Stigmas: the false beliefs about a sect of society that stand in the way of improving quality of life and social standing. We’ve covered stigmas when it comes to substance abuse and addiction, but we are still seeing the impact of it in the recovery community. People who are in need of rehabilitative care hesitate to seek it due to the shame and ridicule associated with addiction; they fear losing relationships, employment opportunities, and the respect of their contemporaries.
The most vulnerable to the effects of social stigmas associated with substance abuse are young impressionable teens. During those formative years of life it seems others’ opinions about who we are carry more significance than our own. That combined with lack of understanding consequences, misguided invincibility complex, and inability to properly cope with emotional trauma makes teens the most likely to delve into drug and alcohol abuse, right?
According to a recent survey, no. CNN reported that the Monitoring the Future survey found that today’s teens are less likely to turn to drugs and alcohol than their predecessors. This survey, which has been conducted since 1975, asked over 45,000 students in 8th, 10th, and 12th grade concerning active substance abuse and their attitudes regarding the subject.
It found that 2016 had the lowest reported drug use among 8th graders since 1975; additionally, illicit drug abuse among teens (other than marijuana) dropped after seeing a peak in recent years. There was also a massive decrease in nicotine and alcohol abuse among teens: four times decreased over the last 10 to 15 years.
In 1991, one in 10 high schoolers smoked half a pack of cigarettes or more a day; now, that number is down to less than 1.8 percent.
What does that say for today’s youth? Is this proof that anti-drug propaganda is working? Not necessarily. Fear and miseducation actually worsened the so-called “War on Drugs,” generating the stigmas and harsh system of punishment we are struggling to rectify today. In reality the more likely cause of this drop in illicit drug abuse among teens is proper guidance and intervention through facts and truth.
That’s not to say we are out of the woods yet when it comes to our young people. There is still cause for concern when it comes to marijuana abuse. While the survey does show a marginal decrease in marijuana use among teens since last year, it also showed nearly one-quarter of 12th grade students admitted to marijuana use within the past month with 2 percent reporting daily use.
While there is still this misinformation circulating that marijuana use is harmless, in teens and children whose brains are still developing, we may see more pronounced effects on memory and cognition. Additionally, smoking of any sort increases the risk of lung cancer even in young people. Marijuana may have shown a positive impact as a treatment for certain cancers and diseases, but lung cancer was not one of them.
Given the current push for legalization of marijuana, lots of teens are ignoring the risks involved, assuming an implied safety. In states where recreational marijuana use has been legalized, it is still illegal for underage minors to use. Though we can all rejoice in the small victories of lowered illicit drug abuse among teens, the fight to end addiction is not over.