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Teenage Substance Abuse, The Good News and the Bad

Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Apr 9th 2008

 1. The Good News:

NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) reported an encouraging finding from a survey recently done on the issue of teenage drug abuse. The survey took 6 years to do and was reported in 2007. The results showed a 24 percent decline in the use of illicit drugs over the six years. Marijuana, methamphetamine, and amphetamines are the drugs that led the way in the decline in teenage usage. That is the good news.

2. The Bad News:

The bad news is really bad. Teenagers are using prescription medications at record levels according to Dr. Lloyd Johnston of the University of Michigan. Specifically, adolescents are using pain killers such as Oxycontin and Vicodin.

The problem is that these pain killers are being prescribed appropriately for patients in need of them. However, parents are storing these medications in places that are easily accessible to children in the household who take them and sell them at school and/or make use of them along with their friends.

It is really important for all families to lock their medicine cabinets or store their medications in some locked and unavailable place at home. In addition, once any drug is no longer necessary it is important to get rid of them rather than storing them.

There is nothing wrong with the use of these medications when they are used by the patient and as prescribed by the medical doctor. However, when used improperly by children and teens, they are dangerous because they are highly addictive and severely alter mood, thinking and judgment.

Other Concerns:

The survey found that youngsters attitudes towards MDMA (ecstasy) is becoming much more accepting. Even in grades 7 and 8 youngsters are reporting that they believe that ecstasy is harmless. The survey found that 12th graders are continuing to use ecstasy.

Another concern is the use of over the counter cough medicines by secondary school children. These medicines contain the chemical dextromethorphan that, when abused, causes youngsters to get "high." Misuse of these cough medicines are known to cause brain damage and death. Here, too, parents need to monitor the medicines they have at home and to carefully observe the behavior of their teenage children to see if there are any unusual shifts in behavior that could indicate a drug problem.

The fact is that "Over The Counter" does not mean Safe.


Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Drug Abuse - johnvicter - Jul 2nd 2008

However, when used improperly by children and teens, they are dangerous because they are highly addictive and severely alter mood, thinking and judgment.



the Rx witch - - Apr 21st 2008
   Drugs are a physical curse on the body and soul. Do not alter your self. You have been warned. You will never know how BAD drugs are unless if you try them. And if you try them to see how bad they are. You will be sorry because drugs will keep you for a long long time. I cry to think of kids on drugs. All but the ones who ignore how damaged they are. They are truly sick.

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