|Substance abuse by people who are under the legal age is becoming a significant health concern in the United States / Photo by: dolgachov via 123RF|
Substance abuse by people who are under the legal age is becoming a significant health concern in the United States. Experts have said that the illicit use of alcoholic beverages, for example, by young people represents enormous safety and health risks for these individuals. Underage alcohol use not only affects those who belong to the said demographics but also involves everyone around them.
This issue is not an isolated problem that exists within families who have children or teenagers who drink alcohol but is also a problem that should concern the entire nation. Meanwhile, a lot of young people are also not safe from other dangerous substances that might derail them from achieving their dreams.
Some of these substances that teens are using today include opioids, benzodiazepines, cocaine, marijuana, ecstasy, methamphetamines, synthetic marijuana, inhalants, and anabolic steroids. In a report published by the National Institute on Drug Use, an organization that monitors substance abuse in the US, it revealed the results of a survey where they asked 42,500 students from 400 public and private schools as they participated in the annual Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey of drug use and attitudes towards 8th, 10th and 12th American graders.
Trends in Substance Abuse
The report mentioned that the trend on cigarette use continues to decline by approximately 20% to 30% compared to the numbers gathered during the mid-1990s. Declines were also noticeable in five-year trends of a lifetime, past year, and month involving the most dangerous substances such as binge alcohol use, illicit drug use specifically opioids. However, the data gathered by the MTF showed a continuous and alarming increase in vaping.
Based on their survey, the researchers found that the common reasons why most high school seniors vape is because they are experimenting with its taste. Some of them said that it’s “because it tastes good” and “to have a good time with my friends.” There are some respondents who said that they vape to relieve tension or to relax. In the past year, there has been an increase in the percentage of 12th graders who said that they vape because they are “hooked” on it. This data supports other findings made by previous researchers that mentioned how flavor additives, such as the sweet ones like fruit and mint, are appealing to the youth.
Overall, reported rates of past month vaping showed that it can exceed any other kind of substance use, including alcohol and marijuana, for all groups of respondents. It was also found that in each grade, vaping ranked second to alcohol in the past year’s survey. Results from 2019’s survey showed a significant increase from 21.7% to 25% percent among 10th graders and from 26.7% to 30.9% among high school seniors. This means that one in four 10th graders and one in three 12th graders are qualified to be identified as current users of vaping products. Alarmingly, 82% of high school seniors claimed that they get vaping devices easily.
|The report mentioned that the trend on cigarette use continues to decline by approximately 20% to 30% compared to the numbers gathered during the mid-1990s / Photo by: Katarzyna Białasiewicz via 123RF|
The Problem of Underage Drinking
Since 2010, excessive drinking has been blamed for the more than 4,300 deaths among underage youth each year. It cost the US $24 billion in the said year. Even though the law was clear that the purchase of alcohol by people under the age of 21 is illegal, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that people aged 12 to 20 were able to drink 11% of all alcohol consumed in the US. In their website, the organization responsible for monitoring the harmful substance in America also said that 90% of the alcohol consumed was during a period of binge drinking.
Alcohol abuse accounted for approximately 119,000 emergency room visits by persons aged 12 to 21 in 2013. Additionally, the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that during the past 30 days of observation, 30% of respondents drank some amount of alcohol while 14% binge drank. Meanwhile, 6% of them claimed that they drove after drinking alcohol and 17% rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol.
|Since 2010, excessive drinking has been blamed for the more than 4,300 deaths among underage youth each year. It cost the US $24 billion in the said year / Photo by: rawpixel via 123RF|
Preventive Measures and Actions to Take
Teenage substance abuse can take a toll on the well-being of young people today. Fortunately, substance abuse and addiction can be treated as early as possible. The easier and more successful treatment of the condition is, of course, done before things become worse. For example, to reduce the number of underage drinking, community-based efforts are required so that concerned authorities will be able to monitor the activities of youth and decrease their access to alcohol.
Young people are the hope of the future. They will be the torchbearer of society in the coming years. This is why their health and overall condition are important for everyone. These young people will grow up and must become responsible members of the community. If they are being neglected by those who are supposed to take care of them, who knows what the future holds for them and this planet?