Public Enemy #1
In June of 2011, Columbia University released a report calling adolescent substance abuse the nation’s #1 public health problem. They highlighted a couple of alarming facts:
- 90 percent of Americans who meet the medical criteria for addiction started smoking, drinking, or using other drugs before age 18.
- 1 in 4 Americans who began using any addictive substance before age 18 developed an addiction, compared to 1 in 25 Americans who started using at age 21 or older.
A recent article in the The Huffington Post [By Andres Jauregui Posted: 04/27/2012] focused on common and accessible items kids are abusing to get high. From hand sanitizer and mouthwash cocktails to household inhalants and bath salts, there has been plenty of media coverage surrounding teenage abuse of dangerous substances. These recent disturbing incidents have generated enhanced awareness about teenage substance abuse patterns. According to Dr. Karen Khaleghi, founder and director of education at Creative Care Malibu, teens who partake in recreational use of common medicines and household products are in a heightened category of risk. “Teens that do things like drink hand sanitizer or mouthwash, or consume spray can inhalants demonstrate much greater risk taking behavior than those that would drink half a dozen beers,” according to Khaleghi. “Although that [half dozen beers] is a lot.” Khaleghi said that teens who demonstrate such behavior are more than likely aware that what they are doing is dangerous, so parents who become aware of their teen’s extreme substance consumption should “seek professional help right away.” This is especially true for teens younger than 18, when treatment can be mandated.
According to Dr. Angela Chanter, Clinical Director here at FCTC, “we are seeing an increase in kids using all kinds of easily accessible items to get high. We are working with Roseville PD to enforce the age limit at local smoke shops to limit the number of teens buying spice (synthetic marijuana) and bath salts.”
But obviously, it’s not just the high-risk teens that need attention. Parents who become aware of habitual use by their children of more conventional drugs like alcohol or marijuana should also consider seeking professional help, according to Khalegi. Parents should also pay attention to changes in their teens’ environment, such as school performance, changes in their peer group, and changes in their behavior. “All substance abuse starts as some form of self-medication for emotional pain,” Dr. Khaleghi said.
This article is a great reminder for parents to continue to educate themselves on the trends of substance abuse amongst teens.