The teenage years have often been thought of as a time of experimentation and, tragically for many, the first introduction into addiction. In decades past, alcohol, marijuana and hallucinogens have been the substances of choice. But, a new study is highlighting some interesting changes within that sect. According to data released by USA Today, popular drugs from years’ past are declining in popularity with high schoolers, while other new dependencies are on the rise.
Gathered by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the research included survey answers from nearly 15,000 students and covered a wide variety of topics. Beyond addiction, there were new stats related to bullying, “coming out” and sexual activity. CDC director Kathleen Ethier found a lot of the data encouraging, but honed in on a few new dangerous findings.
“We are seeing real improvements in some areas, but real concerns in others,” she explained. “But ultimately, schools, communities and parents do need to create more places where students feel safe and connected.”
On the positive side, pre-teen sexual intercourse has declined by 54 percent since 1991. Condom use has become prominent during this era as well, potentially limiting the amount of teenage STDs. The study also found that suicidal thoughts were down, declining 29 percent over the last 20 years.
Now as far as addiction goes, there were both good and bad stats to come out of the research. One encouraging find was that cocaine, heroin, inhalant, methamphetamine and ecstasy use was down by 23 percent over the past 10 years.
The negative news was related to (no surprise) opioid and prescription painkiller use. Coinciding with the devastating crisis impacting this country, the CDC findings concluded that pill abuse, such as Vicodin, Percocet and OxyContin, was up by 14 percent. This proved to be a very concerning stat to Ethier.
“Opioid use among teens appears to be quite substantial,” she added. “There is no doubt about it. It’s high – we didn’t expect it to be that high.”
And one other important caveat to all of this information deals with who they surveyed. Keep in mind that these were active students, not young people who may have dropped out or fallen off the grid. Certainly when you take those numbers into account, you’d expect to see much higher activity on the addiction front.
We certainly know that addictions can be devastating at any age. If there is a young person in your family who may be facing a serious issue, please reach and get them help.