A new report, Reducing Teen Substance Misuse: What Really Works, ranks states on their ability and actions in curbing teen substance abuse including everything from alcohol to opioids. Of the 35 states that have seen an increase in youth overdose deaths, rates tripled in 12 states (including Missouri, Arkansas, Indiana, and Iowa). The current highest rates for youth overdoses belong to West Virginia, where 12.6 per 100,000 youths overdosed between 2011 and 2013.
Jeffrey Levi, the executive director of Trust for America’s Health, states, “More than 90 percent of adults who develop a substance use disorder began using before they were 18.”
More than 65 percent of students have used alcohol and more than 40 percent have used illegal drugs before entering or while in high school. While the overall number of teens using or misusing substances is decreasing, the number is still too high. Teens use substances for a variety of reasons from family changes to less adult supervision. According to the National Institute on Drug Use (NIDA), there are certain personality traits or other signs that result in a higher risk of substance abuse or misuse. “The initial decision to take drugs is voluntary. However, when drug addiction takes over, a person’s ability to exert self-control can become seriously impaired” (NIDA).
Substance misuse can have severe long-term effects on physical and mental health affecting the ability to attain a job, do well academically and establish meaningful relationships. With the amount of prescription painkillers prescribed and sold in the US quadrupling since 1999, the number of teens using and misusing are of high concern.
The report identifies the most effective approach to reducing substance abuse is to prevent it before it starts. Currently, improvements need to be made in starting programs when children are younger, building community-wide efforts that create a comprehensive strategy to match the current trends, and implementing evidence-based programs into the schools.
Click here for the full report.