National Drug and Alcohol Awareness Week is an annual week dedicated to bringing to light the risks of alcohol consumption, drug use, and addiction. Unfortunately, many young adults do not understand the risk that is posed with simply taking a few sips of alcohol or “trying” that pill that their friend passed to them.
The truth is, research from the CDC has shown that a majority of adults who struggle with substance abuse started out drinking or using drugs as young adults.
Underage Drinking Risks
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has reported that in 2010 there were roughly 10 million underage drinkers. Within those 10 million, 6.5 million were binge drinkers, while 2 million were heavy alcohol abusers.
Individuals who start drinking alcohol at a young age have a higher likelihood of developing a dependence on the substance later in life. There are a lot of factors that can influence this outcome, a few being: genetics, peer pressure, and often just personality (those who feel like alcohol allows them to be themselves more easily).
Additionally, data has shown that more boys drink alcohol and binge drink than girls their age do. However, more recent studies have shown that this relationship has reversed, with young women drinking more than boys do.
Young adults need to pay attention to the key risk factors associated with drinking alcohol:
Alcohol is one of the leading causes of death in individuals younger than 21
Being under the influence increases the risk of major bodily injury to oneself and others
Increased risk of sexual and physical assault
Alters brain development for young people as their brains develop well into their 20s
Opioids Abuse by Teens
Opioids such as synthetic opioids (fentanyl, heroin) and prescription pain medicines (codeine, morphine, oxycodone “oxy” (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), and codeine have been in the news for some time now. Although prescription pain medication is useful when used properly with the guidance of a physician or health care provider, its misuse can result in serious illness or death.
There are many reasons young people decide to use opioids, and one major reason is that they’re typically very easy to attain. A 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 53% of people 12 or older who used pain relievers obtained the drugs from a relative or friend.
It’s important that teens know the risk factors associated with opioid use, such as:
- Allergic reactions
- Breathing problems
- Brain damage
- High rate of addiction that occurs through long-term or inappropriate drug usage
Prevent Youth Drug Abuse Today
The culture surrounding alcohol and drug usage promotes these substances as though they are lighthearted and fun. However these substances can cause long-term damage that can be irreversible.
If you or someone you know is struggling with their usage of alcohol and/or opioids, watch out for the warning signs and know that there are systems and resources available that can help these individuals get the help they need to live a better, healthier life