Monday, December 19, 2011

Teens and Drug Use

In many ways, the teenage years are potentially hazardous. Teens can feel invincible and while knowing risk factors for particular behaviors, have that sense that these negative outcomes can not happen to them. Moreover, it is the age when peer pressure exerts a major influence on actions and attitudes, especially when positive, meaningful relationships with adults are absent.

This goes back to what research has told us about the teenage brain: it is still developing. Executive function is still developing and limited and often the emotional side of the brain drives behavior. It's a time of risk inasmuch as it is also at time of great potential with many positive results.

Substance abuse is one of those risk factors that keeps popping up. It seems we always have to be on the lookout for the latest trend among teens so that we can help them protect themselves from current and long term harm.

In the article below, we have a mixed report in that smoking and alcohol use are down among teens but marijuana use has increased. This includes the use of a synthetic form of marijuana that is known to be harmful.

Teens Smoking Fewer Cigarettes, More Marijuana
Fewer teens than ever are smoking cigarettes, but marijuana use has steadily increased over the past five years, according to a new nationwide survey.

However, it is not just the synthetic form of marijuana that is problematic but synthetic drug use in general. Teens find ways of turning everyday, household items into substance abuse as we at the link read below.

Dangerous trend sends teens to ER : News : HeartlandConnection ...
A rise in synthetic drug use is sending teens to the emergency room.

So who is at risk for and/or who is drawn to this type of behavior? Any teen. This cuts across the stereotypical boundaries and can be from any socioeconomic background as well as can include high achieving youth. In fact, the article below, which looks at prescription drug abuse, suggests that high achieving youth are very likely to experiment, given who they are. It also gives ways in which youth access drugs and notably shows that there are teens who feel that their parents will be easier on them if they abuse prescription drug vs other types.

Not My Teen: Why All Teens Are Vulnerable to Prescription Drug ...
If you've read up on the prescription drug addiction epidemic and decided it isn't something you need to worry about, it may be time to reevaluate. Your teen could be among the one in five adolescents who report abusing prescription drugs to ...

This calls for awareness on our part in youth ministry. We need to:
  • Keep abreast of what the latest trend of substance abuse is,
  • Talk about substance abuse in broad and very specific terms,
  • Keep an open door for those who have experimented with and/or may be addicted and are too embarrassed to discuss it in front of the group. If necessary, we can be a bridge between the youth and the parents.
  • Know where students can go to for help so that we can refer them,
  • Remind the students who profess faith in Jesus Christ that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19).
  • Reinforce the need for involvement in positive, life-giving activities outside of school time, 
  • Connect youth with adult mentors,
  • Remind them of the need for hanging with people who share similar values and goals,
  • Use the faith resources of prayer, Scripture and worship.
What would you add to this list?
Loving God, Loving Neighbor
Developing Faithful Leaders for a Diverse Church and World Now and in the Future

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