Nearly everywhere we look, the consequences of teen drug abuse can be seen. Violent street gangs, family violence, train crashes, the spread of AIDS, and babies born with cocaine dependency all testify to the pervasive influence of drugs in our world.
The statistics on teen drug abuse are staggering. The average age of first alcohol use is 12 and the average age of first drug use is 13. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 93 percent of all teenagers have some experience with alcohol by the end of their senior year of high school and 6 percent drink daily. Almost two-thirds of all American young people try illicit drugs before they finish high school. One out of sixteen seniors smokes marijuana daily and 20 percent have done so for at least a month sometime in their lives. A recent poll on teen drug abuse found that adolescents listed drugs as the most important problem facing people their age, followed by crime and violence in school and social pressures.
Teen drug abuse has changed the social landscape of America. Street gangs spring up nearly overnight looking for the enormous profits drugs can bring. Organized crime is also involved in setting up franchises that would make McDonald's envious. But these are not hamburgers. In the world of drugs, homicidally vicious gangs compete for market share with murderous results. Many gang members outgun the police with their weapons of choice: semi-automatic pistols, AK-47s, and Uzis. Drug dealers have also gone high tech using cellular phones and computers to keep track of deals, while their teenage runners wear phone beepers in school.
The Parents' Resource Institute for Drug Education (PRIDE) reports that children who abuse illicit drugs are significantly more likely to carry a gun to school, take part in gang activities, think of suicide, threaten harm to others, and get in trouble with the police than children who abstain.
One teen drug abuse survey released by the University of Colorado shows that the problem of teen drug abuse is not just outside the church. The study involved nearly 14,000 junior high and high school youth and compared churched young people with un-churched young people and found very little difference. For example, 88 percent of the un-churched young people reported drinking beer as compared to 80 percent of churched young people.
When asked how many had tried marijuana, 47 percent of the un-churched young people had done so compared to 38 percent of the churched youth. For amphetamines and barbiturates, 28 percent of the un-churched had tried them while 22 percent of the church young people had tried them. And for cocaine use, the percentage was 14 percent for un-churched youths and 11 percent for churched youths.
Fighting teen drug abuse often seems futile. When drug dealers are arrested, they are often released prematurely because court dockets are overloaded. Plea bargaining and paroles are standard fare as the revolving doors of justice spin faster. As the casualties mount in this war against drugs, some commentators have begun to suggest that the best solution is to legalize drugs. But you don't win a war by surrendering. If drugs were legalized, addiction would increase, health costs would increase, and government would once again capitulate to societal pressures and shirk its responsibility to establish moral law. Something must be done about teen drug abuse of substances like alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, heroin, and PCP. Just the medical cost of drug abuse was estimated by the National Center for Health Statistics to be nearly $60 billion, and the medical bill for alcohol was nearly $100 billion.
If you are a teen concerned about your own drug use, parents are probably the last people you want to ask for help, but they can but they can help you to find the treatment program that will support and guide you through recovery. If you are a parent or friend of a teen who has a substance abuse problem, talk to them about their problem and encourage them to get help. The sooner you or someone you love gets help, the more likely they are to achieve successful recovery.