To address substance abuse in young adults, parents should have a clear understanding of the factors that contribute to drug use. Understanding the extent of this issue and exploring the steps to take if your child has a problem can help you navigate this challenging situation.

The Scope of the Problem

The National Institute of Drug Abuse surveys students in 8th, 10th and 12th grades about their substance use habits. This study, called the Monitoring the Future survey, provides insight into teen attitudes about drugs and alcohol. Some of the key findings from the 2019 data include the following:

  • 20.8% of 12th grade students reported vaping cannabis in the past year, compared to 19.4% of 10th graders and 7% of 8th graders. All these rates represent a significant increase compared to 2018 statistics.
  • 4.8% of 10th graders and 1.9% of 8th graders reported daily marijuana use, a significant increase since 2018. About 6.4% of 12th graders also use marijuana every day.
  • 29.3% of 12th graders report drinking alcohol in the past month. Recent use is also reported by 18.4% of 10th grade and 7.9% of 8th-grade students.

In addition to these findings, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that:

  • About 66% of students have tried alcohol by 12th grade.
  • About 50% of high school students have used marijuana.
  • About 40% of high school students have smoked cigarettes.
  • About 20% of 12th graders have taken medication they were not prescribed.

Risk Factors for Substance Use

Curiosity is a major driving force when it comes to teenagers and drugs. In the “Monitoring the Future” study, about 61% of 12th graders said they first tried vaping nicotine or cannabis for experimental reasons. Social pressure is also a factor, with nearly 40% of teens reporting that vaped because they wanted to have fun with their friends. In addition, 29% reported they wanted to “get high” or feel good, while almost 29% said they were bored.

According to Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, substance use is more likely among teenagers who:

  • Have a family history of alcoholism or addiction
  • Have mental health or behavioral health issues, such as depression, anxiety or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Have a history of physical abuse, sexual abuse or another traumatic event

The agency also notes that teens are influenced to use drugs by TV shows and other media. They also think using these substances is OK when they see adults in their lives drinking or using drugs. Teens may want to rebel against their parents, express anger and aggression or withdraw from responsibilities or uncomfortable feelings through drug and alcohol use.

Addressing Teen Drug Abuse

Keeping an open line of communication is the most important step for parents. Be honest with your kids about the dangers of drug use, especially if your family has a history of substance abuse.

Set a good example for your kids about drinking and drug use. They will not take your advice about abstaining from these substances seriously if you do not practice what you preach.

If you have learned that your child is using drugs, talk to him or her at a calm time when you can express your feelings without interruption. Remind your teen that as a parent, you want to keep them safe, and set clear boundaries about substance use and behavioral expectations. Actively listen to your child and ask questions about why he or she is using drugs or alcohol to cope.

If you’re concerned about your teenager’s substance abuse, Lakeside Academy can help. Our residential programs for teen boys provide academic instruction along with substance abuse treatment. Lakeside Academy is part of Minnesota’s Teen Challenge, which has been addressing addiction in this population since 1958. Contact us today to learn more about how we can put your son on the path to a bright future.

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