“… teenagers often experience a far more rapid progression from experimentation to addiction than is true for adults. Denial manifests differently, too, in that young people are more likely to glorify their use, while adults are more likely to minimize theirs.”
~John Daily, LCSW, CADC II, Adolescent and Young Adult Addiction: The Pathological Relationship to Intoxication and The Interpersonal Neurobiology Underpinnings
Adolescent and teenage substance abuse is a real and pervasive problem in the United States. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, almost 8000 Americans try illicit drugs for the first time EVERY SINGLE DAY.
Even worse, 54% – more than half – are under the age of 18.
Most parents are aware that they should be concerned about the possibility of their older teenager using drugs, but too few focus much attention on younger teens. This is an unfortunate oversight, because the average age of first intoxication is just 12 years old.
Substance Use and Abuse in 8th Grade
Even during the early teenage years – 13 and 14 – the levels of both licit and illicit drug use is worrisome. It’s important to carefully monitor young teens for potential risk factors, as well as for any signs of substance use.
According to the 2015 Monitoring the Future Survey:
- 26% of 8th-graders – more than one in 4 – admit to having tried alcohol.
- 11% – about one in 9 – have been drunk at least once.
- 1 out of every 6 8th-graders have tried marijuana.
- 6.5% – 1 in every 15 – smoked marijuana within the past month.
- 1.1% of 8th-graders use marijuana daily.
- 9% have used an inhalant to get high.
- 2% have used inhalants within the past month.
- Inhalants are the only class of drug that has a higher usage rate among 8th-graders than it does among 10th or 12th-graders.
- 6.8% of 8th-graders have used a prescription stimulant nonmedically.
Although the rates are comparatively low, young teenagers also use other “harder” drugs:
- Tranquilizers – 3%
- Ecstasy – 2.3%
- Cocaine – 1.3%
- LSD – 1.3%
- Other hallucinogens – 1.2%
- Crack – 1%
- Steroids – 1%
- Heroin – .9%
- Methamphetamine – .8%
- Rohypnol – .8%
Altogether, about 1 in 4 US 8th-graders have tried alcohol or drugs. To put that number in perspective, consider this – in an average-sized classroom, 7 or 8 of those children have used alcohol or an illicit drug.
What Can I Do If My Child Is Using Drugs?
NO ONE initiates substance use with the goal of becoming addicted, and for many, it never progresses past mere experimentation. But for too many teenagers who are genetically and/or environmentally vulnerable, that experimentation leads to dependence, abuse, addiction…and worse.
The adolescent brain is still developing until young adulthood – the early 20s. This means that intoxicating substances have an even greater effect on teenagers than they do on adults, and the younger the person, the more profound and long-lasting that effect can be.
With that in mind, if your child is using alcohol or drugs, then it is imperative that they receive professional help as soon as possible. Just as important, that treatment should address their unique needs as teenagers. Adolescent addiction is NOT the same as adult addiction.
For over 35 years, Teensavers Treatment Centers have been transforming lives by offering every level of drug and alcohol recovery services in Orange County, California. If your teen or your family is in crisis because of a substance abuse or emotional disorder, contact the trained professionals at Teensavers for an intake that can determine what types of services are appropriate.
By: Albert Fontenot