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Underage Drinking and Drug Abuse
Teenage use of drugs and alcohol is an ever prevalent concern in the United States, with 40% of teens reporting that they have used marijuana at some point in their lives and almost as many admitting they have consumed an alcoholic beverage in the last month. Alcohol and illegal drugs can negatively impact brain development at a time where teens are vulnerable due to peer pressure and the desire to grow into independent adults. It is important that you are aware of the signs that your children are using these substances and educate them on the adverse impact they may have on their lives both now and in the future.
Staggering Data from the CDC Reveals the Magnitude of the Problem
A survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control concluded the following alarming facts about teenage alcohol consumption and drug abuse.
- 39% of teenagers admitted that they had consumed alcohol at least once in the last month. 22% admitted to drinking on a regular basis, making up over half of those drinking.
- 8% of teenagers surveyed admitted that they drove after having at least one drink over the last month.
- 40% of teenagers have tried marijuana in their lifetimes. Roughly 23% use the drug recreationally on a regular basis.
- 7% of teens have used crack or cocaine in some form.
- Another 9% of teens have admitted to using a hallucinatory drug at some point in their lives.
- 11% of teens got high through inhaling toxic substances.
- 8% of teens have used ecstasy.
- 4% have taken methamphetamines at some point in their lives.
According to the CDC, drinking claims the lives of over 4,300 teenagers every year and teens consume 11% of all the alcohol sold in the United States, despite being under the legal age for consumption. Teens also drink far more than their adult counterparts and are more likely to overestimate their tolerance. The problem doesn’t merely impact those choosing to drive— 20% of teens have been passengers in vehicles operated by drunken teen drivers.
Signs that Your Teen is Drinking or Using Drugs
Noticing the early warning signs in your children can help you intervene when they have started consuming alcohol or drugs so that they can receive the help that they need. In many cases, education is the most effective preventative measure, but some children drink or take drugs due to other problems requiring attention. If you notice any of the following, your child may be drinking or taking drugs on a routine basis.
- Signs of depression such as withdrawing from friends, extracurricular activities and other interests. Depression is often what leads teens to drink or take drugs and can be a sign of other underlying concerns. It can also be a symptom of the drug use itself.
- Sudden behavioral changes. Drugs and alcohol have an effect on the ability of teenagers to make logical choices, so it is common for those regularly abusing drugs or alcohol to begin acting differently. They may perform poorly in school and develop anger, irritability and aggression toward others.
- Memory problems. Excessive drinking or drug use can result in blackouts and memory loss, so if your child is unable to recall past events or doesn’t know what happened for a period of time, it could be a sign he or she has been under the influence.
- Declining academic performance. Drug and alcohol use will negatively impact children’s grades and motivation to excel in school.
Drug and alcohol use is the root cause of many serious problems among our youth today, including the risk of suicide, sexually transmitted diseases, drunk driving accidents, teen pregnancy and physical or sexual assault. Make sure you are speaking with your children on this topic and keen to the warning signs. It is better to confront your child in a supportive manner and get him or her the help needed than to risk lifelong consequences.
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