It seems America’s youth have switched to a new drug for experimentation.
According to David Nield at ScienceAlert, alcohol is no longer king. Marijuana is the new #1 drug used by American youth. He cites data collected on 6-18-year olds from the National Poison Data System (NPDS) from January 1, 2000, through December 31, 2020.
While citing information from a National Database about poisoning related to children is depressing, it is vital that we not turn our heads but face the disturbing reality.
Out of the 338,727 cases reported to poison centers over the 20 years, alcohol ranked higher than marijuana from 2000-2013. From 2014 forward, marijuana has exceeded alcohol yearly and by a wider margin each time.
Interestingly enough, neither alcohol nor marijuana was the #1 number drug misused by American youth from 2001-2016. Dextromethorphan (found in cough syrup) was the most misused or abused drug.
Ironically, alcohol and marijuana get all of the attention, but an over-the-counter medication was the most abused drug by children for 15 years.
However, since 2018 marijuana has been the most misused/abused substance. Also, marijuana misuse has increased by 245% during the 20 years of the study. Marijuana has moved to the forefront of use by American youth.
Why has marijuana misuse had such a dramatic rise?
The answer seems to revolve around the recent increase in the decriminalization of marijuana use nationwide. Recreational marijuana use is legal in 19 states for adults, but the availability of the substance and changing attitudes have trickled down to the youth.
This clearly is shown by the availability of edible marijuana products.
The average number of monthly calls for edibles has increased more than any other form of marijuana use. Smoking marijuana leads to a rapid high, but edibles take a longer time and can lead to consuming a lot more than planned, yielding unexpected results.
What does this all mean for society?
I think we have to remember that this information is coming from poison control centers. It is not good for children to use substances to the point of needing medical assistance. However, this report is not a survey of illicit substance use but reflects an emergency.
Therefore, as a society, from this report, we cannot be sure about the rate of drug use by children.
That said, it is not a good sign to seek medical assistance around drug misuse, and it probably signifies that marijuana has more appeal among America’s youth. I think all of us can see the danger in children beginning to use mood-alerting substances.
The earlier in life an individual starts to use mood-altering substances, the likelihood of developing a substance use disorder increases.
An even bigger question is, why would a child use drugs in the first place? While the article does not explore that issue, from my experience, it usually revolves around an Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE).
ACEs are traumatic experiences that occur to an individual before age 18.
I cannot speak for sure on every case, but data generally demonstrates that those diagnosed with a substance use disorder had a trauma occur earlier in life. It is not unusual to do an assessment with an individual and for them to admit to experiencing trauma earlier in life. Usually, the same age the person experienced trauma is the age of their first use of a substance.
Again, this does happen in many cases, but it is not automatic for this to occur.
The point is that life will happen, and our ability to control outcomes in people’s lives we do not know is minimal. All we can do is start with ourselves and the ones we love and try to provide stable environments for them to grow up in as much peace as possible.
Prevention is better than treatment, and early diagnosing is better than addressing an issue later in life.
Most of us experimented when we were children; the issue is that many of us came from stable enough households where we knew the ledge. Unfortunately, that is not the case for every child; therefore, the best we can do is look out for our own first and then see if we can assist others.
Professionals, parents, and society can learn from this story and make the proper adjustments to save as many youths as possible.
Vertis Williams is a Positive Habits Life Coach and a Mindfulness Trainer. He is a regular presenter at employee and team-development events. Contact him to request more info on his Workshops or on his Coaching Services! Click HERE to Request a Complimentary Habit Coaching Session!