start as adults, the costs too often follow them for a lifetime — adding each year to the taxpayer bill for health care, developmental disabilities, criminal and family courts, prisons and jails, welfare and unemployment. At last count, this tab to government was almost $1,500 per year for every person in America.” All in, this is approaching something like $450 billion.
Adolescents are, by nature, risk-takers. And parents, who were once teenagers themselves, tend to shrug off teen substance use as a normal rite of passage, and do little or nothing to intervene. “Kids will be kids” seems to be the philosophy.
“We no longer can justify writing off adolescent substance use as bad behavior, as a rite of passage or as kids just being kids”, the CASA study authors say. “The science is too clear, the facts are too compelling, the consequences are too devastating and the costs are simply too high.”
NOTE: This information is provided for general educational purposes only and is not intended to constitute (i) medical advice or counseling, (ii) the practice of medicine, health care diagnosis or treatment, or (iii) the creation of a physician patient or clinical relationship. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem or that this information may be useful to you or others, please consult with your health care provider before applying any information from our articles to your personal situation or to the personal situation of others.
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