Alcohol and drugs are becoming the scourge for America’s adolescents. Many teens consider drinking alcohol a rite of passage, and it is easy to obtain despite the age restriction of 21 to buy and consume it. It is readily available in most supermarkets, convenience stores, and other places. In fact, underage drinking is a national health problem today.

Underage drinking can cause a plethora of problems that affect a great many people. Alcohol is a major contributor in the deaths of people under the age of 21. It causes fatalities caused by vehicles, homicides, alcohol overdoses, falls, drowning, and suicides. It also causes injuries from accidents, impairs judgment, causes poor decision making, especially when it relates to sexual activities, driving, and overall behavior. Alcohol use in adolescents brings an increased possibility of being a victim of sexual assault and violence.

Drug use among adolescents is also a national health problem. Around 17 percent of youths aged 12 to 17 used illicit drugs in 2019, and close to 6 percent used a prescription drug that was not prescribed to them, according to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).

The same survey indicates that 24.6 percent of 14- to 15-year-olds reported having at least one drink, 11.1 percent (or 4.2 million people) binge drank, and 2.2 percent (or 825,000 people) were past month heavy alcohol users.

To add clarity and provide useful information about teens, substance use, and overdoses, we have compiled data, which you might find beneficial.

Teen Alcohol Use

Alcohol use and misuse by adolescents is a problem every community faces. The National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol (NIAAA) abuse states that “90 percent of all alcoholic drinks consumed by young people are consumed through binge drinking.”

Binge drinking is defined “as a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 g/dl or above,” per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For males, binge drinking is when five or more drinks are consumed in about two hours, and for females, when four or more drinks are consumed. Also, the CDC considers binge drinking to be a type of excessive drinking, which they say is “any alcohol use by anyone under the age of 21.”

Teen Drug Use

The National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics shares data from the 2017 CDC Monitoring the Future Survey about drug and alcohol abuse by teens.

  • 86% of teenagers know of someone who smokes, drinks, or uses drugs during the school day.
  • 50% of teenagers who have misused a drug at least once in their lifetime
  • 43% of college students who used illicit drugs

The statistical drug abuse site relays that “nearly half of all college students have used drugs; in 2016, 45% of male college students and 42% of female college students used an illegal drug.”

Some of the most commonly abused drugs are marijuana, cocaine, crack, opioids (including heroin), LSD, ecstasy, and methamphetamine.

In addition, there are some startling facts regarding drugs and adolescents. Statista reports that:

  • 27.7 percent of students in grades 8, 10, and 12 used any illicit drug in the last year as of 2019
  • 31.9 percent of youths who had a major depressive disorder who used illicit drugs in the last year as of 2019
  • 6.6 percent of high school students used hallucinogenic drugs at least once as of 2017
  • 20.8 percent of female high school students used marijuana as of 2019
  • 18.2 percent of students in grades 8, 10 and 12 drank alcohol in the last 30 days in 2019
  • 10.4 percent of male youths aged 12 to 20 years olds binge drank in 2019

Other shocking facts about youth and drug overdose are 28.7% of 12th graders thought LSD was reasonably easy to obtain, and 16.3% of 12th graders thought steroids were fairly easy to obtain.

Data from the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found:

  • 17.2 percent (or 4.3 million people) of adolescents aged 12 to 17 used illicit drugs in 2019
  • 13.2 percent of youth aged 12 to 17 used marijuana
  • Roughly 97,000 youth aged 12 to 17 used cocaine
  • Roughly 11,000 youth aged 12 to 17 used crack cocaine
  • About 41,000 aged 12 to 17 used methamphetamine
  • About 440,000 youth aged 12 to 17 used hallucinogens
  • Three percent or 743,000 youth aged 12 to 17 used an inhalant
  • Almost 6 percent of youth aged 12 to 17 used a prescription psychotherapeutic drug, such as a prescribed stimulant, tranquilizer, sedative, or pain reliever.

If this data shocks you, then the data on teen overdoses may be even more shocking.

What Is An Overdose?

It is essential to first know how coroners define an overdose.

An intentional overdose is defined as an overdose that was self-inflicted, such as in cases of suicide.

An unintentional or accidental overdose is one that is considered drug poisoning deaths. They can happen when drugs and alcohol or different drugs are mixed together or when drugs are accidentally taken or given in the course of a medical procedure.

Overdose Signs Or Symptoms

It is vital to know what the signs of a drug overdose are so you can call for emergency medical help. These signs are:

  • Drowsiness
  • Difficulty walking
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Agitation
  • Aggression or violence
  • Enlarged pupils
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Tremors
  • Convulsions
  • Trouble breathing
  • Hallucinations or delusions

These symptoms may vary depending on the drug, amount taken, and the person who took them.

When a person inhales or injects drugs, the drugs get to the brain quicker and can increase the chance of the drugs to be severely harmful, including possible overdose or death.

Teen Overdose Statistics

Teen overdoses are possible when the adolescent mixes drugs with alcohol or another drug. There have been more adolescent overdose deaths from heroin and other illicit drugs than any other substance. Overdoses from benzodiazepines were notably high also.

Benzodiazepines include medication for panic and anxiety disorders (alprazolam), insomnia (diazepam, flurazepam), and seizures (clonazepam, lorazepam).

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) for Teens shares data about teen overdoses in the US from 2018 for those aged 15 to 24:

Total overdoses: 4,633

  • Alcohol – 85
  • Cocaine – 859
  • Heroin and other illicit opioids – 3,177
  • Benzodiazepines –   899

Preventing Teen Overdose

If our children are the future, then we need to take actionable steps to curtail teen drinking and substance abuse before one more teen overdose occurs.

The first step in preventing teen overdoses is to know what the risk factors are. These could be:

  • Low self-esteem or feeling socially rejected
  • A mental health condition, such as depression, anxiety, or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Impulse or risk-taking behavior
  • Family history of substance abuse
  • History of traumatic events, such as being in a vehicle accident or being a victim of abuse

It is also crucial to understand that parts of the brain that control judgment and decision-making are not fully developed until the early or mid-20s. This impedes a teen’s ability to make a sound decision or be able to assess a risk of drug or alcohol use. It also makes the teen more vulnerable to peer pressure, as explained by the Mayo Clinic.

Also, first-time use usually happens in social settings where alcohol and cigarettes are easily accessible.

Set aside times to have a positive, honest, and non-judgmental discussion about alcohol and drug use with teens. Some tips to keep in mind when having the talk:

  • Schedule the time to talk when there will be no interruptions.
  • Put phones away before the talk. No one, even parents, should use their phone during the discussion.
  • Be honest about your own use of alcohol and/or drugs.
  • Don’t have any discussions about substance use when you or your child have been drinking, are buzzed or drunk, or affected by medication.
  • Avoid having the discussion when you are angry and upset.
  • Know what your answers will be if questions are asked.

How To Get Help For A Teen Using Alcohol Or Drugs

If all of your efforts are not preventing your teen from using alcohol or drugs, it might be time to talk to your child’s physician. There are many substance use programs for adolescents, like Family Recovery Specialists in Miami. Therapies for addiction are evidence-based and include behavioral treatments, such as cognitive behavior therapy.

Substance use treatment can be paid for with private health insurance, such as those provided by employers, Affordable Care Act health plans, and federal programs under Medicaid. It is wise to review your specific plan for substance use treatment to learn what is covered and for how long.

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