National Teen Drug Usage Declines, But Addiction in Adolescents Remains Relevant


Photo Credit: Lauren Lafrades

Alcoholic beverages at the local Albertsons that you might find around the Boise High party scene.

Lauren Lafrades, Editor-In-Chief

It’s been long recognized that using drugs can stunt brain development and cause early onset of ruinous health effects in adolescents. Teens today are exposed to monumental amounts of information deterring them from drug usage. Social media and television anti-drug campaigns regularly Grace the screens of the adolescent generation. Technology has enabled youth to be generously educated about the harmful effects of substance abuse. As research suggests, teens are taking notes.

Teen drug usage is on the downward trend, and is at its lowest point in nearly 2 decades. Across-the-board usage of all types of drugs including alcohol, marijuana, and cigarettes, are on a down-slope.

Although new types of drugs, like opioids and e-cigarettes, have entered the scene, statistics have shown the teens are more aware and less likely to participate in detrimental activities than their  predecessors.

  These positive trends do not  discount the thousands of teens that find themselves facing the hardship of substance addiction. The unfortunate reality is that teen addiction is still a prevalent issue in our society and the effect that substance abuse has on family and friends of users still cuts deep.

Some of the most common reasons the teens begin to use illicit substances include Curiosity, Stress, emotional struggles, peer pressure, and a desire to escape. Major issues occur when the “experimental phase” crosses into territory marked by consistent usage, a slippery slope far too many teens find themselves battling. Genetically some people have more tendencies that predispose them to addiction. These individuals are more likely to fall into addiction uncontrollably.

The environment in which one thrives and the people they are surrounded by, also play a major role in whether or not drug usage is considered acceptable behavior. In households where substance use is prevalent, the likelihood of the teens growing up surrounded by this drug culture is much higher. Often these teens find themselves caught up in the vicious cycle.

The high school one attends and the culture within it can also determine how one views substance usage. “It genuinely hurts me to say, but I feel like kids who choose to stay sober are somehow looked down on, to some degree. It’s just the culture of our school, and as much as it’s sad to say, peer pressure is a pretty real thing,” says an anonymous BHS student.

In our own community we see the repercussions of drug usage. Stories of peers who have undergone hardships with substance abuse circulate the halls, culminating into a high school narrative that many know too well.

Seeing friends and classmates falter under the weight of drug usage is devastating. “I met a kid a long time ago, and we became really good friends and were close for a long time. He started smoking and it wasn’t anything crazy at first. But then he started taking pills, and then he started taking pills everyday, and from there it just kept getting worse. We tried to tell him to stop but he wouldn’t. It’s all because he couldn’t control himself around certain substances and it led him to make some bad decisions,” explains a Boise student.

Unfortunately this story of one BHS student may be one that is relatable to a number of kids that have battled addiction. A handful of students in our own community have spent time at rehabilitation and recovery centers.

There are treatment centers designed specifically to target emotional and social issues that lend themselves to teen drug usage. This specialized treatment helps specify triggers in one’s life, and in turn combat them.

Getting help, in whatever form best suits an individual, is the first step to recovery and no sense of shame or embarrassment should overshadow a desire to get clean.

Providing support for those around us that are trekking the road to recovery remains critical. Addiction is a beast that requires numerous allies in order to defeat.

If you or a friend is struggling with addiction, and need help, the National Drug Hotline offers twenty-four hour assistance. They can offer information  regarding recovery and treatment around the clock. To contact the NDH call 1-888-633-3239.