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Substance Abuse and Teens

I was recently browsing through the channels on television and came across a celebrity glorifying the use of marijuana. This particular celebrity was openly using marijuana and laughing at the subsequent effects of the drug. In a nation where many teens already believe the use of marijuana to be nothing serious, broadcasting these messages is unacceptable. In my clinical work, I have teens frequently talk to me about looking up to and idolizing these very same celebrities. Given they are in the public eye, celebrities need to be more vigilant about publicly refraining from and discouraging the use of substances.

Substance use continues to be a problem among our youth in the United States. A 2013 national survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration illustrated 9 percent of youth ages 12-17 were using illicit drugs and 12 percent of individuals in this age group used alcohol. The survey also demonstrated the importance of parental involvement and the influence of positive messages. For example, substance use was lower among adolescents reporting supportive behaviors from their parents. Moreover, 73 percent of youth ages 12-17 reported hearing drug and alcohol prevention messages outside of school. The prevalence of illicit drug use was less for these youth when compared to youth not receiving prevention messages.

Parents have the choice to influence their children, and the children around them that are still impressionable. They can help these youth to recognize and connect with positive role models rather than looking up to individuals that can lead them astray. They can have open discussions with youth about drugs and alcohol. Despite rolled eyes and seeming indifference to these discussions, teens are still listening. As a clinician, I seize the opportunity to educate youth on the dangers of drug and alcohol use, including how drug use affects academic performance and career goals. I frequently visit the site www.teens.drugabuse.gov with them to provide information in a medium with which teens are often most comfortable. I often encourage parents to embrace education and help teens stay informed. With forethought and understanding, parents can be the voice youth so desperately need to hear.

Source: Allison Kranich, MS, LCPC, CAADC Visit Allison’s profile.