Friday, May 15, 2009

Teen Drug Use Shows No Sign of Slowing Down

Every year the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) conducts a survey of high school students. They have been surveying 12th graders since 1975, and 8th and 10th graders since 1991. In 2008, a total of 46,348 students were surveyed.

The results of the 2008 survey show that adolescent drug abuse remains high, and is not decreasing. Some of the results are as follows:

  • 14.6% of all the teens reported illicit drug use just in the previous month

  • 15.4% of the 12th graders reported abusing prescription drugs

  • 9.7% of the 12th graders abused Vicodin (hydrocodone)

  • 4.7% of the 12th graders abused OxyContin

  • 32.4% of the 12th graders had used marijuana in the past year

  • Fewer 8th graders reported thinking that either marijuana or inhalants were harmful

  • All of these results are essentially unchanged from the previous year

This survey shows that illicit drug use remains high in our high schools. Over one-third of the students were willing to break the law and use illegal drugs. The perception of many students is that drugs are not harmful, which is particularly naive when it comes to inhalants that cause significant brain damage, and opiates that lead to physical dependence, often after only a few uses.

The results of the survey are not really surprising to those of us here at TCI. When we ask our patients when they first tried opiates, the answer is often "before I was 18 years old." Most of them became physically dependent on their opiates after only a few weeks of "experimentation." After that, they could not stop without a withdrawal reaction that is so painful that most people simply cannot tolerate it on their own. It is tragic.

I am not sure how attitudes and beliefs can be changed with our adolescents, but it is important that we continue to try to get the word out.

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