The latest data in teen substance use show that misperceptions of safety are driving adolescents toward their drugs of choice. With ease of access, more youth are turning to vapes and over-the-counter medicine, according to the 2021 Monitoring the Future survey produced by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
NIDA’s research showed that vaping among teens has increased markedly over the past four years, and medicine misuse has jumped for eighth-graders over the past five years. Marijuana remains the most used substance for adolescents, and the most frequently treated addiction by Rosecrance Jackson adolescent counselors. Though marijuana usage has remained steady for a decade, it bears watching as the drug becomes more acceptable to society. It is important to remember also that the marijuana many adults remember using is much stronger these days and its effect on the developing adolescent brain is greater.
“Adolescents think that if it’s over the counter or ‘legal’ it must not be a concern,” said Brenda Iliff, Rosecrance Jackson Vice President of Clinical Services. “It usually starts innocently, just trying substances with others or to belong but for some it ends tragically with addiction or long term effects on the brain.”
What if someone is concerned for a teen they care about? Be involved in the adolescent’s life so they know you are a safe, supportive person who wants the best for them. Open the conversation about substances by sharing your concern. Don’t be afraid to talk about it.
In addition, watch for differences in behavior or attitude that might indicate substance use or mental health issues. Indicators to look for include changes in peer groups, social habits, schoolwork, or clothing. In addition, sudden secretive behavior, bloodshot eyes, and shakiness could be signs of a problem.
“The research is very clear that those who have an adult actively supporting an adolescent can make a huge difference” said Iliff. “Adolescence is a time for trying on different hats to figure out who one is and the adding substances to the mix adds a lot of confusion and risk to a wonderful life that is just waiting for them.”
Rosecrance Jackson offers a safe environment for treatment and a comprehensive continuum of care. Adolescents can receive assessments, individual outpatient sessions, crisis residential services or residential substance abuse services here in the Siouxland area. Treatment is designed to renew the mind, body, and spirit through experiential therapies and practical interventions that build valuable life skills. Caring Access counselors can be reached at (800)-472-9018.
“The staff that the clients work with are compassionate and supportive because they really care,” Iliff said. “They are from the local area and care deeply about the kids of this area. We are fortunately to be in this area where the JCOs, courts, and other human service organizations provide the best they can for our youth.”