By the time a teenager turns nineteen there is a 98 percent chance that he or she has tried at least one drug (including alcohol). It’s hard to say why teenagers try drugs. Sometimes they don’t even know why they do it. If a person asked ten teenagers at a party why they were getting high, that person would probably get ten different explanations. A lot of the time teenagers don’t even recognize the paths that led them to drug abuse.
Drug abuse is usually the result of a problem, an outside influence, or the combination of these.
There are many reasons why teenagers decide to use drugs, but there are specific influences that appear time and again. Experimentation Part of being a teenager is experiencing new things, taking risks, and rebelling against authority. According to Dr. Mitchell S. Rosenthal, president of a large drug treatment program called Phoenix House, teens are seeking adventure and they often find it by experimenting with drugs.
A middle school guidance counselor told Newsweek that when she talks to students about drugs she asks them to go to a certain section of the classroom if they consider themselves big risk takers.
The result no longer surprises her. “They push each other out of the way to get there first,” she reports. The attitude that nothing can hurt them, that they can handle anything, makes teenagers vulnerable to the lure of drugs. According to USA Today, drug use among teenagers is increasing at an alarming rate, while the perceived risk is decreasing. Amy, sixteen, considers herself a “recreational” drug user, meaning she only uses drugs occasionally and doesn’t think drugs are dangerous in moderation. Every year at school there would be a new drug to conquer,” she explains. “You just wanted to see what it would do to you, you know, would it be cooler than the last thing. It’s no big deal if you don’t take it too seriously. ” For many teens who are bored, taking drugs is something to pass the time. Tom, sixteen, says, “There’s seriously nothing to do where I live. Getting high is like the major activity. If I didn’t get stoned, I’d be bored out of my mind. ” The denial by teens of the dangers involved with even occasional drug use has drug educators frustrated.
They feel that teens have to learn that experimenting with drugs isn’t like experimenting with a new hairstyle or way of dressing. Barbara C. Thornton, a high school principal recognized by President Clinton for working with teens who have drug problems, sees experimentation and recreational use as a huge problem that only secures drugs a firmer place in teen culture. “I think it’s gone beyond experimentation,” she says. “It’s become a part of what young people do. ” She believes that taking drugs has replaced the harmless activities of past generations such as bowling or skating.
A route of escape Life today often presents young people with situations that they are not emotionally and psychologically equipped to handle, and many troubled teens turn to drugs as a way to escape from the pain around them. According to Peter Provet, the director of adolescent programs at Phoenix House, “Our most vulnerable kids have experienced and witnessed tragedy to a greater degree than they did even five years ago [in 1990]. We’re seeing kids totally unmotivated, who don’t care about living or dying.
They are increasingly coming from single parent neighborhoods where violence or AIDS has claimed relatives and friends. ” Some teens feel that they’re trapped in a community that encourages drug use. Rosalyn, seventeen, lives in a town where poverty, joblessness, crime, and drugs all mix. “Sometimes I feel like I live in this very weird place, like a planet that nobody else but us knows about. ” She explains that kids in her town use drugs so they don’t have to think about how bad their lives are. Drugs give them the illusion that everything’s all right. Dr.
Allison Dubner, a school psychologist in Long Island, New York, explains that teens are often under a lot of stress at home, with one out of two marriages today ending in divorce. Next to a parent’s death, a divorce is the single highest cause of stress in a young person’s life. Even if these teens had managed to stay away from drugs before, a divorce might lead them to use drugs as a way to escape their problems or as a bid for their parents’ attention. For Jodi, sixteen, it was sexual abuse that led to drugs. “I used to be afraid to go to sleep at night because I would have such terrible nightmares.
Then I discovered speed, and just kept taking it and taking it. That way, if I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t have bad dreams. ” Dr. Dubner believes that “abuse like this has far reaching implications and can do an incredible amount of damage to a young person. It destroys their self esteem, their trust, and their hope for the future. ” Since children often keep physical or sexual abuse a secret, the sudden use of drugs might be the first time an adult notices that something is wrong. Sometimes teens want to escape from more typical adolescent problems such as low self-image. I think I started taking drugs,” says Julie, fifteen, “to hide from myself. I don’t think I liked myself very much back then. When I was high I could pretend to be someone else—someone who wasn’t so shy and awkward. ” Peer pressure The explanation teenagers give most often as to why they started using drugs was that their friends or older siblings used them. Dr. Barbara Staggers, an expert on drug- abusing adolescents, explains that “to a teen, the honest answer to the question, ‘If everybody else jumped off a cliff, would you too? ’ is ‘yes. It’s really, really important that we understand this. For the teen at that moment, being down at the bottom together feels better than being on the edge of a cliff alone. ” The need to feel like part of the group can be overwhelming. For Kim, fifteen, middle school started out as a very lonely place. “I didn’t know that many people, and I’d just walk through the halls alone, watching everyone else joking around. Then some kids invited me to hang out with them. I partied with them a few times and suddenly I was one of them—I was part of a group.
I held my head up higher when I walked through the halls. ” The need for peer acceptance is strong among teenagers. Part of being accepted often means engaging in the same behavior as the rest of the crowd, and if the crowd is doing drugs many teens would rather go along than go alone. Messages from family Robert, fifteen, says he places half of the blame for his drug use on his parents’ lack of supervision. “Hey,” he says, “I know they have to work for a living. But I’m no saint. I have the whole house to myself after school and it’s pretty much become the local hangout.
Sure we’re gonna get stoned. ” A recent study of more than five thousand teenagers revealed that latchkey kids—young people who are left alone after school without adult supervision —are much more likely than other young people to regularly use drugs and alcohol. The study shows that teens who hang out in unsupervised areas hidden to the public rather than at organized activities are at the greatest risk of being involved in drug use. Parents are teenagers’ primary role models. Children grow up watching and imitating their parents. If a child’s arents use drugs, and drugs are a visible part of the household life, that child will likely grow up believing that using drugs is an acceptable behavior. The Center for Sub- stance Abuse Prevention reveals that “being the child of an alcoholic or drug abuser or having a family history of alcohol or drug abuse places a child at serious risk of alcohol and drug use. ” Sometimes parents contribute to a child’s drug habit by ignoring behavior rather than confronting it. This is called “enabling,” because it enables or permits the problem to continue.
For example, Julie, quoted in Drugs and the Family, used so many drugs that she was sick all the time, yet her mother never questioned Julie’s behavior. Once, I was on the floor throwing up. My mother came into my room with aspirin and asked me if I was feeling better. She didn’t yell; she didn’t punish me; she didn’t say anything. I don’t know if she didn’t know, didn’t care, or didn’t want to know. I think she may have suspected, but I also think she was afraid that if she did say anything, she would lose me.
So she chose to look the other way. Most parents try to send the right messages, but if they used drugs when they were younger, their children might Reprinted by permission of Ed Gamble. have a hard time believing their warnings. “It’s kind of embarrassing,” says Amy, fourteen, “but my parents were hippies in the ’60s. I know they smoked pot and my dad even took a hit of acid once. Even though they beg me not to do it, nothing’s wrong with them now, so it’s hard for me to swallow all the stuff about drugs ruining your life. This is becoming a generational issue, faced by many teenagers today who are the first generation to grow up with parents who experimented with drugs when they were teenagers in the 1960s. According to USA Today, “Baby boomers who used drugs now have children using them, and the boomer parents are finding it hard to argue with their children about behavior that they themselves engaged in. ” The perceived glamour of drugs The advertising and entertainment industries are often accused of making drug use seem glamorous and seductive.
The federal government, educators, and concerned parents have long blamed the film and television industry for promoting harmful behavior. In order to sell a product (promote a band, movie, clothing, and so on), the media is accused of sending the wrong messages to impressionable young people. In a survey by CASA, 76 percent of teens said they believe that the entertainment industry encourages illegal drug use. According to sociologists, the media is feeding on young people’s fascination with the forbidden.
When people they admire become associated with drugs, teens may link drug use with exciting and successful lifestyles. The music industry Vincent Marino runs a large drug rehabilitation center and firmly believes that the popular music scene and many of the song lyrics themselves encourage teenagers to use drugs. He recently told the New York Post that “the typical teenager does not believe that what happened to Kurt Cobain is going to happen to them. ” There is no doubt that teenagers of every generation have held a fascination for musicians.
With the advent of MTV in the mid-eighties, young people have much more access to the bands than ever before and rock stars have taken on a new type of celebrity. Newsweek magazine reports that “the most revered bands carry out the message [take drugs if you want to] in their lives as well as their songs. Since kids emulate musicians, they are liable to emulate their drug use. ” Many musicians don’t bother to hide their drug use, and others flaunt it. It immediately becomes public knowledge when a band member is hospitalized or dies due to a drug overdose, and the news has actually led young people to abuse the culprit drug even more.
Entertainment Weekly, for example, reported that the demand by young people for a brand of heroin with the street name Red Rum increased after Jonathan Melvoin of Smashing Pumpkins died after using it. Newsweek points out that the streets of Seattle “are cluttered with kids who have moved there to do heroin, just because [Kurt] Cobain did. ” The critics feel that as role models for young people, musicians are sending the wrong message. Even after the death of so many gifted musicians, bands are showing little signs of disassociating themselves from drugs.
Sixteen-year-old Drew believes that some musicians need drugs in order to create their music. He told Time magazine that recovery “holds back” creative people. “Just look at groups like Aerosmith or the Red Hot Chili Peppers,” he says. “They got sober, and they started to suck. ” Besides a band’s personal drug involvement or drug-infused song lyrics, drug messages surround the music industry in other ways. Music videos are filled with blatant drug images and some bands even put emblems of marijuana leaves on their merchandise.
To promote his new album entitled Lethal Injection, rapper Ice Cube sent out over ten thousand ball-point pens that resembled hypodermic needles. Musicians may argue that it is not their job to protect young people, but the message that they are heralding is that drug use is acceptable. Says one father of a drugaddicted teen: “There are legions of parents who won’t miss Jerry Garcia (of the Grateful Dead). He didn’t give our kids drugs, but he provided one hell of a venue. ” Seventeen- year-old Kyle tells USA Today that “marijuana as a drug is being promoted a lot more in music and music videos.
You see it so much that you don’t think it’s illegal. I listen to a lot of rappers brag about it. ” When asked if he believed popular music promoted drug use, sixteen-year-old Steve said, “All I know is that almost every song you listen to says something about it. It puts it in your mind constantly. ” The film and television industries Dr. Robert Millman, director of drug treatment at New York Hospital–Cornell Medical Center blames the surge in teen drug use partly on images in movies such as Kids and Trainspotting, in which young people are shown using drugs but often not paying the consequences.
Sociologists worry that some movies even influence teens to copy the dangerous behavior they see on the screen. The copycat effect also holds true for teens and the actors that they idolize. Sixteen-year-old Phil admits to Reader’s Digest magazine that “when you see celebrities doing [drugs], it makes it seem okay. ” When the initial cause of death for River Phoenix, one of Hollywood’s brightest young stars, was linked with a new designer drug called GHB, police in New York City reported “all the kids were running around trying to find it for the next few weeks. Some worry that young people are becoming hardened by Hollywood’s tragedies. Outside a Los Angeles club after Phoenix’s death, one young clubgoer summed up her feelings very clearly. “Every night people are going to carry on. You know, he’s dead and we’re alive. Only the glamorous survive! ” A Weekly Reader survey revealed that next to the influence of their peers, television and movies had the greatest influence in making substance abuse attractive to teenagers. Fourth graders ranked the influence of television and movies number one. Television has become a primary source of information about the world for millions of kids.
They spend more of their free time in front of the television than engaging in any other activity. Whenever a drug situation is presented on a drama or sitcom the storyline is usually wrapped up in thirty to sixty minutes and only loosely based on reality. On a popular teenage show like Beverly Hills 90210, where underage drinking is the norm, nearly every character has had a drug or alcohol problem that he or she overcame within a few episodes. Experts feel that this can give young people the false impression that such serious problems can be neatly resolved before the next commercial. The fashion industry
The drug lifestyle has also seeped into the fashion industry, where impressionable teens see drugs glamorized in print ads in magazines and on billboards. Critics loudly voice their disgust with the way young models are being portrayed to the public as drug addicts. Model Zoe Fleischauer, now twenty-one, says the modeling community wants models that look like junkies. Vogue magazine declares, “In the 1980’s, models were photographed running and jumping and smiling and laughing, now they’re wilting and collapsing and frowning and sulking. ” Part of the model’s act is to stumble down the runway, looking dazed and confused.
Dr. Millman sees this behavior as adding to the media’s positive perception of drugs. “With high-fashion designers, the models look like they’re stoned,” he says. The New York Post has reported that Calvin Klein appears to promote drug abuse in an advertising campaign for the new cK perfume. The ads feature photos of “ghostly pale, tattooed, greasy-haired grungers,” one of whom even looks like he has tracks on his arms. Psychotherapist Linda Cohen says that many young girls worship supermodels featured in teen magazines. She says, “Advertising is all about manipulating the public into buying a product.
The message from a lot of the fashion world seems to be, ‘do drugs, buy these clothes or wear this perfume, look like me. ’” To add to the problem, teenagers are aware that the fashion industry and the models themselves have used drugs. When model Kate Moss—a favorite among teens polled in Sassy magazine —was asked if she smoked pot, her reply was, “Yeah, who’s going to say no, I don’t, now? Nobody hides it anymore, it’s not like a drug. ” With media celebrities making comments like this, educators fear that their antidrug message will continue to fall on deaf ears. To enhance their physical appearance
Young girls compare themselves to their peers as well as to supermodels and actresses. “At Franklin High, all the girls have perfect bodies except me,” swears Jodi from California. “They all look like models or like they’re on Baywatch or something. ” Jodi decided she was going to do something about her looks and started with over-thecounter diet pills. But that wasn’t enough for Heather, seventeen, also from California, who wanted something that made her much more energetic. She quickly moved on to coke and then various forms of speed. “I was always selfconscious about my weight.
I would look in the mirror Mike Peters. Reprinted by special permission of United Features Syndicate. and go ‘Oh God. ’ But when I was on crank and lost 40 pounds, I thought I looked beautiful. I liked never being hungry. ” For boys wanting to build bigger muscles and gain greater endurance, the drugs of choice are anabolic steroids. As many as 7 percent of high school boys admit to having used steroids and a study from the HHS places the number closer to 11 percent. According to Bobby, sixteen, a lot of boys think that without steroids they’ll lose a chance to make the football team. Half the team was shooting up, and the coach knew what was going on. He just looked the other way,” Bobby said. More than 80 percent of the boys in the HHS study said that steroids made them bigger and more popular and 87 percent said they would use steroids again. Whatever the reason that brought them to drugs in the first place, some teens will stop after their first experience but many more won’t. As long as society continues to send mixed messages and as long as teenagers’ selfesteem remains so low, drug abuse will persist in the youth culture.
And while this abuse affects millions of teens and their families, the effects on society as a whole are equally troubling. Why Teens Take Drugs. ” Teen Issues: Teen Drug Abuse. Ed. Wendy Mass. San Diego: Lucent Books, 1998. August 2004. 17 June 2010. <http://www. enotes. com/teen-drug-article/43962>. Navigate 1. Introduction 2. Popular Drugs and Their Effects 3. Why Teens Take Drugs 4. Consequences of Teen Drug Abuse 5. Drugs in School 6. Drug Prevention 7. Recognition and Treatment of Drug Abuse 8. Organizations to Contact 9. Copyright Tell a friend about Teen Drug Abuse at eNotes.
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Reasons Why Teenagers Try Drugs. (2018, Aug 01). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/teen-drug-abuse/