Substance Abuse Concerns: Heroin and Prescription Drug Use on the Rise Among Teens

Curriculum Review,  Jan. 2016, Vol. 55 Issue 5, p6-7. 2p.

It seems as though some teenagers have always dabbled in drugs, but with increasing access to dangerous prescription opioids and cheap heroin, the problem is especially acute. For some students, drug experimentation will lead to addiction. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), after marijuana and alcohol, prescription and over-the-counter drugs are the most commonly abused drugs for Americans aged 14 years and older. In 2012, nearly 20 percent of American 12th graders said they had abused prescription pills at some point in their lives.

NIDA reports that heroin use has been rising since 2007. Though use among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders is at less than one percent, NIDA emphasizes that heroin use is reported as the biggest drug abuse issue in rural and urban areas. The rate of teens using heroin soared by 80 percent between 1999 and 2009. Twenty-three percent of those who try heroin will become addicted. The New York Times collected statistics about the heroin epidemic that has garnering attention from concerned citizens, politicians, and the media. There has been a 39% increase in heroin related deaths from 2012 to 2013. Ninety percent of first-time users are white. Increasing numbers of first-time users are middle or upper class. Seventy-five percent of heroin users used prescription painkillers before using heroin, with 40 percent of those individuals abusing opioid painkillers.

NIDA has found that some teenagers start taking heroin because it is much cheaper than prescription pills. Serious health problems involved with heroin include infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis, collapsed veins and infection of the heart lining and valves, death by overdose, and liver and kidney disease. Signs that a teen could be addicted to heroin include acting slow and sedated, then intensely hyperactive, extreme sleepiness, cold and clammy skin, runny nose, pin-sized pupils, disinterest in extracurricular activities and academics, inattention to cleanliness, nausea, unexplained changes in friends, hangouts, and hobbies, weight loss, and an inability to pay attention or problem solve.

Drug overdoses cause more deaths every day than car accidents. Forty-four people per day die of opioid medication overdose. Approximately 1,600 teens begin abusing prescription drugs each day. Children and teens age 1 2 to 1 7 abuse prescription pills more than ecstasy, heroin, crack cocaine, and methamphetamines combined. Twenty percent of teens who abuse prescription pills did so before they turned 14. These statistics are obviously very alarming.

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