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Jul 24, 2009

Drug Trends – Teen Issues

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The world outside has not become less real just because the prisoner cannot see it.” J.R.R. Tolkien
Recently, several officers from the Sheriff’s Department of a large Georgia city talked with our staff concerning the drugs they were seeing emerge on the streets. As they spoke about what they were witnessing and how drugs were being made, I was struck by one of the officer’s comments: “We will never be able to do anything but play catch up. People who want to use drugs will always be ahead of us.
What a sad commentary, but how true it is that individuals who want to get high, will make every effort to do so, often with that which is most accessible. So what is a parent to do? How are we to know what might emerge next or how can we protect our children? Think how each decade has represented a new era in drugs. In the 50’s it was alcohol, the 60’s marijuana, the 70’s psychotropic drugs like LSD and mushrooms, the 80’s cocaine and crack, the 90’s chemically made drugs like ecstasy (MDMA), and since 2000, it has been a litany of new chemically concocted drugs. A stimulant that is making much of the news lately is Crystal Methamphetamine. One of the officers, when talking about Crystal Meth made the comment that in the 80’s he had thought crack would be the death of this country. Now he would say that Crystal Meth has become far worse than crack ever was. What is even more disturbing is that people are now using fruit flavoring to entice and attract new users.
In looking back over the decades, we as parents must realize that this trend is a natural progression. The economic concept of supply and demand does an effective job of teaching us what we should expect would happen. Think of it this way:

  • There is a demand/desire to get high for the following reasons:
    • Trying something new
    • Experiencing peer pressure
    • Associating with undesirable peers
    • Filling a void that is in their lives
  • The problem, however, is that there are laws/constraints concerning the drug supply
    • So people seek ways to avoid the laws/constraints

For many individuals, since scarcity exists, they seek that which is the most available…what is accessible and easy to get their hands on. Is it any wonder then that people get high by ingesting nutmeg or abusing what is in the medicine cabinet, get drunk and overdose on over the counter drugs like Nyquil, huff gasoline fumes, or use everyday items to make Crystal Meth? There are reasons that Sudafed is locked behind the pharmacy counter and you can only buy a limited quantity of batteries at a store.
There are a number of explanations for why consumers try products, but what is obviously different about drugs is that they alter reality, but after that initial experience, the, “first time can never be regained, so new drugs are abused to regain that high. A current cultural trend is to see chemical drugs, taken from what is not illegal, but made into something that alters reality and provides a new experience.
The data we keep here at the Paul Anderson Youth Home reinforces the drug trends and the age that usage occurs. During the last 10 years, our young men have gone from mainly abusing alcohol and marijuana in their later teenage years, to using prescription drugs like Oxycontin, Ritalin, and Vicodin at earlier ages. These are our current statistics for when drug usage begins:

  • 82% by age 14
  • 63% by age 13
  • 44% by age 12
  • 10% by age 10

(Our youngest drug use occurred at age 7)
The supply is available at earlier ages, and what is being supplied is different than it used to be. For most of our young men, while the first drug remains marijuana, the escalation moves very quickly from there to what is most available or what can be supplied with the least resistance like cough syrup and prescription drugs.
Could the contents of your medicine cabinet or your neighbors’ be ways that a child could get high? Look at what is around your home, change your perspective on what is being abused. As Tolkien said, “the world outside has not become less real just because the prisoner cannot see it.”


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