How to Make Teens Aware of Seemingly Normalized, Mainstream Drug Culture
Teenagers are at a stage of life where responsibilities have not set in. They are transitioning into adulthood with dramatic biological, psychological, and behavioral changes. It’s not surprising, but still worrisome that teens often dabble with drugs. Studies suggest that 80% of teens experiment with drugs or alcohol before adulthood.
There are various reasons for teens experimenting with illicit substances, ranging from boredom to curiosity. Some teenagers use drugs or alcohol under peer pressure, to bond with friends. Others try to escape stress, depression, or low self-esteem. Young adults and opioids (prescription pain pill misuse) is an increasing concern in the United States. What many youngsters don’t realize is that drug use at a young age and teen addiction puts them at risk for lifelong health complications. And what’s making the situation worse is the normalization of drug culture in modern society.
In this article, we talk about getting teen addiction help. Specifically, we discuss how to make your teenager aware of the dangers of mainstream drug culture.
Why teens are at risk of misusing drugs
Various factors can contribute to drug abuse and teen addiction. An adolescent typically uses drugs for the first time in a social setting with more acceptable and easily available substances like cigarettes, alcohol, or weed. Continued use can occur as a result of insecurities, the desire to be socially accepted, experimentation, to feel good, or to do better (enhance athletic or academic performance).
Teen addiction can be dangerous because adolescents sometimes feel indestructible. They do not understand the consequences of their actions, leading them to take deadly risks with alcohol and drugs. Also, during adolescence, the brain is still developing reward processing, cognitive control, and motivation. This can make teens extremely vulnerable to engaging in substance abuse.
Risk factors for teen addiction
A teenager is more likely to abuse drugs if they have:
- A family history of substance abuse
- A mental health condition, such as anxiety, depression, or ADHD
- An impulsive, daredevil, or risk-taking personality
- Low self-esteem or feelings of not fitting in
- Exposure to traumatic events (for example, a motor vehicle crash)
- A history of abuse
- Parents who drink or use drugs
Consequences of teen drug abuse
Young adults who misuse opioids (prescription drugs) or illegal substances are at risk of various negative consequences. Health risks of teen addiction include serious conditions like heart attack, stroke, seizures, and damage to vital organs. Teen drug abuse also has psychological effects such as impairments in memory, learning, and problem-solving. Drug use by adolescents can lead to psychosis, hallucinations, paranoia, and schizophrenia.
Other negative effects of adolescent drug addiction include poor judgment, high-risk sexual activity, impaired driving putting themselves and others at risk, and a decline in academic performance.
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The effects of teen drug abuse can last well into adulthood. Early age of first drug use (before age 15) is associated with a significantly increased risk of developing serious substance use disorders later in life. That’s why it’s important to get teen addiction help before it’s too late.
Seemingly normalized, mainstream drug culture
Alcohol is the most widely misused intoxicating substance by young people in the United States. There’s a dangerous mindset that underage drinking is a rite of passage into adulthood. Parents need to talk to their teens to alter this misconception.
Did you know that adolescents who start drinking before age 15 are 5 times more likely to develop alcohol addiction compared to people who start drinking after age 21? And that 1 in 5 teen drivers involved in fatal crashes have alcohol in their system?
Besides alcohol, it’s worrisome that the use of drugs like marijuana is becoming increasingly acceptable in modern culture despite serious concerns about its health effects. Contrary to popular belief, marijuana is addictive, especially for those who start young. Nearly 7% of high school seniors report smoking marijuana daily and are well on their way to teen addiction. For this reason, parents need to be proactive and talk to their adolescents about seemingly normalized drug culture that can have dangerous consequences.
Preventing teen drug addiction
To prevent teen addiction, parents and guardians should be prepared to have multiple conversations about drugs and alcohol with their teenagers. It’s a good idea to set aside phones and choose a relaxed, unhurried time when you can talk uninterrupted. Perhaps more important is knowing when NOT to start a conversation about drugs – when your teenager is angry or upset or when they are high or drunk are two good examples of times to avoid. Here are some strategies for having healthy conversations about teen addiction:
- Avoid giving long spiels or lectures about substance abuse. Instead, encourage your teenager to express their views about drugs and alcohol. Assure your adolescent that they can be honest with you and ask you any questions.
- Don’t use scare tactics or ultimatums to discourage drug use (I’ll take away your allowance if I find you drinking). Rather, emphasize how drugs and alcohol can affect them and the things that are important to them, such as looks, driving privileges, sports, and health.
- Discuss media messages that normalize drug culture, for example, songs that trivialize or glamorize drug use. Your teenager needs to understand that a song is a song. In the real world, teen addiction can have serious consequences.
- Remember what it was like to be a teenager? The peer pressure is enormous. Have a frank discussion, brainstorm even, about ways to turn down offers to try alcohol or drugs.
- If you abused drugs as a teenager, talk about your experiences. If you currently use drugs, be prepared to answer some tough questions.
Teen addiction takes a heavy toll on families. There are lots of things parents can do to prevent teen drug abuse. A good place to start is to talk frankly about the seemingly normalized, mainstream drug culture. Also, learn to recognize the early warning signs of substance abuse and get teen addiction help if you suspect your teenager may be misusing drugs.