National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week is held each year in an effort to link students with addiction experts in order to shatter the myths of drug and alcohol addiction. Launched in 2010 by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the idea behind this educational week is that if teens understand the science behind addiction, they will make better decisions in regards to drugs and alcohol in the future- and this could actually be true. Child and adolescent psychiatrist and senior policy researcher at the Rand Institute Corp., Bradley Stein, noted that that efforts to educate teens about the risks of drugs might have a positive effect on decreasing the drug overdose rate within this age group. In honor of this effort, Vertava Health shared a fact pertaining to drugs or alcohol each day last week in order to educate teens and inspire them to make smarter choices for their future.
With it being so readily available, it should come as no surprise that alcohol is among the most widely used drugs in the United States. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), about 11 percent of all alcohol consumed in the United States is by those between the ages 12 and 20 years old. Most of the alcohol consumed by this age group is through binge drinking– a style of drinking where people consume large quantities of alcohol in a single session and in a short period of time. Binge drinking is typically done with the intent of getting drunk. This is particularly true among teens and young adults as they begin to seek more independence from their parents. Unfortunately, teens who participate in this behavior are six times more likely to develop alcohol dependence later in life. With such a strong correlation between binge drinking in early adulthood and the development of an alcohol dependency later in life, it’s important that teens understand just how many lives alcohol effects and just how quickly it could happen to them. [middle-callout]
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 90 Americans die due to an opioid overdose every day, and this number is only growing. The misuse of opioids- including prescription painkillers and heroin- has become so devastating to the United States that in October 2017, President Trump declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency. However, first responders, hospitals, and alcohol addiction treatment centers are still struggling to keep up with the rapidly increasing demand for assistance for those struggling with opioid addiction. The effects of this epidemic have been far-reaching and include a 19 percent increase in teen overdose deaths from 2014 to 2015 according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). This news came as an unwelcome surprise since teen overdose deaths had been declining for years prior. Even more unsettling is that 90 percent of opioid overdose deaths among this age group are unintentional. This unfortunate trend in teen deaths mirrors patterns seen in adults. While the reason behind the large increase in overdose deaths among teens has not been determined, there are various reasons that teenagers turn to drugs in the first place. It could be to fit in, to feel good, to feel better, to do better, to experiment, or more likely, some combination of these reasons. These pressures, coupled with growing up in a society obsessed with instant gratification, makes a teenager’s desire for a quick fix more understandable.
Addiction is a disease that doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t pick and choose who becomes addicted based on race, religion, gender or any number of other factors. If it did, perhaps the disease would be easier to spot or treat. Unfortunately, we don’t have the luxury of understanding why or how addiction chooses the people it does. What we do know is that half of all American adults have a personal family history of problem drinking or alcohol addiction. With this in mind, it’s important that teens know if their personal family history has traces of addiction because genetics can predisposition someone to having the disease of addiction. Additionally, with so many adults facing drinking problems, teenagers need to be aware of the risks associated with extreme alcohol usage including:
- Heart disease
- Job loss
- Brain damage
- Liver disease
- Legal problems
While this is just a short list of possible side effects of alcohol addiction, the adverse effects are vast and endless. In severe cases, it may even include death.
While 10 percent of the United States adult population will struggle with a drug use disorder at one point in their lives, more than 75 percent of this population will not receive any form of treatment. According to a study performed by the NIAAA, this comes out to about 23 million adults who have struggled with drug use. This same study noted that the most at risk population for a drug use disorder are younger individuals and those who struggle with mental illness. It is believed that many people will turn to drug use as a means to self-medicate their mental illness instead of seeking a professional adolescent treatment program. Unfortunately, this misguided way of thinking often leads many down a road of drug dependency and addiction.
170,000 people tried heroin for the first time in 2016 and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) notes that this increase is largely driven by young adults ages 18 to 25. Despite its negative side effects, many young adults often start using heroin recreationally- at parties or in clubs with their friends- in order to cope with the stresses of everyday life. Unfortunately, it is one of the most highly addictive opioid drugs. The reality of heroin is that even just one instance can lead to a deeply seeded addiction that could cost someone their life. While prescription drugs have been a large focus of the opioid epidemic, heroin has also played a large role in making this public health emergency so deadly.