Teen Marijuana Abuse on the Rise

Posted on 02. Jun, 2014 by in Alcohol & Drug Abuse

Marijuana is a popularly known as the gateway drug, meaning that once a teen begins using it, it’s likely going to lead to the use of other drugs. However, a recent study indicates that that may not be true.

The 2010 Monitoring the Future Survey that interviewed about 45,000 students in the 8th, 10th, and 12th grades provides a picture of the use of drugs and their attitudes towards them. The survey indicates that although teen marijuana abuse is on the rise, the use of other illicit drugs has leveled off. The National Institute on Drug Abuse, the leader of the survey, reported that the use of alcohol has decreased among teens and continues to go down. The rate of alcohol use in the last 30 days has decreased to 40% of teens, the lowest rate in the history of the Monitoring the Future Survey.

Fortunately, many adolescents are already aware of the dangers that accompany marijuana abuse. Often, but not always, this alone can keep teenagers away from drugs, especially if their home and school life is relatively healthy. Some adolescents will experiment with drugs to satisfy their curiosity but frequently experience ends there. And the study described above supports this. The study indicates that teens are using marijuana but not extending to the more dangerous drugs, such as ecstasy.

If drug use continues, however, likely there are underlying issues that continue to feed the desire for using them. In fact, it should be noted that despite the picture painted by the above described study, there is currently a teen heroine epidemic sweeping the nation. Despite the low statistics regarding the use of other illicit drugs, the use of heroine and prescription drugs have increased among teens in recent years.

The addictions that are developing in homes, at schools, around the nation speak to a large problem among adolescents. It’s one thing for teens to try drugs and to use them occasionally. However, it’s another to continue to use them to the point where an addiction develops, to the point where self-destruction takes place. Using and developing an addiction to drugs is often the result of unresolved, underlying issues.

Let’s face it. Any addiction to alcohol, marijuana, prescription drugs, or other substances is not the problem. Sure, it’s problematic. It’s a dysfunctional and cyclical pattern that creates challenges for a teen, for his or her entire family, and everyone around them, but it’s not the real problem. Even though an addiction to substances might have led a teen to truancy, expulsion from school, juvenile detention, failing grades, and a host of other major problems, solving these are not going to resolve the addiction.

The real problems behind addiction are the underlying issues, such as unresolved emotions and/or traumatic experiences. It is the shame, guilt, anger, and anxiety that are too difficult to actually experience. These feelings might have been the result of childhood sexual or physical abuse, witnessing violence between your parents, bearing the burden of a stepmother or stepfather moving into your home, or experiencing a death in your family.

Commonly, there are feelings, thoughts, and beliefs that ultimately lead to trying and then using a drug on a regular basis. Alcohol and drugs induce an altered state and therefore provide an escape from the tumultuous inner atmosphere that a troubled adolescent might have. Some feelings are hard to bear, especially if they are intense, and particularly if a teenager feels that he or she cannot express those feelings without being reprimanded or hurt in some way.

Smoking marijuana numbs you from those feelings, but sadly, it only keeps a teen in a dysfunctional cycle. There’s a strong, often unconscious need to be free of those feelings, but substance use only pushes them away and adds to their power over its user. In fact, addiction is a cycle of self-harm, where those feelings are kept at bay, and doing so perpetuates the festering of those feelings, which in turn strengthens the need for drug use.

There’s a saying in the mental health field: what you resist persists. The only way to heal the underlying issues is to allow the expression of those feelings, as challenging as they might be, and begin to unravel the traumatic events that caused those feelings in the first place. The only thing that will lead to no longer needing drugs emotionally or psychologically is the expression of those feelings in a safe environment with someone you trust.


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