Young People and Drugs
“Did they have to die?”
That was the question raised on the cover of the Brazilian magazine Veja. Along with those words were photos of pleasant, normal-looking youths who had died—victims of drug abuse.
DESPITE well-known risks, people continue to abuse drugs, and such abuse continues to destroy lives. Drug abuse costs the United States an estimated 100 billion dollars a year in health care, reduced job productivity, lost earnings, and crime. But perhaps it is young ones—children—who pay the highest price. According to a Brazilian study reported on in Jornal da Tarde, 24.7 percent of youths between 10 and 17 years of age have already tried some kind of drug.
While teenage drug use in the United States may have declined somewhat in recent years, alarming numbers of young ones there are addicted. Consider seniors in high school. According to one study, 37 percent had at least tried marijuana in the previous year. One out of 5 had used it in the past month. Almost 1 out of 10 had tried the drug ecstasy in the past year. Over 6 percent had tried LSD.
Reports from all over the world are grim. The British Office for National Statistics reports that “12 per cent of pupils aged 11-15 had used drugs in the last year . . . Cannabis [marijuana] was by far the most likely drug to have been used.” Particularly alarming was the fact that “more than one third (35 per cent) had been offered one or more drugs.”
A report sponsored by the European Union likewise reveals that among young people, “drinking to inebriation has become increasingly common.” The report also says that such “alcohol abuse is associated with various short term adverse effects such as accidents, violence and poisoning, as well as with developmental and social problems.” From Japan comes a report that “the drugs most often used by teenagers in Japan are organic solvents, which can lead to other drug use.”
Little wonder, then, that UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said: “Drugs are tearing apart our societies, spawning crime, spreading diseases such as AIDS, and killing our youth and our future.” Often, people involved with drugs are responsible for crimes such as drug trafficking and drug-related homicides. In addition, because of abusing drugs, many people become victims of violence, are injured, or engage in risky, unplanned sex. And if you think that your family is immune, think again! One U.S. government report said: “Drugs are not a problem solely of the poor, minorities, or inner-city residents. . . . Drug users come from all walks of life and from all parts of the country. The drug problem affects everyone.”
Yet, parents often do not sense the danger until it is too late. Consider the case of one young Brazilian girl. “She was drinking alcoholic beverages,” explains her sister Regina.a “The family thought it was cute. But this led to her experimenting with drugs with her boyfriends. Since my parents always treated her as if the problems she caused were of no consequence, her condition got out of control. Several times she disappeared. And every time a young woman was found dead, the police called my father to see if she was the one! This caused my family great distress.”
The World Health Organization presents five basic reasons why young ones might be drawn to drugs:
(1) They want to feel grown-up and make their own decisions
(2) They want to fit in
(3) They want to relax and feel good
(4) They want to take risks and rebel
(5) They want to satisfy their curiosity
Drug availability and peer pressure also increase the likelihood that a youth will begin this self-destructive course. “My parents never said anything about drugs. In school the teachers mentioned the problem but without going into detail,” explains Luiz Antonio, a Brazilian youth. Spurred on by schoolmates, he began abusing drugs when he was 14 years old. Later, when he tried to quit, his drug-supplying “friends” pressured him at knifepoint to continue his habit!
Have you faced up to the fact that your own children could be in danger? What have you done to protect them from drug abuse? The following article will discuss some ways in which parents can protect their children.
a Some names have been changed.
[Blurb on page 4]
“Drugs are tearing apart our societies, spawning crime, spreading diseases such as AIDS, and killing our youth and our future.”—KOFI ANNAN, UN SECRETARY-GENERAL
[Picture Credit Line on page 3]
© Veja, Editora Abril, May 27, 1998