For over one hundred years, the United States has been dealing with the use and abuse of illegal drugs. The federal government has spent billions of dollars since 1906 trying to stop the production, distribution, possession, and use of drugs. The war on drugs has been long and costly with minimal progress made. Although the use of illegal drugs among teenagers has reduced, their abuse of prescription drugs has risen substantially. Drug use is a very serious problem among school-age and college-age individuals and is present on every campus across this country. Even though the war on drugs is ongoing, the government’s efforts to reduce drug trafficking have had little effect on the use or abuse of illegal drugs among teenagers. Drug abuse continues to plague our nation, causing destruction along its path, there seems to be no escape from this alarming trend. The most important challenge for drug policy is to reverse these dangerous trends. Illegal drugs are easily accessible; they are in our homes, schools, businesses, and even in jails and prisons. They affect most people in this nation in some form or another, whether abusing them themselves or knowing someone who does or has abused them. The use of drugs early among teens is especially dangerous and often leads to unproductive, unhealthy behavior. Involvement in the criminal justice system, juvenile delinquency, premature sexual activity (which exposes them to sexually transmitted diseases and increases the risk of unwanted pregnancies), are all associated with the use of illegal drugs. The staggering cost for unnecessary health care, auto accidents, crimes resulting from drug use, and extra law enforcement has caused even more damage to an already failing economy. If the government is to move forward in its attempt to fight the war on drugs, it has to create effective drug policies and develop better programs to stop the onset of initial drug use. Informing today’s youth about the dangers of illegal drugs will prove far more beneficial than simply using scare tactics with harsher penalties. A key component in the fight to save children from drugs is effective drug education. The Narconon drug curriculum will teach them why they should say “NO”, by helping them understand the lasting damage of drugs. In tackling the teenage drug problem, first, we have to determine what some of the risk factors are that may have led them down that path from the beginning. How a child interacts in various settings like at school, with teachers, their peers, siblings, parents, and in their neighborhood can play a crucial role in their emotional, social and cognitive development. If they begin to act out in the class, fail classes, have poor social coping skills, begin to associate with the wrong crowd, and change in overall perception about things they know are wrong like lying, drugs, crimes, etc. These are all red flags and should be investigated and addressed immediately. You have to try talking with them or taking them to see a professional find out what is wrong, if possible, change their environment, place them around positive peers, get them involved in sports, church, social clubs. Do whatever it takes to prevent things from spiraling out of control, utilize all your resources. Try to let the child know you are there and that you care about what they are going through, this could make all the difference, in whether or not you reach them. If parents read, educate themselves of the dangers of using drugs, then and only then will they be able to teach their children how to get involved in drug use. To compile enough research for a well-rounded paper sites like; the Office on National Drug Control Policy, National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Internet, ProQuest, and the Ashford Online Library were used. These sites along with others sources contained an abundance of information, enough data to create an informative paper. This research pointed out the social and health cost of illicit drug use and further identified that drug-related illness, death, and crime, cost the nation over one hundred billion dollars a year. The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) reports, of the 263,871 emergency department visits by adolescents aged 12-17, nearly one-tenth (8. 8 percent) involved suicide attempts, almost three of every four (72. 3 percent) were females. Of the 95. 4 percent drug-related suicides pharmaceuticals were involved and more than three-fourths (77. 0 percent) ended with follow-up care (SAMHSA, 2008). The greatest cost of all drug abuse is paid in the loss of human lives, either directly through overdose, or drug abuse-related diseases such as tuberculosis, and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), and hepatitis. (NIDA & NIAA, 1992). It was important to conduct this research to make readers aware of just how bad society is failing the youth of this nation. The United States government cannot do it by itself. This is a national problem and it is going to take a nation to solve it, everyone has to help or this fight will be forever lost. After an almost ten-year decline, marijuana is on the rise again among teens. High school seniors reported that they smoked pot more than cigarettes according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s recent “Monitoring the Future” survey. While 21. 4% admitted to using marijuana in the last 30 days, only 19. 2% smoked cigarettes during the same time frame. This was the first time since 1981 that pot was used more than cigarettes in that age group. Although the public health campaigns to reduce cigarette smoking among teens consider this a victory, its decline can mainly be contributed to the rise of marijuana use. Many kids seem to feel that smoking pot is simply “not that big of a deal”, after all, it is only pot; even eighth graders do not believe the risk is that great. This type of attitude explains why there is a 1% increase in daily use for eighth-graders and a 3% increase for tenth graders and is an indication that marijuana use will likely continue to climb as these kids move closer to graduation. About one out of four seniors and one in four tenth-graders said they smoked marijuana in the last year. Obama administration’s drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, blames state medical marijuana measures like California’s Proposition 19 for making pot seem less dangerous to young Americans. “Calling marijuana ‘smoked medicine’ is absolutely incorrect, young people have taken the wrong message” (Healy, 2010, p. A-10). According to the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Dr. Nora Volkow, because teenagers’ brains are still developing the increased daily use of marijuana is particularly disturbing, since it has been known to cause learning and memory damage. The fact that they use marijuana more frequently puts them at a greater risk of becoming dependent on it and other drugs. The use of the club drug Ecstasy has increased among eighth- and tenth graders but not all drugs showed an increase. The abuse of the prescription pain medication Vicodin was down to 8% compared to 9. 7% in 2009 and the illicit use of opioid painkiller OxyContin rose among tenth-graders but remained steady with twelfth- graders. The use of drugs prescribed for attention deficit disorder, (ADHD) for non-medical reasons in the last year among high school seniors is 6. % and is about the same for amphetamines use (Healy, 2010). One of the latest growing teenage trends, which centers on the sampling of a variety of prescription drugs and then drinking alcohol is causing much concern. Kids feel that prescription drugs are safer than street drugs because they are prescribed by a doctor and are usually purchased in a drug store. This is simply not true; they actually are more powerful which makes them even more dangerous especially when adding alcohol to the mix. Nora Volkow, says, “Kids are not pharmacologists, they may say, Fentanyl OxyContin- what’s the difference? So they take a bunch of things and may combine them with alcohol, that is a deadly miscalculation” (Jetters, A, 2010-2011, p. 146). To achieve feelings of euphoria, the amount of opioid painkillers needed is so close to the amount that can kill you. If you add alcohol or tranquilizers like Klonopin, Valium, Xanax, which also depresses the brain’s respiratory center. Just one gin and tonic combined with a 40 mg methadone pill can be fatal. They are playing a very dangerous game of Russian roulette, one that they clearly do not understand. When you think of drugs and how they got into the United States, most of us think about them coming from another country, like maybe Mexico or somewhere in South America. However, more now than ever we need to look no further than our own medicine cabinets. The days of taking an aspirin or Tylenol for a headache, backache, or toothache are long gone. We can now look in our medicine cabinets and choose from a variety of powerful leftover painkillers previously prescribed to us for various aches and pains. For over the past twenty years, four times the number of opioid prescriptions were written. Doctors prescribed them at a rate of more than 180 million per year. By providing patients with enough medication to ease their pain, doctors believe aids in the healing process and allow the patient to focus on getting well and not on the pain. This type of rationale may have caused doctors to over-medicate, thereby prescribing painkillers for even the slightest pain. Painkillers like Vicodin, OxyContin, and Percocet are even prescribed to children that have barely reached adolescence. This may explain why they are the most abused pills among 12 and 13- year- olds (Jetters, A, 2010-2011, p. 148). Dentists and oral surgeons are prescribing opioids for simple procedures like molar extractions. In addition, the kids are being sent home with way more pills than they need. Yes, kids feel pain just like adults, however; doctors cannot simply prescribe these potent drugs and then forget how long and how many pills the kids are taking, that is a recipe for disaster. If your children are prescribed these or any medication for that matter, be sure to monitor their usage. You should count them and if there is cause for concern, take them and store them in a secure place under lock and key and dispense the correct amount to them yourself. You must be sure to properly dispose of all expired or unused medication, take every precaution when doing so. Many experts are now advising people not to flush them in the toilet because it may pollute the water. If you throw them in the trash, place them in a bag mixed with cat litter, coffee grounds, or anything that will discourage your kids from looking for them. Talk to other parents and family members, especially if your child visits their homes often; advise them to safeguard their prescription drugs as well. Check around your community to see if there is a prescription pill- drop-off point. More towns are sponsoring these sites to assist in the disposal of medicines in hopes of possibly cutting back on teenage drug use. As parents, you must realize that you play a big role in how your children view prescription drugs and whether or not they will end up abusing them. Many teenagers believe that parents will be less concerned or upset if they are caught misusing prescription drugs because, after all, they are legal. A clear message needs to be sent to them, letting them know that you do care if they illegally use prescription drugs just as you would if they abused any other illicit drug. It is important that they know if they are in trouble they can come to you for help regardless of what the problem is, even drugs. Pill popping is so popular among kids because the high is not instantly detected like marijuana and alcohol. It is definitely easier to buy pills than beer, you do not have to wait for the store to open or need a person twenty-one over to purchase them. Pills and money are easily be exchanged by a handshake, at school or other public places without ever being noticed. You do not need a bottle, can, glass, rolling paper, a match, or a pipe; all you do is a place that one small white pill in your mouth that is it. On the other hand, marijuana and alcohol both have very distinctive smells and are detected almost immediately. However, if he or she has taken prescription drugs you do not usually notice it right away unless their behavior has changed erratically. Although alcohol use may be down, it remains popular among teens and cannot be taken lightly. Over the years, it has had a devastating impact on teenagers; more than eight young people a day die from fatal car crashes or are fatally injured due to alcohol-related accidents. Because so many households have alcohol, it is easy for children to begin drinking at an early age. The younger the child is when he begins consuming alcohol the more likely he is to increase his alcohol intake. The more he drinks the greater his chances are of using other drugs in the future, which is why alcohol along with marijuana has always been believed to be a gateway drug. Parents should beware, more kids are trying whatever they can get their hands on to get high. Isobutyl nitrite is a volatile liquid-solid without a prescription for use as a room deodorizer but is commonly used as an inhalant to produce a euphoric feeling (Peary & Schwartz, 1986). It causes dizziness, lightheadedness, blurred vision, and pounding heart, these symptoms can make them really sick. Nevertheless, kids appear to believe this method of getting high along with experimentation with other drugs is the norm. As this research, progressed, other dangerous drugs were introduced, and now that we have learned more about them and the various ways they are being used; we are better equipped to help fight the war on drugs. Informing the minds of our youth so they can reason more clearly on the subject of alcohol and other drugs is a vitally important way to curtail addiction down the road. Children who never start abusing drugs will never become addicts in need of drug recovery. As the government continues its war on drugs, society must begin theirs. This great nation is equipped with a vast amount of resources to assist in this endeavor; therefore, every effort should be made to do whatever is necessary to ensure the youth of today will be around for tomorrow.
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