Why is teen substance abuse an important topic?
There is a nicotine and vaping epidemic rising and spreading among American high schoolers.
As shown in the graph above, students advancing through high school are continuing to vape at greater rates. A shocking finding from this study is that nearly 40% of 12th graders report vaping in general. Additionally, this data was collected voluntarily meaning that there are likely even higher percentages in reality since it is a behavior that students are not likely to admit voluntarily.
Shown in the graph above, the great decline in percentages of students that smoke cigarettes since the 1990s in comparison to today is evident. Confidently, I assume that this decline can be attributed to education and preventative programs that have been implemented to talk about why smoking cigarettes is bad. This strong evidence proves that advocating against substance abuse can make a huge difference in usage!
Aside from the data, I have a personal connection to this topic. I am aiming to address kids in high school about the dangers of substance abuse because a close friend of mine went through a traumatic experience during 10th grade: her dabbling with ‘Xanax’ in small doses led to more serious consequences and harder drugs. I want to inform people of the escalation that can occur and how large of a toll it can take on mental health.
When I set out to make change with my catalyst conference, I wanted to investigate these major questions:
- Why do students feel pressure to turn to substances in order to cope with problems or feel cool?
- What evidence can convince kids to rethink their choices if they are already down that path?
Research + Warning Signs
Proposal for Change
Since I want to address high schoolers and create systemic change within my own schools and schools in general, my proposal for change will include educational programs in that setting.
- Broad, general education given to everyone
- Example in context: Asking an organization (national or local) to have a representative come to our school to give a presentation to students about general risk factors and educating about warning signs/effects of substance abuse
- More specific education catered to those at higher risk for substance abuse (certain risk factors are at play for them)
- Example in context: Students would be asked to gather in a smaller workshop setting to help engage them with others who are similar to them, without feeling as though it is calling people out, but instead feeling support in a group
- To intervene and assist those who have began using drugs to make steps towards sobriety and recovery
- Example in context: The guidance counselor, a student’s “advisor” or homeroom teacher, and their parents meet with the student altogether in a private setting to address the root issues at hand and finding ways to cope other than turning to substances
The breakdown of these different types of programs prove to be effective because they can target people in different ways. According to national drug use surveys, “children are using drugs by age 12 or 13. Prevention is the best strategy.”
Pledge + What can you do?
By clicking on this link, you will be navigated to a pledge encouraging you to stay vigilant regarding substance abuse and staying informed. Please sign your name to become part of the change and help to introduce these different programs into your schools and communities!
NIDA. “Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 20 Jul. 2018, https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction. Accessed 15 Apr. 2019.
Campi, Amy. Telephone interview. Feb. 2019.
Tackett, Brittany. “Teen Drug Abuse: The Warning Signs.” DrugAbuse.com, drugabuse.com/teen-drug-abuse-signs/. Accessed 15 Apr. 2019.
NIDA. “Preventing Drug Misuse and Addiction: The Best Strategy.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, July 2018, www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/preventing-drug-misuse-addiction-best-strategy. Accessed 22 Apr. 2019.