Effective Strategies to Stop Teen Drug Abuse

happy group of teenagers

According to the results of the 2012 Monitoring the Future survey, published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 36.4 percent of American high school seniors admitted to having used marijuana within the past year. Included in this figure is the 22.9 percent of 12th-graders who said that they had smoked pot within the past month and the 6.5 percent who admitted to using marijuana on a daily basis. As high as the current rates of teen drug abuse in the United States may be, they appear to be headed for even higher levels if current trends continue. The prevalence of marijuana among young people has steadily been on the rise since the mid-2000s, at the same time as the number of teens who say that they perceive marijuana to be dangerous is dropping. In light of such dire statistics, and what they could mean for the future of the nation, the federal government, and many of the state governments around the country, is actively searching for solutions to this major public health problem. In addition to the government, educators, law enforcement agencies and especially parents are greatly concerned to find ways to stem the tide of teen drug use in America.

Good news on this front comes in a recent announcement from NIDA concerning a pair of studies that have been published on the topic of curbing teen drug use. One of these was conducted by researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and was published in the American Journal of Public Health. To briefly summarize the results of the study, the researchers found that by limiting teen access to tobacco products, it was possible to reduce the number of teens who ended up smoking in adulthood. This was achieved through a number of measures, including stricter requirements to show identification before purchasing cigarettes, as well as placing tighter restrictions on vending machines that sell tobacco products. In other words, these types of prohibition efforts work, by making it harder for teenagers to get their hands on cigarettes. Through whatever measures, it would be wise to similarly make it more difficult for young people to get a hold of drugs.

The other study reported on by NIDA was conducted by researchers at the Partnerships in Prevention Science Institute at Iowa State University. Involving 11,960 students spread across 28 different school districts, the study examined the ways in which community-based intervention programs may be effective at cutting down on later-life drug use. During 6th grade, the students were provided with a family-based intervention on the topic of the dangers of drug use, while in the following year they were given a school-based intervention. The researchers then followed up with the students when they had reached the age of a high school senior, and what they found was encouraging. Those who had received an intervention were 31.4 percent less likely to be using drugs. The effectiveness of interventions was demonstrated to be particularly high among high-risk youth, young people who are more likely to be exposed to drugs due to the circumstances in which they live.

What Parents Can Do to Keep Teens Off Drugs

In addition to making it harder to get drugs, and performing interventions to ensure that your children understand the dangers of drugs, there is also the approach of helping your teens to address the problems that might lead to using drugs in the first place. Allowing for a wide range of variation in examples, it can generally be said that the reason that a person starts using drugs is to relieve himself or herself of an unwanted condition. It may be that the person suffers from pain and is looking for a way to relieve this suffering. Maybe the person is cripplingly nervous in public spaces and is always on edge when talking to others. In many cases, it can simply be chalked up to boredom, especially when the drug user is a teenager. As a parent, you can go a long way towards keeping your children off of drugs by stepping in to help with the problems that they are experiencing. Bust through the small talk and really find out what is bothering your children, and offer to assist in finding solutions.

If, for example, your teen is feeling overworked from homework, it may be necessary to rearrange the schedule, spend more time working directly together, and perhaps even to discuss the matter with the school. By helping your teen to handle the problems they are facing in life, it may be possible to keep him or her from turning to drugs later on.


Sue Birkenshaw

Sue has worked in the addiction field with the Narconon network for three decades. She has developed and administered drug prevention programs worldwide and worked with numerous drug rehabilitation centers over the years. Sue is also a fine artist and painter, who enjoys traveling the world which continues to provide unlimited inspiration for her work. You can follow Sue on Twitter, or connect with her on LinkedIn.