Recent trends among teenagers have sent a mixed message. Overall, teenage drug use is down, which is a positive thing, but overdoses are on the rise. In addition to overdoses, and possibly linked to them, mental illness among teenagers is increasing.
Teen Drug Use Decreases
Every two years, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducts surveys about a number of health-related topics, drug use among them. The most recent survey found that drug use among teens has dropped to 14%. In comparison, the 2007 survey showed the rate of drug use was 22.6%. The drugs included in the survey were:
For the first time ever, the survey asked about prescription pain medications like codeine, Vicodin and Percocet. Respondents indicated whether they had taken these drugs without a prescription or in ways different than prescribed. Use of these drugs was also at 14%, but there is no earlier data to compare it to.
Marijuana Legalization May Affect Teen Drug Use
The National Institute on Drug Abuse has conducted their Monitoring the Future survey, a project that started in 1975. According to their results, teen use of opioids, tobacco and alcohol is at its lowest level ever. The misuse of Vicodin in the past year is at only 2.0%, down from 9.6% in 2002. Cocaine is at 2.7% and heroin only 0.4%.
Columbia University researchers published a study in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence that looked at the effect of marijuana legalization on the drug use of children in 8th, 10th and 12th grades. While 12th graders saw their drug use rise from 1.8% to 2.7% after marijuana legalization, 10th graders saw no change and 8th graders decreased their use of drugs from 2.6% to 2.4%.
Teen Overdoses Escalating Despite Decrease In Usage
Despite the encouraging trend in drug use, teenage overdoses are escalating. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, teen overdose deaths began to increase in 2015. That year, after having fallen for a while, the number of teen overdose deaths rose to 772.
It is not known what is responsible for the change in the trend, but two drugs seem to be at the heart of it:
- Heroin, an opioid drug
- Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid drug
Heroin and fentanyl slow down the breathing rate and can stop breathing altogether. Fentanyl requires only a tiny dose to make someone “high”. Many drug dealers are adding it to other drugs for greater effect, so that many people do not even know what drug they are taking.
Teenage Mental Illness And Teen Addiction
At the same time that drug overdoses have been on the rise, mental health issues seem to be afflicting more and more Americans, and teenage mental illness is rising. Mental health problems and indicators of mental health problems paint a worrying picture. According to various surveys:
- Nineteen percent of teens have been bullied on school property in the last year (CDC). Bullying can lead to mental health issues like depression.
- Fifteen percent of teens said they had been bullied online (CDC).
- In a stark increase from 2007, 31.5% of teens said they felt sad or hopeless for at least two weeks at a time (CDC). This is up from 28.5%.
- Suicide ideation is up. In 2007 14.5% of teens had considered suicide, which has increased to 17.2% (CDC).
- The percentage of teens with severe depression has increased from 5.9% to 8.2%[i] (State of Mental Health in America).
Social Media And Teen Mental Health
Many studies have found a link between the use of social media and anxiety, depression and suicide risk. Social media can have negative effects on adolescents. Teens are already more susceptible to peer pressure, low self-esteem and mental health problems. The nature of social media can amplify these problems.
- Cyberbullying has been found to contribute to depression, anxiety, social isolation and suicide. The anonymity of the internet allows cyberbullies to operate without repercussions.
- Unrealistic Expectations. Social media allows us to present edited versions of our lives to the general public. This can give the impression to a young teen that everyone else’s life is better than theirs.
- Social media’s capacity to spread information fast and far is not always a good thing. Users can spread information about ways to commit suicide, and many teens suffering from mental health issues might feel encouraged to imitate the suicidal behavior of others online.
The Signs Of Teen Depression
When a person considers suicide, or is heading in that direction, their behavior may give clues that something is wrong. Suicide rates are up, especially male teenage suicide rates. Look out for the following:
- Changes to sleeping patterns
- Loss of energy
- No interest in personal hygiene
- Weight gain or loss
- Drug abuse
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Emotional outbursts
In conversation, many signs indicate a person in trouble. Look out for these phrases or phrases like them:
- “What’s the point?”
- “It’s all my fault”
- “I can’t take it anymore”
- “Nobody cares about me”
- “Nothing I do matters”
Continuum Recovery Center Offers Solutions
If you or a loved one are struggling with mental health issues, Continuum Recovery Center can help. We are a treatment center for all individuals, but not a typical hospital setting. We have many outdoor activities and we treat patients in a less clinical, more natural way. Reach out to us if someone in your life needs help.