10 reasons why so many kids are abusing drugs

We have the perfect storm for a drug epidemic to thrive. Here are just a few reasons why I can cite why our youth is reaching for drugs to numb life’s painful moments instead of growing from the experience.

1. They are prescribed addictive drugs

Teens go in for an ACL injury or wisdom tooth removal, they are given a bottle of pills. They can become addicted so much quicker than an adult having almost as much as a 20% chance of addiction versus adults who are at 10% risk.

Prescribing guidelines are in place and good God we talk about them enough here but many doctors have not been able to shift their thinking in terms of the dangers of opiates and still prescribe pain pills to teens.

2. Normalization

Medicines in your cabinet are in prescription bottles, prescribed by a doctor. That makes them OK in their minds. Talk to any teen or young adult and you’ll quickly realize they don’t see or understand the danger. In their culture, pain is something that requires a pill and it’s normal to take a substance. They know of no other solutions because they’ve not been exposed to them. For example, Adderall is rampant on college campuses.

3. Technology makes it easy

This has made it easier to secure drugs and experiment more. We give them mobile phones and most kids have complete access with few restrictions because their parents know less about technology than they do.

If you smoked pot as a teen think about how many hoops you had to jump through to get a joint. They can order it online or text a dealer to deliver it like pizza.

4. Connection and lack of problem solving skills

Our families are not all living in the same towns any more, and with technology, kids are spending 45% less face time with their friends offering fewer opportunities to problem solve. We also do so much for them and tend to lecture instead of ask questions allowing them to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes.

Their executive functions are not fully developed until early twenties so they meet drugs and fun before their brains can process the risk. Adolescence is now extended meaning those risky years are, too. 

5. Availability

It’s everywhere. With the US consuming 80% of the world’s opioid prescriptions alone, it’s no wonder kids have no problem finding it. My generation didn’t have as many prescription medications lying about unused in cabinets. So many formulations and ways to use and abuse–smoking, snorting, oils, pills. Hardly anyone starts by injecting.

There are multiple ways to dispose of medicine. Please do so!

6. Mental illness or trauma

Kids are reaching out to something to self medicate something they don’t understand because it’s new. Our kids who suffer mental illness or trauma are the most vulnerable in our population.

To them, that temporary fix is worth the risk. Charles felt that taking a drug was better than killing himself. He felt so miserable and at first, drugs made him feel great and he kept chasing that high with new and different drugs. Kids who have suffered a trauma are also looking for ways to deal and reach out for substances.

7. High standards for success

Our education system has not changed in decades despite vast changes in our culture. Our society is crazy busy and kids don’t know how to keep up so they gravitate to drugs to help them find success.

Our schools are not equipped to inspire creative and innovative thinkers which is so highly valued in today’s society, yet we focus on homogenizing the masses like we have the last few decades. We have this crazy expectation a 5-year-old will sit quietly in his chair for hours to learn. Kids are not “small adults” and our expectations of how excited or engaged they get in boring, standardized classwork is way out of line. Education needs to change.   

8. Over-scheduled and distracted society

We are over-scheduled and so are they and kids don’t get much of our time and attention because we are as swamped! They are overwhelmed and I can understand why. It’s hard for most of us with experience to keep up!

9. Copying adult behavior

Adults self medicate and numb their pain. So if their role models need a glass of wine to relax, that’s the message our teens get. How many events don’t have booze? Not many.

10. Teens like adventure

Teens have always experimented. The trouble is it’s easier to become addicted, more deadly, and far too easy to get. I hear people saying to “monitor their internet behavior” but how easy is that? There’s no way to do that if we hand over the keys to the castle. We need to restrict access but busy parents don’t want the argument. 

Mental illness and addiction need to be treated together

Author: Anne Moss Rogers

I am the owner of emotionally naked, a site that reached a quarter million people in its first 18 months. I am President of Beacon Tree Foundation, advocates for youth mental health as well as a writer and public speaker on the topics of suicide, addiction, mental illness, and grief. I lost my youngest son, Charles, 20, to suicide June 5, 2015. I was a marketing professional for years prior to losing my son and co-owned a digital marketing firm.

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