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Teenage Drug Use Essay, Research Paper

Drug Abuse Among American Teenagers

Drug abuse in America is a major problem. Especially among teenagers. Drugs have hurt the lives of nearly 40 percent of all teenagers in America. Either with health problems, DWIs, highway crashes, arrests, impaired school and job performance. These drugs that teenagers use range from Alcohol, LSD, Marijuana, and even Cigarettes. Most of the teenagers that are involved in drug abuse have either, broken families, parents that are drug abusers, a unstable environment where they are constantly moving from place to place, or there parents aren’t exactly making a lot of money and they are never around because they are trying to make enough money for them to survive. But even to most ordinary teenager can have a drug problem depending on there friends, and relationship with there family.

These teenagers turn to drugs because they have no where else to turn. There family members aren’t ever around, or hardly ever around. Some teens may have there parents around, but they too are involved with drug abuse, giving little or no attention to there children. They may have dropped out of school, or aren’t meeting the standards set for them to meet, giving them a sense that they aren’t worth anything. So what do they do? They turn to drugs, thinking that it will take all there problems away. They soon discover new friends with the same outlook on drugs as they have. And now they have a place to turn, a place where they will not be rejected or put down, a place where nothing matters, everyday is a good day. Until they finally just fall apart.

The reason most teens get involved in drugs is because they have what’s called a low inner and outer containment. Inner containment is what people believe is right and wrong, like your beliefs and morals. These ideas are taught to you at a young age by your parents, and other people in your life that are important to you. If your inner containment is low, meaning that you don’t have people that have put ideas into your head about what’s right and wrong, then your chance of being a drug abuser increases. Outer containment is like the law, teachers, friends, and family. If you have a lot of people around you that are constantly telling you drugs are bad, you will be less likely to get involved with the drugs because you don’t wanna let these people down. But if you don’t have very many people around you like teachers say if you dropped out or something. Then you don’t have anyone telling you not to do drugs, which means you will probably do them. But if you have a strong social bond (i.e. attachment to parents, school, church, etc.) you will be less likely to become deviant because you don’t want to let them down.

If a person has a low inner and outer containment, they probably don’t feel to great about themselves either, and feel as if they are lost in society. They look for someone to lead them, or look for a way out. When a person doesn’t know what to do, they are more prone to get involved with deviance. This theory is known as Anomie.

Differential Association ties in with the containment theory also. It means that people will learn to be deviant (i.e. drug abuse) by the examples sent to them by important people in our lives. These important people could be parents, and family. When you grow up you always look to your parents as a role model, and everything they do you want to do. They develop ideas in your head also about what’s right and wrong, these ideas are constructed realities. If a teenagers parents are involved with drugs, the teen or child will observe that and think that it is OK for them to do the same thing, because they think it must be normal, after all the parents do it, why can’t they? Another example of Differential Association would be with friends. If some of the teenagers friends are involved with drugs, the teen is more likely to get involved with them because of peer pressure from them. They also have a need to fit in with them and they will do anything to gain that acceptance. Along with Differential Association comes Differential Reinforcement. Reinforcement is what a teenager would get from his peers. Lets say the teen starts doing drugs like the rest of his friends, and they start praising him for doing it. The teen will want to continue doing it so that he continues getting praised.

The next theory that can cause deviance or drug abuse among teens is known as labeling theory. This is when a teenager gets labeled as being a drug abuser, and then they continue to use drugs because everyone around them treats them the way the label says they are. The teenager will view them treating them this way and start to think that they must be that way, and conform to it. This is known as Thomas Theorem. Pretty soon the label will takeover there life, and everything they do will be because the label says that that is how they must act. Giving them a master status to follow.

Merton has another explanation of why teens get involved in drugs. He calls them innovators. Innovators accept the goals of being successful but try to get them through disapproved means. The goal in this situation is that a teen wants to be happy. And if a teenager is a part of a broken home, or is depressed they may look to drugs thinking that if they use them they will become happy. Which could explain why some teens get involved.

Some teenagers have also been oppressed by society, an have no choice but to be involved with drugs. How this works is that the economy system is setup so that some folks will never have very high paying jobs. And if this happens it effects the children’s parents, giving them less chance to make a lot of money. and if the parents aren’t making very much money they have to get more jobs to support there family. So if the parents are never home to be with there children, then the child’s inner containment goes down and thus the deviance goes up. Make sense? Hope so…

As you can see there are many things that can cause drug abuse to occur with teens. But what can people do to stop this from happening? There are lots of things you can do to prevent everything I just talked about from happening.

Family experiences have a strong influence on whether young people develop drug problems. Strong family bonds and effective communication between parents and children may help protect children from the many social and emotional factors that trigger drug abuse. If parents would just talk to there kids about drugs, and the problems that occur from drug use the amount of drug abuse in America would go down. Parents also need to know the signs and symptoms of drug abuse, and if any of them occur they should seek help. Teenagers face strong pressures from their peers to use drugs. If people would take them the time to teach them how to make sound decisions, and how to communicate more effectively will help them resist peer pressure to use drugs. Starting programs that offer ways of having fun without having drugs is also another way of showing teens that drugs is not the way to go. And that you don’t need them to have fun. The school system can help to. By setting up educational programs like D.A.R.E in schools will help keep children away from drugs. Teaching them the consequences of drug abuse. But schools cannot do it alone, they have to be backed up and supported by parents. Doctors, and counselors can also help prevention of drug abuse. By offering information about drugs, and setting up rehab programs for those involved in drugs. Churches are a great source for help in the problem in drug abuse, they already setup drug-free activities, also they provide youth and families identify and solve problems before they can worsen and be complimented with drug abuse. Local businesses have an important role to play in prevention. Businesses can sponsor programs for the youth, and donate materials and services for programs that help teenagers stay away from drugs. The mass media provide messages that shape and reinforce people’s beliefs and attitudes about alcohol and other drugs. The media play an important role in prevention because they reach millions of people. Radio and television stations can cover prevention news stories, interview prevention experts to inform the community about effective prevention approaches, and broadcast public service messages to promote prevention. As you can see there are a lot of things you can do to prevent drug abuse. I think that the only way to stop drug abuse is to seek out prevention. Trends in Youth Drug Use

The most alarming trend is the increasing use of illegal drugs, tobacco, and alcohol among youth. Children who use these substances increase the chance of acquiring life-long dependency problems. They also incur greater health risks. Every day, three thousand children begin smoking cigarettes regularly; as a result, a third of these youngsters will have their lives shortened.12 According to a study conducted by Columbia University’s Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, children who smoke marijuana are eighty-five times more likely to use cocaine than peers who never tried marijuana.13 The use of illicit drugs among eighth graders is up 150 percent over the past five years.14 While alarmingly high, the prevalence of drug use among today’s young people has not returned to near-epidemic levels of the late 1970s. The most important challenge for drug policy is to reverse these dangerous trends.

Early drug use often leads to other forms of unhealthy, unproductive behavior. Illegal drugs are associated with premature sexual activity (with attendant risks of unwanted pregnancy and exposure to sexually-transmitted diseases like HIV/AIDS), delinquency, and involvement in the criminal justice system.

Overall Use of Illegal Drugs. In 1995, 10.9 percent of all youngsters between twelve and seventeen years of age used illicit drugs on a past-month basis.15 This rate has risen substantially compared to 8.2 percent in 1994, 5.7 percent in 1993, and 5.3 percent in 1992 — the historic low in the trend since the 1979 high of 16.3 percent. The University of Michigan’s 1996 Monitoring the Future study found that more than half of all high school students use illicit drugs by the time they graduate.

Cocaine Use Among Youth. Cocaine use is not prevalent among young people. In 1996, approximately 2 percent of twelfth graders were current cocaine users. While this figure was up from a low of 1.4 percent in 1992, it was still 70 percent lower than the 6.7 percent high in 1985. Among twelfth graders in 1996, 7.1 percent had ever tried cocaine — up from the 1992 low of 6.1 percent but much lower than the 1985 high of 17.3 percent. However, during the past five years, lifetime use of cocaine has nearly doubled among eighth graders, reaching 4.5 percent in 1996.16 A similar trend is identified in the 1995 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, which showed a drop in the mean age for first use of cocaine from 23.3 years in 1990 to nineteen in 1994.17

Heroin Use Among Youth. Heroin use is also not prevalent among young people. The 1996 Monitoring The Future study found that 1 percent of twelfth graders had used heroin in the past year, and half of 1 percent had done so within the last thirty days. Encouragingly, both figures were lower than the 1995 findings. However, the 1996 survey showed that the number of youths who ever used heroin doubled between 1991 and 1996 among eighth and twelfth graders, reaching 2.4 percent and 1.8 percent respectively.18

Marijuana Use Among Youth. Marijuana use continues to be a major problem among the nation’s young people. Almost one in four high school seniors used marijuana on a “past-month” basis in 1996 while less than 10 percent used any other illicit drug with the same frequency. Within the past year, nearly twice as many seniors used marijuana as any other illicit drug.19 Marijuana also accounts for most of the increase in illicit drug use among youths aged twelve to seventeen. Between 1994 and 1995, the rate of marijuana use among this age-group increased from 6 percent to 8.2 percent (a 37 percent increase). Furthermore, adolescents are beginning to smoke marijuana at a younger age. The mean age of first use dropped from 17.8 years in 1987 to 16.3 years in 1994.20

Alcohol Use Among Youth. Alcohol is the drug most often used by young people. Approximately one in four tenth grade students and one third of twelfth graders report having had five or more drinks on at least one occasion within two weeks of the survey.21 The average age of first drinking has declined to 15.9 years, down from 1987’s average of 17.4 years.22

Tobacco Use Among Youth. Despite a decline in adult smoking, American youth continue to use tobacco products at rising rates. In 1996, more than a third of high school seniors smoked cigarettes, and more than one in five did so daily. These percentages are greater than at any time since the 1970s.23

Other Illicit Drug Use Among Youth. After marijuana, stimulants (a category that includes methamphetamine) are the second-most-commonly used illicit drug among young people. About 5 percent of high school students use stimulants on a monthly basis, and 10 percent have done so within the past year. Encouragingly, the use of inhalants — the third-most-common illicit substance — declined among eighth, tenth, and twelfth graders in 1996. LSD however, was used by 8.8 percent of twelfth graders during the past year.24

Consequences of Illicit Drug Use

The social and health costs to society of illicit drug use are staggering. Drug-related illness, death, and crime cost the nation approximately $66.9 billion. Every man, woman, and child in America pays nearly $1,000 annually to cover the expense of unnecessary health care, extra law enforcement, auto accidents, crime, and lost productivity resulting from substance abuse.25 Illicit drug use hurts families, businesses, and neighborhoods; impedes education; and chokes criminal justice, health, and social service systems.

Health Consequences

Drug-Related Medical Emergencies Are at a Historic High. The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), which studies drug-related hospital emergency room episodes, provides a useful snapshot of the health consequences of America’s drug problem. In 1995, DAWN estimated that 531,800 drug-related episodes occurred — slightly more than the 518,500 incidents in 1994. The 1995 figure marks the first time in the past five years that drug-related emergency department episodes did not rise significantly.26

DAWN also found that cocaine-related episodes remain at a historic high. Heroin-related emergencies increased between 1990 and 1995 by 124 percent. While no meaningful change occurred in the number of methamphetamine-related episodes between 1994 and 1995, a marked increase did occur between 1991 and 1994 when the figure rose from five thousand to nearly eighteen thousand.

Nearly 40 percent of deaths connected with illegal drugs strike people between age thirty and thirty-nine, a group with elevated rates of chronic problems due to drug abuse.27 Overall rates are higher for men than for women, and for blacks than for whites.28 AIDS is the fastest-growing cause of all illegal drug-related deaths. More than 33 percent of new AIDS cases affect injecting drug users and their sexual partners.29

The Consequences of Heroin Addiction are Becoming More Evident. Heroin-related deaths in some cities increased dramatically between 1993 and 1994 (the most recent year for which these statistics are available). In Phoenix, heroin fatalities were up 34 percent, 29 percent in Denver, and 25 percent in New Orleans.30 The annual number of heroin-related emergency room mentions increased from 34,000 in 1990 to 76,023 in 1995.31

Maternal Drug Abuse Contributes to Birth Defects and Infant Mortality. A survey conducted between 1992 and 1993 estimated that 5.5 percent, or about 221,000 women, used an illicit drug at least once during their pregnancy.32 Marijuana was used by about 2.9 percent, or 119,000; cocaine was used by about 1.1 percent, or 45,000.33 Infants born to mothers who abuse drugs may go through withdrawal or have other medical problems at birth. Recent research also suggests that drug-exposed infants may develop poorly because of stress caused by the mother’s drug use. These children experience double jeopardy: they often suffer from biological vulnerability due to prenatal drug exposure, which can be exacerbated by poor caretaking and multiple separations resulting from the drug user’s lifestyle.

Maternal substance abuse is associated with increased risk of infant mortality or death of the child during the first year of life. An in-depth study of infant mortality conducted on women receiving Medicaid, in the state of Washington from 1988 through 1990, showed an infant mortality rate of 14.9 per one thousand births among substance-abusing women as compared to 10.7 per one thousand for women on Medicaid who were not substance abusers.34 In addition, this research indicated that infants born to drug-abusing women are 2.5 times more likely to die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Chronic Drug Use is Related to Other Health Problems. The use of illegal drugs is associated with a range of other diseases, including tuberculosis and hepatitis. Chronic users are particularly susceptible to sexually-transmittable diseases and represent “core transmitters” of these infections. High risk sexual behavior associated with crack and injection drug use has been shown to enhance the transmission and acquisition of both HIV and other STDs.

Underage Use of Alcohol and Tobacco Can Lead to Premature Death. Eighty-two percent of all people who try cigarettes do so by age eighteen.35 Approximately 4.5 million American children under eighteen now smoke, and every day another three thousand adolescents become regular smokers.36 Seventy percent of adolescent smokers say they would not have started if they could choose again.37 In excess of 400,000 people die every year from smoking-related diseases — more than from alcohol, crack, heroin, murder, suicide, car accidents, and AIDS combined.38

Alcohol has a devastating impact on young people. Eight young people a day die in alcohol-related car crashes.39 According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 7,738 intoxicated drivers between the ages of sixteen and twenty were fatally injured in 1996.40 The younger an individual starts drinking and the greater the intensity and frequency of alcohol consumption, the greater the risk of using other drugs.41 Two and-a-half million teenagers reported they did not know that a person can die from alcohol overdose.42

Drug Abuse Burdens the Workplace. Seventy-one percent of all illicit drug users aged eighteen and older (7.4 million adults) are employed, including 5.4 million full-time workers and 1.9 million part-time workers.43 Drug users decrease workplace productivity. An ongoing, nationwide study conducted by the U.S. Postal Service has compared the job performance of drug users versus non-users. Among drug users, absenteeism is 66 percent higher, health benefit utilization is 84 percent greater in dollar terms, disciplinary actions are 90 percent higher, and there is significantly higher employee turnover.44

The workplace can function as a conduit for information on substance-abuse prevention and identification both to adults — many of whom, as parents, are not being reached through more traditional means — and to youth who are employed while attending school. The threat of job loss remains one of the most effective ways to motivate substance abusers to get help. The workplace provides many employees (and families) who seek help for a substance-abuse problem with access to treatment. Since evidence shows that substance-abuse treatment can reduce job-related problems and result in abstinence, many employers sponsor employee-assistance programs (EAPs), conduct drug testing, or have procedures for detecting substance-abuse and promoting early treatment.

The Cost of Drug-Related Crime

Drug abuse takes a toll on society that can only be partially measured. While we are able to estimate the number of drug-related crimes that occur each year, we can never determine fully the extent to which the quality of life in America’s neighborhoods has been diminished by drug-related criminal behavior. With the exception of drug-related homicides, which have declined in recent years, drug-related crime is continuing at a strong and steady pace.

Numerous Drug-Related Arrests Occur Each Year. In 1994, state and local law enforcement agencies made an estimated 1.14 million arrests for drug law violations. The largest percentage of these arrests were for drug possession (75.1 percent).45

Arrestees Frequently Test Positive for Recent Drug Use. The National Institute of Justice Drug Use Forecasting (DUF) program calculates the percentage of arrested individuals whose urine indicates drug use. In 1995, DUF data collected from male arrestees in twenty-three cities showed that the percentage testing positive for any drug ranged from 51 percent to 83 percent. Female arrestees ranged from 41 percent to 84 percent. Among males, arrestees charged with drug possession or sale were most likely to test positive for drug use. Among females, arrestees charged with prostitution, drug possession or sale were most likely to test positive for drug use. Both males and females arrested for robbery, burglary, and stealing vehicles had high positive rates.46

Drug Offenders Crowd the Nation’s Prisons and Jails. At midyear 1996, there were 93,167 inmates in federal prisons, 1,019,281 in state prisons, and 518,492 in jails.47 In 1994, 59.5 percent of federal prisoners were drug offenders48 as were 22.3 percent of the inmates in state prisons.49 The increase in drug offenders accounts for nearly three quarters of the total growth in federal prison inmates since 1980. Most drug offenders are imprisoned for possessing more drugs than possibly could be consumed by one individual distributing drugs or committing serious crimes related to drug sales. In 1995, for example, only 4,040 people were sentenced in federal courts for marijuana-related charges; 89.1 percent of those offenders were facing trafficking charges.50

Inmates in Federal and State Prisons were often under the Influence of Drugs when they Committed Offenses. A 1991 survey of federal and state prisons, found that drug offenders, burglars, and robbers in state prisons were the most likely to report being under the influence of drugs while committing crimes. Inmates in state prisons who had been convicted of homicide, assault, and public order offenses were least likely to report being under the influence of drugs. With the exception of burglars, federal prison inmates were less likely than state inmates to have committed offenses under the influence of drugs.51



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