Drug abuse is a serious issue nationwide. Unfortunately, younger minds are more susceptible to addiction.
From alcohol to marijuana and more “hard-core” drugs, there’s a lot to talk about. Below we’ve prepared an in-depth guide to 12 startling facts about teenage drug abuse that every Georgia parent needs to know.
1. Drug Abuse Tends to Be Perpetual
When it comes to teenage drug abuse, many people underestimate that it can be perpetual. The habits you pick up early in life can impact your future.
Those who use drugs as teens are more likely to abuse drugs as adults. There is much conversation about “gateway” drugs, and although the risk exists, people tend to be creatures of comfort. Teens who choose alcohol as their drug tend to keep it if they develop abusive tendencies.
Of course, plenty of teens “out-grow” drugs, like weed, or “learn their lesson,” if they over-drink. Unfortunately, however, a scary number of teens do not.
At such a young age, many teens don’t have the life skills or experience. It is hard to navigate the line between recreation and abuse. You have to add to this the fact that many drugs are stronger and more addictive now than they’ve ever been.
THC products are super concentrated now compared to the 1960s-1980s. Fentanyl is more dangerous and addictive than heroin has ever been.
Even the most common drug to abuse, alcohol, has changed. Yes, abusing spirits in the back roads of Georgia is a practice many older generations know about. However, we didn’t have alcoholic energy drinks or a million ways to make a high percentage of alcohol go down as smoothly as sweet tea.
It’s crucial to recognize that early drug abuse can become perpetual for teens. It can follow them well into adulthood. Facing the problem and getting a handle on it now is easier than dealing with it once it’s grown out of control.
2. Increased Risk to Mental Health
Studies show that teen drug abuse increases the risks to mental health. Depression, anxiety, suicidal tendencies, and other serious issues can arise from frequent use. It isn’t difficult to figure out why.
Many people think about heavy mind-altering drugs like LSD or magic mushrooms. However, the real risk is in sustained abuse of any drug. Alcoholism, especially when used as an emotional crutch, can come with many symptoms.
It sounds cliché, but using drugs to escape or “run away from your problems” leads to more problems. Teens are already more high-strung and stressed out than they’ve ever been.
Peer and parental pressure weigh on them. Many teens report using THC to “calm down” before important tests. Others report needing a “pick me up” to help them study or focus on exams.
Teens that get into the habit of relying on drugs in these ways are prone to long-term mental health issues. It is no different from adults.
The fact is many write teens off. This is because many adults mistakenly believe their lives aren’t difficult enough.
Remember: if adults can rely on the bottle to run from their problems, teens can do the same thing. Their problems are just as real and need to get taken as seriously. Treatment should never neglect mental health.
3. Hindering Brain Development
Drug abuse rots the brain. We’ve seen enough PSAs about such impacts. Brain cell death as a result of chronic alcoholism is often documented in many studies.
What many don’t realize is that the effects can be worse for teens. Their brains are still developing, and many drugs can interfere. Cellular brain damage due to alcohol during these formative years can be disastrous.
Long-term studies for marijuana and THC, in particular, still need to finish. That said, the risks are quite high. Through causal links with smoking, smoking any drug has the potential to cause damage.
4. Poor Decision Making
Teens are more responsible than we give them credit for, but drugs get the better of all of us. It becomes difficult or even impossible to make sound calls when under the influence. This can lead to life-changing consequences.
Showing up inebriated to class can get them expelled. Getting arrested at the wrong time could lead to a criminal record. These are only two extreme examples.
If your teen abuses drugs often, they lose the ability to make responsible choices. This builds bad habits for the future. They could hurt themselves, such as by driving while drunk or stumbling into a ditch.
Your teens could also endanger others, even if they don’t mean to. Drug abuse also makes it harder to defend against theft, physical abuse, or sexual assault. These are realities worth thinking over and talking to your teen about.
5. Alcohol is the Easiest to Abuse
Around 7.2% of Georgia teens regularly abuse alcohol every month. Nationwide, over 1.2 million teens binge drink in any given month. What is especially terrifying is that they start as young as 8th grade.
Some 25% of 8th graders report abusing alcohol at least once. That number climbs to 61% by grade 12.
What’s interesting is that the majority of grade 12 students who drink routinely tend to do so all at once. This is, of course, compared to drinking in small, spread-out amounts. Only 2.7% report they drink daily, while 16.8% claim to consume at least five drinks on the occasions they decide to drink.
It’s crucial to remember that the long-term damage is still real even if teens only abuse alcohol on the weekends. Habits that start while you’re a teenager can follow you later on. Also, studies suggest that severe damage to the liver and brain becomes worse through binge drinking.
6. Prescription Drug Abuse Is Often Ignored
One of the facts about teenage drug abuse is that prescription drug abuse is often ignored. Powerful painkillers like Vicodin or codeine are super easy to get.
As opiates, they function like low-strength heroin. They can be super addictive and serve as gateway drugs for stronger substances. Abusing drugs prescribed to others is the most common way teens get access.
Often, teens will take the drugs right from the family home, thinking no one will notice. It can be difficult to keep track, and few parents notice if one or two pills go missing from a bottle of 50. It is important to stay on top of the risk of prescription drugs and to treat it as seriously as other forms of abuse.
7. Honest Conversations Work
This might sound obvious, but honest conversations work. Teens respond better to open and honest conversations than to top-down punishment. Remember that teens have a lot going on in their lives and are struggling through it as best they can.
Help your teen get through their issues by listening and keeping an open mind. Don’t yell or be too harsh. Addiction is a difficult battle; it is about more than sheer force of will.
If you want your teens to come out on top, be supportive and understanding. Work together to figure out how they got into such an abusive habit in the first place. Support them as they deal with it, and give them what they need to succeed.
The key to all this is to remember that it isn’t you against your rebellious teenager. It’s both of you against the problem.
8. There’s No Shame in Rehab
We cannot stress this enough. There is no shame in going to drug rehab as a teen. Dealing with drug abuse can be a war, and you need all the help you can get.
There is a stigma associated with going or sending your kid to rehab. This makes many parents and teens not want to go with this option. They think they can beat it on their own, but not many can.
Many teens also don’t believe they have a problem. They can’t see the signs. Trusted medical experts can diagnose Illicit Drug Use Disorder (IDUD) or Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). They can propose treatment options that work for you and your teen.
9. Marijuana is Stronger Than it Used to Be
In terms of drug usage among teens, marijuana is super common. Nationwide, as many as 83% of regular teen drug users choose marijuana as their drug of choice. Many parents of teens are old enough to remember smoking weed back in the day.
The problem is that THC concentrations have only increased. Marijuana and related products are way stronger now than they used to be. We don’t yet know what the long-term risks of such an increase in potency can cause.
That said, it’s a misconception to think that weed in 2022 is the same as in 1970. Thus, your own experiences around the drug might not be accurate for what your teens are using. Getting up to speed with this change will go a long way in talking to your teen if you think they have a problem.
10. Drug Abuse is More Wide Spread Than You’d Think
Most people don’t realize how many teenagers are using drugs. 46.6% of teens have tried illicit drugs by grade 12. Of course, most of this comes from alcohol, marijuana, and prescription pills.
However, harder drugs like heroin, cocaine, and fentanyl are also an issue. As mentioned, prescription drug abuse is also worth looking out for.
The important thing is to realize that almost 1 in 2 teens will try at least one drug by the time they graduate. It could be a can of beer or something more dangerous, but it happens. Staying in touch with your teens and talking to them is a great way to help guide them.
Make sure you talk to them before experimentation turns into abuse.
11. Driving While Impaired is a Serious Issue
Teens get a bad reputation for being bad drivers. They are new and learning, so it is understandable to a certain extent. What happens when you pair this lack of driving experience with substance abuse?
Many parents don’t think that their teens might be at increased risk. This is because many teens lack the experience and sound judgment to know if they’ve had too much.
This is an issue that many adults even face, causing them to get behind the wheel when they shouldn’t. It’s essential to sit down with your teens to make sure they understand the risks. Teens should never get behind the wheel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
12. Georgia Is Better, but the Risks are Still Real
Parents of Georgia teens might have heard this statistic, but teenagers in Georgia are 19% less likely to have used drugs. This is a monthly average compared to the average teen nationwide. That all said, complacency is a huge risk.
Georgia has a serious habit of underestimating its social and health issues. It’s why Georgia has one of the worst obesity rates in the country. That said, due to good parenting and awareness, teenage drug use in Georgia is beating the average.
There are, of course, some Georgia-specific facts that are worth knowing. As many as 6.75% of teens in the state report drug use in the past month. 88% of these are marijuana use, and 11% of all teens have used THC products at least once in the past year.
The rates of “hard-core” drug use among teens are pretty low in Georgia. They come in at around 0.23% for cocaine, 0.11% for meth, and 0.06% for heroin products. Prescription meds like painkillers account for 2.63%.
The big ones are alcohol at 7.2% and marijuana at 88%. It’s important to stress that these numbers largely deal with drug “abuse.” In most cases, a teen drinking a single beer on a Saturday would be unlikely to get reported.
Facts About Teenage Drug Abuse
Here are the most staggering statistics about teenage drug abuse in Georgia. Finding out your child is using alcohol or drugs can cause an onslaught of emotional turmoil. It’s normal to feel angry, but you must realize that your child may be going through something even you can’t understand.
At Eagle Overlook, we have the experience and passion to help you and your teen pull through. If you’re in the Georgia area and have questions or want to learn more, don’t hesitate to contact us today.