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      Drug Use Among Kids
Fiction vs. Facts


"Everybody does it." Doing drugs is a rite of passage for most teens -- just a normal part of growing up. Experimenting is perfectly normal, if not harmless.


Actually, most kids don't use drugs. 

The first Monitoring The Future (MTF) survey in 1975 revealed that 55% of young people had used an illicit drug by the time they left high school. That figure rose to 66% in 1981. But according to the 2010 MTF Survey, that percentage is down to 48% -- continuing a trend since 1999 of fewer than 50% of high school seniors having used illicit drugs.

The National Institute On Drug Abuse has sponsored a Monitoring The Future (MTF) Survey each year since 1975 to measure drug, alcohol and cigarette use -- and related attitudes about their use -- among adolescent students nationwide. Survey participants report their drug use behaviors across three time periods: lifetime, past year and past month. For some drugs, daily use is also reported. Initially only high school seniors were surveyed, but sophomores and eighth graders have been included in each survey since 1990.

Because marijuana is much more prevalent than other illicit drugs, the 2010 MTF Survey also includes data excluding marijuana to determine the percentage of students using other, so-called "harder" drugs. In 2010 the percentage of high school seniors who had used these "harder" illicit drugs was 25%. 

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"My kid wouldn't know where to get drugs, including pot."


Not according to the Monitoring The Future (MTF) Survey. 

Every year that the MTF survey has been conducted, consistently 81% to 90% of high school seniors have said they could "get marijuana fairly easily or very easily if they wanted some." In 2010, 82% of high school seniors reported they could acquire marijuana "fairly easily or very easily" -- compared to 69% of sophomores and 41% of eighth graders.

As for "harder" drugs, the survey revealed that the availability of heroin, for example, "has declined gradually since the 1990s in all three grades" and the "perceived availability" of Ecstasy has "declined considerably in all grades after 2001 but has leveled off in 2010." 

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"My kid will grow out of it." Even if most kids don't use drugs, those who do are just going through a phase. It will pass.


A kid's drug use is only likely to get worse as he or she ages. 

Studies are remarkably consistent when it comes to this basic fact: Adults who first used drugs as a teenager or a child are more likely to be classified as addicts than adults who started using drugs after turning 18.

Among adults 18 or older who first tried marijuana at 14 or younger, 13% were classified as suffering from an illicit drug dependency -- compared with only 2.8% of adults who had first used marijuana after turning 18, according to the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC), a division of the United States Department of Justice.

The same goes for alcohol. Adults who first used alcohol at 14 or younger are more than five times as likely to be classified as having an alcohol dependency when compared to adults who didn't have their first drink until after reaching 21.

Early marijuana use, it should be noted, has been proved literally stunt a child's growth. The NDIC has stated, "Teens who first used marijuana before age 17 were shown to have smaller brains and to be physically smaller in height and weight than teens who first used marijuana after age 17. Exposure to marijuana and other drugs at certain critical periods, such as early adolescence, may alter normal patterns of development." 

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"It's just medicine." Prescription drugs are the safer option for getting high.


Abusing prescription drugs can be addictive and even deadly.

Prescription drugs should only be taken by those for whom they were prescribed, and they should only be taken in the proper dosage. When used as prescribed, they can be helpful and effective medicines. But when abused, prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines, like cough and cold medicines with dextromethorphan (DXM), can have serious consequences, including fatal health effects.

The number of people seeking treatment for prescription painkiller addiction increased more than 400% between 1997 and 2007, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The prescription drugs most commonly abused include opiods prescribed for pain relief, central nervous system medications, depressants for anxiety and sleep disorders, and stimulants for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.

A 2009 survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that prescription drug abuse is on the rise among teenagers, with 20% of them saying they had taken a prescription drug that was not prescribed for them by a doctor.

Most young people know where they can easily obtain prescription drugs -- the family medicine cabinet. As the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy indicated, "Unfortunately, young people often mistakenly think these drugs are safer than so-called street drugs."

In addition to addiction, prescription and over-the counter-drugs, when abused, can lead to a long list of side effects and health consequences:

  • Taking a large single dose of an opioid such as OxyContin™ could cause severe respiratory depression or death.

  • In large quantities DXM, an over-the-counter medication, causes impaired motor function, numbness, nausea and vomiting, and increases heart rate and blood pressure.

  • Abusing depressants to get high can slow your reaction time, impair mental functioning and judgment, cause confusion, make you dizzy and nauseated, and blur your vision.  
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"Kids get it. Drugs are bad for them. Just say, 'No.'"


Not when it comes to marijuana.

No other drug sends more kids to treatment than marijuana. But in recent years the percentage of children 12 to 17 who perceive there being a risk associated with using marijuana has dropped in recent years -- down to 30.7% percent in 2009 --according to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Most kids simply don't understand, the Control Policy stated, that "marijuana use is consistently linked with lower grades, higher dropout rates, higher rates of illness, and increasing emergency room and treatment admissions."

The 2010 Monitoring the Future Survey also indicated fewer teens disapprove of using: "From 2003 to 2007 disapproval (of using marijuana) increased in all three grades (eighth, 10th and 12th), but has been in decline since then as use rose."  

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Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention

National Drug Intelligence Center
National Institute On Drug Abuse
Monitoring The Future (MTF) Survey
Substance Abuse and Mental
Health Services Administration
White House Office of
National Drug Control Policy




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