For parents, education about drug use and abuse is one of the first lines of defense in protecting and helping children. If you don't know what's going on in the world with regard to drugs, you don't know what to talk to your teen about or what types of things your teen might be experiencing.
One way to educate yourself about teen drug abuse is to understand some of the statistics related to the topic. Here's a look at five current stats about teen drug use and what they mean for parents and families.
Teen Drug Use is Down, but Not Gone
The Facts: Teen use of many substances is at a lowest reported number since the start of the nation's annual Monitoring the Future Survey. The types of drugs with lower prevalence in 2016 include heroin, alcohol, cocaine, meth, sedatives and inhalants. This conclusion was drawn after interviewing teens from middle and high school, and though the trends for various substances differed across each grade, drug use with the exception of marijuana was down.
The Takeaway: First, parents can be somewhat celebratory that teen use is going down, but they must realize that downward trends don't mean teens aren't exposed to drugs. In fact, in some areas, drug use for teens is up, so parents should pay attention to what is going on in their teen's life and use statistics like this as conversation starters.
Teen's Outlook on Drugs is Evolving
The Facts: The 2016 Monitoring the Future Survey noted that teens today don't have the same outlook on drugs as teens in earlier years. Specifically, they have a reduced perception regarding the risk and potential harm in using substances such as Ecstacy or inhalants.
The Takeaway: Drug awareness programs have done their jobs in schools and communities, and teens today are definitely aware of the dangers related to heroin or cocaine. But new drugs always seem to pop up, and fads can drive teens to substances that are perceived as "safe." Those new substances create a gateway, often leading to use of other drugs. For parents, this means never turning off vigilance and continuing to talk with teens about drug use of all types. Have a conversation soon about what new drugs might be on the scene: your teen probably knows more than you do about that.
Overdose Deaths Trend to Prescription Drug Use
The Facts: Overdose deaths are more prevalent related to illegal prescription drug use than use of other illicit drugs. In fact, more teenagers die from prescription drug abuse than die from use of cocaine and heroin.
The Takeaway: Your teen doesn't have to hit up a drug dealer to get in trouble with substance abuse or addiction. Your medicine cabinet could be the door to this world. Be aware of what substances are in your home and how children might have access or be using them. No matter what type of neighborhood you live in or who your teen's friends are, drug use can happen.
Millions of ER Admissions are Related to Drug Abuse
The Facts: In one year, there were over 2 million ER admissions related to drug abuse. Approximately 27 percent were related to prescription medications, 21 percent to illicit drugs, and 14 percent to a combination of alcohol and drugs.
The Takeaway: No illegal drug use is safe. Even legal drug use, under the care of a medical provider, can result in a negative reaction that lands someone in the emergency room. Talk to your child about the dangers of drugs in a noncondescending way; assume they are intelligent enough to understand the mechanics behind how drugs impact the body and what can happen to health and wellness as a result. Avoid overarching "Drugs are bad, don't do them," statements, and talk instead about exactly why they are bad and what specific consequences — including ER visits and death — can occur.
Not Everyone is Getting the Right Treatment
The Facts: The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimates that only a very small number of people who could benefit from addiction treatment ever receive it. In 2009, for example, SAMHSA estimated that 23.5 million individuals age 12 or older in the country might be in need of substance abuse treatment, but only around 11.2 percent sought that treatment.
The Takeaway: Teens who are caught in addiction could be in denial about the problem or in a place where they are unable to communicate a need for assistance or seek help themselves. As a parent, if you believe your teen is struggling with substance abuse disorder or addiction, take action so that they aren't in the almost 90 percent of individuals who don't get the treatment they need.
It's never too late to seek treatment, and early intervention can help make recovery easier. Call The Teen Treatment Center for more information (844)319-5239. Learn more about substance abuse on our Parent Resources.