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Drug use and its consequences threaten and affect the nation and its people from every socio-economic background, geographic region, and age group. Increasing use of illegal drugs among teens is quite alarming. Teenagers are most likely to abuse illicit drugs such as marijuana, LSD, and other hallucinogens, crack and other cocaine, heroin, and other narcotics, amphetamines, barbiturates, and tranquilizers. According to the 2002 National Household Survey on teen drug abuse, nearly ten percent of teens between the ages of twelve and seventeen used illegal drugs including: marijuana, cocaine, and inhalants. (Perry, 2002). The most commonly used drug for teens is marijuana followed by cocaine. Cigarettes were found to be a strong originator for troubled teens to who used illicit drugs, representing about eight times the number to those teens who smoked and those teens who did not. (Jason, 2010). Gender differences play a role as well amongst teenagers, with a greater majority of male teens using illegal drugs than their female teenage counterparts.
Drugs have no rightful place anywhere in society; however, they have even less of a place in academic environments where teens are living in their most influential years. The average age of a kid when they first try alcohol is twelve years old. By eighth grade over sixty-eight percent of kids take crack occasionally. (Leinwand, 2005). Teens who take drugs for some reason act like they are invincible and ignore the facts that drugs are bad for them. They make the individual act different and they affect the rest of their life and body. No matter how one looks at it drugs make a teen's life and body change for the worse. The academic performance of a teen that uses drugs is also severely impaired, along with his or her level of responsibility such as skipping class, failing to complete assignments, and generally neglecting their responsibilities as a student. (Gordon, 2003).
Alcohol, a legal drug restricted to teens only by age, proves both plentiful, available and popular among teens aged twelve through seventeen. Alcohol is one of the many addictions teens can have. In fact, three million teens are addicted to alcohol. It is also the top factor in the three leading causes of death in people ages of fifteen to twenty-four in the United States. The average age of when Americans start drinking alcohol is about 15.9 years old. (Perry, 2002). One might readily argue that teenage drug abuse has reached epidemic proportions on some college campuses and high school facilities. Alcohol, one of the most misused drugs today, is also one of the most popular and readily available of all types of drugs and controlled substances found on high school campuses. Being that college and high school is one of the most stressful of all periods in a teen's life, students claim that removing their ability to blow off steam has proven even more harmful than the activities caused by drinking. (Gordon, 2003).
Alcohol is not the only drug teen's use; there are actually many drugs that teens use. Cocaine and marijuana are just a couple of the most used drugs among teens. Of the kids in eighth, tenth, and twelfth grade just over fifty percent of them have tried cocaine at least once. Cocaine use among teens had been decreasing since the 1990's. However, a new government survey found that the number of white teens who entered drug treatment for crack and cocaine abuse increased by seventy-six percent between 2001 and 2006. Data has also indicated that more teenagers believe that using crack and cocaine is not a dangerous practice. Many teens have also admitted to know or be linked to other drug dealers across the country. Additionally, many students have be offered, given, or sold illegal drugs on school property. About eighty-five percent of high school students stated that marijuana was easy for them to obtain. (Leinwand, 2005).
Overall rates of illicit drug use declined substantially during the 1980s and early 1990s. All major self-report data indicate such a decline. Arrest rates for drug abuse during this period are relatively stable, but arrest rates for drug abuse are heavily influenced by police practices as well as by true levels of drug abuse. However, rates of drug use then increased substantially from about 1992 to the early 2000s, with the percentage of high school seniors reporting illicit drug use almost doubling. Both self-report and arrest data are in agreement here. Rates of illicit drug use have been declining since the early 2000s, with this decline evident in both self-report and arrest data. (Agnew, 2009).
Teens predisposed to drugs are more likely to engage in delinquency when they are in strainful situations. But not all predisposed individuals respond to strainful situations with delinquency. More generally, a delinquent response to situational strain is most likely when features of the situation increase the individual's sensitivity to strain, reduce the individual's ability to legally cope, reduce the perceived costs of delinquency, and increase the perceived benefits of delinquency. In this area, the use of alcohol and certain drugs like barbiturates may increase the likelihood of a delinquent response by increasing the individual's sensitivity to provocations. Such drugs may also reduce the individual's ability to engage in legal coping, like negotiating with others. Furthermore, such drugs may reduce the individual's awareness of and concern with the costs of delinquency. (Agnew, 2009).
It is commonly argued that teen drug use and sales are a major cause of delinquency. Additionally, it is believed that part of the motivation behind the current "war on drugs" is the belief that reducing drug use and sales will have a major impact on other types of delinquency. Drug use and sales are said to contribute to delinquency for at least four reasons. The first reason has to do with the pharmacological effect of certain drugs. Drugs like alcohol, cocaine, amphetamines, and PCP are said to weaken self-control and/or increase irritability. Also, withdrawal from drugs like heroin and crack may increase irritability and frustration. As a consequence of these effects, individuals under the influence of certain drugs may be less aware of and concerned about the costs of crime, more likely to become upset with others and respond to provocations in an aggressive manner, and more likely to act in ways that upset or provoke others. However, not all drugs have this effect. The impact of drugs is influenced by the individual teen and certain social situations they are involved with. For example, the effect of a drug like alcohol on aggression is strongest among individuals already predisposed to aggression. (Agnew, 2009).
Secondly, juveniles may engage in crime in order to obtain money to purchase drugs, especially individuals addicted to expensive drugs like heroin and cocaine. That is, drug use may lead to a particular type of strain, a desperate need for money. Individuals may then engage in a wide range of income-generating crimes, like larceny, burglary, robbery, prostitution, and drug sales. Some of these crimes, such as robbery, may result in violence. In one study of inner-city youth, about a quarter of the respondents who committed burglary said they did so in order to get money for drugs. About thirty-six percent of the teens who sold drugs and nineteen percent, who engaged in robbery, said they committed these crimes to get money for drugs. (Agnew, 2009).
Third, the drug trade contributes to crime. Individuals who buy and sell drugs often carry large amounts of money and drugs, and they are generally reluctant to involve the police when disputes arise. As a consequence, crime is often the result. Drug sellers may employ violence against one another as they compete for turf or customers. Both drug sellers and customers are often attractive targets for robbers. And drug sellers and their customers often employ violence against one another when they get into disputes. These problems were especially severe during the early years of the crack trade, when many young, inexperienced dealers were competing against one another. (Agnew, 2009).
Fourth, some researchers argue that drug use, especially chronic use, may increase the juvenile's predisposition to engage in delinquency by reducing the juvenile's bonds to family and school, lowering academic performance, and increasing the likelihood of association with delinquent peers. Juveniles are frequently brought into contact with such peers when they buy and use drugs. (Agnew, 2009).
Individuals who commit crimes are frequently under the influence of drugs. Furthermore, there is a strong association between drugs and delinquency. Juveniles who use drugs are much more likely to engage in crime. Some categories of drug users, like heroin addicts and heavy users of crack, engage in extremely large amounts of crime. This does not, however, mean that all drug users are delinquents or that all delinquents are drug users. Some researchers have argued that drugs and delinquency are associated because bother are caused by similar variables. Some of these causes include traits of the individual, family problems, school problems, and association with delinquent peers. Engaging in delinquency increases the likelihood that a person will be exposed to others who possess and use drugs, who reinforce drug use, and who hold values favorable to drug use. Additionally, it has been said that teen drug use not only increases the likelihood that individuals will commit crime but also increases the likelihood that they will be victims of crime. Among other things, teen drug users may be more likely to be victimized because they are less able to offer effective resistance and because their lifestyles sometimes may place them in close contact with offenders. (Agnew, 2009).
The National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign was designed to try to convince juveniles that drug use has a number of negative consequences. However, this campaign was not effective in reducing drug use. A more promising approach, in reducing teen drug use, involved the use of drug courts. The drug court develops a treatment program for these individuals, closely monitors their behavior to ensure the plan is followed, and rewards individuals for compliance and punishes them for noncompliance. Juvenile drug courts not only provide drug treatment but also address other problems, such as family, school, and peer problems. Evidence suggests that such courts are effective in reducing juvenile drug use. (Agnew, 2009).
Teen drug abuse affects the family unit as teens become more hostile, and their decision-making becomes greatly impaired. Teens who abuse drugs or alcohol find that their relationships with their family greatly suffer. They set bad examples for any younger siblings and create much more hostility to the family as a whole. Teen drug abuse should not be tolerated by parents of troubled or violent teens and appropriate help for their teens depending on depth of the problems should be made. There are many options for parents who have a child involved with teen drug abuse. Either enrolment into a specialty boarding school or residential treatment center or a short-term drug detox hospital. Fortunately, as a troubled teenager abusing drugs, there is still a great deal of hope if parents are able to get the teen the appropriate intervention before it is too late.