Your child is entering seventh grade soon. You’ve got the notebooks, the pens, the bookbag, and the cool new Nike shoes. At 12 or 13 years old, your child is excited to go back to school, see what homeroom they get, and to see friends. He or she is also excited to score some marijuana and oxycodone on lunch, except you don’t know that? How could you? It will only have been your child’s third time doing pills. The pot is regular by now. How is this happening? You find a pipe in your child’s bedroom; a week later it’s a bag of pills. How is this real? You raised your child to stay clear of drug abuse. This can’t be happening.
It’s really happening.
Maybe it’s not happening to you, but it’s definitely happening in the world. Studies show a small but non-negligible number of eighth-graders abuse heroin. Ten percent of eighth-graders consider narcotics easy to find. Over 10% of eighth-graders smoke marijuana and/or cigarettes, and the percentage is slightly lower for alcohol abuse. The numbers are overall slightly lower than in the last five years, which indicates steps in the right direction are being taken, however disapproval of drug use among eighth-graders has declined. This means more and more middle-schoolers are accepting drug use.
Nine out of ten people addicted to drugs and/or alcohol began using before age eighteen. For the vast majority, that means the addiction began in high school or even sooner. These are sad statistics but the problem is preventable. More elaborate drug and alcohol education, pumped up law enforcement agencies, stricter parental guidance, and more community-based programs for children are a few among many actions needed to be taken in order to prevent teen addiction. This is not to say action is not being taken; several states have recently implemented action plans to combat teen addiction.
Commonly Abused Drugs in Middle Schools
The Catch 22
The true problem here is money. Further education means paying teachers and counselors. Pumping up law enforcement agencies requires governmental funding. Stricter parental guidance can even be costly, as it would mean possibly forgoing an occupation. Community-based programs are not free either. Not to mention, the costs of teen addiction are bewildering.
In fact, teen addiction is the single most costly preventable public health issue in the country. “The immediate costs per year of teen substance use include an estimated $68 billion associated with underage drinking and $14 billion in substance-related juvenile justice costs,” according to a study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. With so many billions of dollars being spent on the aftermath, one can only hope the funding and human effort will come and end this epidemic.
On top of this, pre-teen and teen drug abuse greatly increases the chances of becoming criminal. Consider this quote from the Teen Rehab Center: “Nearly half of middle schoolers arrested in 2009 were dependent on drugs or alcohol. The younger a child is when they begin abusing substances, the greater their chances of severe and chronic criminal offenses.”
What can we do?
As parents, we have to talk to our children openly and honestly. Warn them of the inevitable encounters with drugs and alcohol, and teach them methods of avoiding use. Be aware of the symptoms and signs that teens exhibit when using and/or addicted to drugs or alcohol.
As educators and officials, open and honest in-depth education on drug and alcohol abuse needs to be enforced. While perhaps not suitable for all schools, consider what some New Hampshire middle-schoolers are learning: how to use and administer anti-overdose medication.
If you are a teen and you or someone you know is abusing drugs and/or alcohol, it’s time to seek help. Talk to your parents or another trusted adult about Teen Addiction Anonymous. Speak with the professionals at your school. Help is available.