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Teens & Illegal Drugs

Underage Drug Use Takes Lives

D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) is just one of the organizations dedicated to helping make sure kids and teenagers stay away from drugs. D.A.R.E. is dedicated to helping students K-12 live safe and healthy lives, and that includes staying away from drugs such as cocaine, marijuana, prescription medications, opioids, heroin, painkillers, stimulants, and hallucinogens. Each year, over 600,000 teens are addicted to drugs or illegal substances, with some individuals starting to use drugs as early as middle school. These figures are alarming, as medical research shows that drug use early in life means that person is more likely to become addicted to illegal substances in the future.

Statistics Regarding Teens & Illegal Drugs

The following statistics were compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concerning teenage drug use in 2011:

  • 23% use marijuana regularly
  • 40% used marijuana at least once in their lifetime
  • 7% used cocaine at least once in their lifetime
  • 4% used methamphetamines at least once in their lifetime
  • 8% used ecstasy and/or MDMA at least once in their lifetime

Studies have shown that drug use at an early age is associated with greater drug use once the child reaches adulthood. Further, many subscribe to the “gateway drug” theory – that starting drugs as a child, such as marijuana, encourages the individual to advance to more serious drugs, such as cocaine or heroin, as he or she gets older.

Tips to Prevent Teen Drug Use

What can be done to prevent teenagers from becoming addicted to drugs at such an early age? How can the troubling numbers mentioned above be reversed? The answer typically starts with two words – awareness and education.

Drug awareness and education can occur in many places – homes, schools, community centers, and more. According to the American Medical Association, parents can take certain steps to communicate with their children about the dangers of drugs and how addiction is a serious problem. Some of the steps include:

  • Being honest with your child and telling them that drug use is “unacceptable, illegal, harmful, and wrong”
  • Setting family rules against drug use and consequences for breaking the rules
  • Educating your child about the dangers of drug use
  • Providing positive feedback and reinforcement when your child refrains from using drugs
  • Encouraging children to participate in extracurricular and after-school activities
  • Encouraging a healthy lifestyle, including exercise and nutrition
  • Helping boost your child’s self esteem and self worth

Extracurricular activities serve a positive role in living a healthy lifestyle, including taking care of one’s body, promoting teamwork, and reducing down time. Many drug issues begin with teens being unsupervised without much to do. Further, many of the individuals who lead extracurricular activities, such as teachers, coaches, and instructors, serve as mentors to the teens who participate in these programs. Thus, the adults can approach the teens with a unique voice as a leader, making it more likely that the teens will heed their advice and stay away from illicit substances.

Organizations Focused on Prevention

With drug abuse so prevalent in society, a number of resources exist for teachers, parents, and teens. Here are a few organizations that provide strategies to reduce teen drug abuse as well as education materials.

  • D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education)
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens
  • Just Think Twice (through the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration)
  • American Academy for Pediatrics