The dangers of teen drug abuse are real and serious, but they are also preventable. Teens are more susceptible than adults to making bad choices and being impulsive, and they are also at a greater risk for becoming addicted when they abuse substances. If you have a teen, you should be worried about the possibility of substance abuse and addiction, but you can also take steps to prevent these outcomes. Education, prevention and involvement in families and communities can make all the difference when it comes to how many teens die from drugs or suffer other life-changing consequences.
Should High School Athletes Be Drug Tested?
Some experts support a direct and punitive approach to drug abuse in teens. Testing high school athletes is legal and many schools do it. Some experts say that the threat of drug testing, and the punishments if caught, is enough to prevent many instances of drug abuse. In fact, some people are pushing to have all students randomly tested for drug use. Currently it is only legal to test athletes and members of some other types of competitive extracurricular activities. Evidence on how well this works to prevent substance abuse is shaky, and critics say it is a violation of privacy. Drug testing may be one aspect of prevention, but it is clearly not a solution.
Focusing on the Most Dangerous Drugs
Another strategy is to focus attention and resources on those drugs that are causing the most harm. Why are some drugs more addictive than others? Certain substances, like prescription narcotics and heroin, act quickly in the brain, create a powerful euphoria and cause severe withdrawal, which means they are more likely to cause addiction. These drugs are wreaking havoc across the U.S. for both teens and adults. The number of teens abusing prescriptions and now heroin has greatly increased in the last few years. Focusing prevention and education efforts on these substances could make a huge difference.
While public prevention, awareness and education, along with school and community programs, go a long way toward keeping teens safe from drug abuse and addiction, the most powerful tool in preventing drug abuse is family involvement. Teens whose parents are involved in their lives and whose families are close and spend time together are less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol. A strong family bond is an important protective factor for a number of reasons. This connection means that you are better able to impart your values to your teen. It also means that you know more about what is going on in your teen’s life and can intervene if you think something is wrong.
Protecting our teenagers from drug abuse is so important. The teenage brain is still developing and it is vulnerable to the negative effects of drugs. Too many teens become addicts for life or even die from substance abuse. Together, we can make real changes to prevent teens from making the destructive choices that lead to drug abuse and addiction.