Teenage Drug Abuse Essay, Research Paper
One of the largest problems in society today is teenage drug abuse. After a
dramatic drop in the use of illicit drugs among teens throughout the 80 s, once again teen drug
use is on the rise at a dangerous rate and shows no signs of slowing down. In 1979 more than
16 percent of children between the ages of 12-17, used drugs according to the Drug Enforcement
Administration. Under the banner of the Just Say No slogan, Presidents Reagan and Bush
helped drive this number down to a low of 5.3 percent in 1992, but it has crept back up to 10
percent today ( Drug Use Back Up for Youth, 1). From 1991 to 1994 eighth graders who said
they had used marijuana in the previous year doubled to 13 percent. In the same time region,
marijuana use increased 66 percent among 10th graders as well as a 44 percent increase among
12th graders. Marijuana has by far, been the most popular drug used by teens as well as all
Americans in the past decade. However, there is a new generation of drugs that is just beginning
to effect the nations youth. Ecstasy, or MDMA, belongs to a family of drugs called
entactogens, which literally means touching within. It creates a sense of euphoria for the user
and enhances feelings of empathy, emotional warmth, and self acceptance. Besides extreme liver
and brain damage, the effects of ecstasy are yet to be discovered since the drug is so new.
Recently, a new mock ecstasy pill has been circulating which creates the same euphoric feelings of
real MDMA but is much cheaper to manufacture. These pills have been found to contain PMA,
speed, DXM, and PCP. Deaths have already been reported from heatstroke as a result of taking
this mock pill (What Is Ecstasy, 2). Among other drugs that are currently on the rise are cocaine,
inhalants, ciggerettes, and alcohol.
The teenagers of our nation are our future. If this generation of teens continue
growing up in an environment where drugs are everywhere and they are not receiving the proper
drug education they will accept drug use as a proper way of life which will result in horrible
consequences. We must do what we can to get the message across that drug use will greatly
harm your body and mind. On an even scarier note, scientists and doctors have yet to discover
the harmful effects that certain drugs have on an individual. In 20 years, doctors may announce
that those who have used ecstasy in the past, are guaranteed to develop brain tumors. This is a
worst case scenario, but it is surely a reality. Drug use is a direct violation of the societal goals
of good health, personal safety, and economic opportunity. Its is imperative that this issue be
addressed as soon as possible before younger children are effected. By ignoring the huge problem
that is staring this nation right in the face we are putting today s children, our children s children
and so forth at risk.
There are several causes for the increased number of teenage drug users in the country.
The Clinton Administration shares some of the blame for increased abuse. By slashing drug
enforcement positions, reducing drug persecutions, reducing international anti-drug programs and
laughing when he told an MTV audience that he didn t inhale he was not sending out a very
positive message to the nations youth (Bauer, 2). The fact that many parents have difficulty
approaching their children about drugs does not help either especially since most of today s
parents, children from the 60 s and 70 s, have admitted to drug use themselves. The biggest
problem seems to be the lack of efficiency in America s drug education program. My proposed
policy is to issue a mandatory drug education course for all students in 8th through 12th grade
which will be run by profit free drug education organizations ( for example, Teen Outreach,
Students for a Drug Free America, PRIDE, etc.) taught by young adults who were once teenage
drug users themselves. This course will also require a trip to a drug rehabilitation center once a
year where students can see the true damage that drug abuse can have on ones life. The idea that
this course will be taught by real people and not police officers will enhance the idea that drug
addiction can happen to anyone and will prevent students from feeling inadequate. This will
ensure the updated education of teenagers at a time in their life where they are most confronted
The problem of teenage drug abuse is becoming a more important issue every day.
Studies have shown that there has been a 78 percent increase from 1992-1998 in drug abuse
among teenagers aged 12-17, including the drugs LSD and other hallucinogens, cocaine, and
marijuana (Plohetski,1). Increasing numbers of teens as well as children are dying as a result of
inhaling gasses from aerosol cans or huffing , to get high (Hayes, 1). According to the 9th
annual PRIDE survey, student use of most drugs has reached its highest level in 9 years
(Policy.com,2). All research is pointing towards the same direction. Teenage drug abuse is at an
all time high and effecting young America in a drastic way.
Drug use among youths had shown signs of decline between the mid 1970 s and
1990, but such use appears to have increased during the 1990 s. Among high school seniors, self
reported marijuana use in the past month declined from about one out of three students in 1980 to
12 percent in 1992. However, in 1995 about 21 percent reported using marijuana in the past
month. Approximately 1 in 20 high school seniors reported daily marijuana use (Drug and
Alcohol Use, 48).
Inhalant use has been on the rise among young teenagers as well. Inhalant abuse is
a serious problem. Survey s show that nearly one in five children will likely experiment with
inhalants before they graduate from high school. This number totals to nearly a half million each
month (Hayes, 1). Inhalants are highly toxic and highly unpredictable. They are also cheap, legal
and easy for most children to obtain. Most doctors believe that inhalants should be getting the
same respect of marijuana and alcohol. This is a message most kids are not getting.
A huge problem associated with teenagers and drugs today is the gaining
popularity of ecstasy. Ecstasy is very similar to the love drug of the 1970 s MDA. However,
the major difference between the MDA from the 70 s and ecstasy from the 90 s is that ecstasy is
not pure. Almost all manufacturer s of this pill combine MDMA with other drugs. By the time it
reaches the consumer it may or may not have been laced with other illicit material. By mixing
several of these drugs together sensations may be enhanced, but one is putting themselves at risk
for heatstroke, heat failure, severe brain and liver damage, or death. Ecstasy, or E, is almost
always swallowed as a tablet or capsule. A normal dose is around 100-125 mg. Black market
ecstasy is extremely dangerous. These E tablets vary in strength and often contain other drugs.
MDMA, the primary drug in Ecstasy releases the brain chemical serotonin, elevating ones mood
and acting as a short-term antidepressant. Most teenagers are not educated on the danger of
taking this drug. It is very popular among the club and rave community. Several deaths have been
linked to taking this drug , usually from heatstroke because users dance for long periods of time in
hot clubs without replenishing lost body fluids (What is Ecstasy?, 1). This drug is one of the most
dangerous drugs facing our generation today and because of the improper drug education of
American teenagers, more deaths will be related to it in the future.
There are many factors that contribute to teenage drug abuse. National surveys
have found that teenagers whose baby-boom parents smoked marijuana regularly a generation ago
are more likely to use drugs than other teenagers. The study commissioned by the National
Center of Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, found that 58% of parents who
once smoked marijuana regularly would consider it a crisis if their young teenager used the
drug, compared with 83% of parents who never tried marijuana. The study says that teenagers
are more at risk of using drugs in general if their parents think that marijuana is relatively
harmless. I agree with Joseph A. Califano Jr., the president of the center when he said, The
ambivalence of the baby boomers about marijuana is clearly a key factor in adolescent drug use.
By law, every K-12 school in the country receiving Federal money must have a drug
prevention program starting in Kindergarten. All 50 states and over half of the nation s school
districts use the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program (DARE) which uses uniformed police
officers that teach mainly 5th and 6th graders how to say no to drugs. However, this program has
had an extreme minimal impact on drug use. Social psychologist William B. Hansen has been
studying drug prevention programs for 20 years and has concluded that, They don t have any
evidence to back that up- that it works. (Glazer, 653). He explains that one of the main
problems with DARE is the fact that, 5th graders are bouncy and cuddly. They are not
suspicious when you walk in wearing a uniform. By junior high the same children are searching
for independence from adults and are more influenced by their peers than a man in a uniform.
When the DARE program was used in the 7th grade, it was obvious the motivation had worn off
(Glazer, 663). When combining the poor drug education programs with the fact that many adults
do not know how to talk to their children about drugs, this is contributing greatly to the
increasing drug use among teens.
During the 1960 s, drug use was glamorized by many. A revival of similar interests in the
present time have helped increase the acceptability of drug use. During a time period where bell
bottoms and vintage clothes as well as the popularity of the Grateful Dead and designer cigarette
lighters featuring marijuana leaves were largely popular, history has certainly repeated itself. LSD
art pieces has become collectors items and the revival of hemp is extremely prominent. The
marijuana leaf emblem has become a fashion statements and designer bongs and pipes are popular
items to sell. The idea of Hollywood glamorizing drug use is still quite prevalent. The phrase
sex, drugs, and rock and roll has certainly described the lives of many famous musicians. Lyrics
that many famous rappers sing are encrusted with references to blunts and 40 s (keep in mind
many elementary school kids look up to these singers). Numerous stars have been arrested for
possession of drugs and many movies have been based around uncontrolled substances. It seems
no matter where a young teenager will go, they are faced with the issue of drugs one way or
another. This will greatly affect their decision on whether or not to experiment with them.
One proposed policy on the issue of teenage drug abuse is the zero tolerance
law. This is very similar to Rudy Guliani s successful approach to eradicating the crime in New
York City. Examples of zero-tolerance laws currently in place for youth include significantly
increased penalties for selling drugs near schools, and expulsion as the mandatory punishment for
student possession of drugs. There is even a new federal statute withholding federal college
financial aid from those convicted of a drug crime. It has been noted that where zero tolerance
laws are in effect, there has been a much greater success rate in dealing with the problem and
stemming addiction (Drug use Back Up for Youth, 1).
Another proposed policy issued by President Clinton was appointing General
Barry R .McCaffrey as the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Gen.
McCaffrey, who has been named the Drug Czar of the President s Cabinet, is authorized to
develop and coordinate the policies, goals, and objectives of the Nation s drug control program
(Policy.com, 3). His main focus has been to decrease the amount of illegal drugs entering the
United States and promote more drug awareness among teenagers.
A third proposed policy is one I have created. Based on my research I have
discovered that the major problem associated with the rise of teenage drug abuse is an extreme
lack of drug education. Schools today are practicing a policy that has proved to produce poor
results. Keeping the previously mentioned school problems with D.A.R.E. in mind, one can see
that if this is the policy that will be implemented in years to come, the current situation will not
get better. I propose that students in 8th through 12th grade have a mandatory drug education
class as part of their weekly schedule. These classes should be run in association with profit free
organizations and directed by young adults who were once teenage drug abusers. This will not
make the students feel inadequate as they might feel this way with a uniformed officer in front of
them. This will also reiterate the idea that drug abuse is a serious problem that can happen to
anyone. By having students hear real life stories from real people they will be more influenced
then, for example, watching a movie. As part of this mandatory drug education class, students
will also be required to visit a drug rehabilitation center once a year where they can truly see the
effects drug abuse can have on your mind and body. By implementing this policy, teenagers will
see true lives before them that were largely effected by drug abuse. This may effect their decision
on whether or not to try drugs and/or use them.
My proposed policy is realistic, however, if implemented, it would take a long time
to go into effect. The most important benefits of this policy are that students will be able to get a
close look at a real life experience of a drug addict and see the problems that can come from
trying drugs. This may greatly effect a young persons decision on whether or not to try drugs in a
positive way, which can eventually lead to saving a life from being a victim of drug abuse. It will
also continue the drug education of students after 5th and 6th grade which is the most important
and influential time in a young persons life. If this policy were to go into effect, I m sure the
program would be very successful.
Since our system of government is so complex, the duration between the time the policy is
proposed and the time it will go into effect is large. This policy would need immediate approval
from Gen. Barry McCaffrey, the drug Czar in President Clinton s cabinet. However, with the
recent President Elect, George W. Bush, coming into office within the next few weeks a new drug
Czar will most likely be appointed making Gen. McCaffrey s say-so irrelevant. He would then
propose the policy to President Clinton or the current President. If he approves it, it will then
spend many hours being passed through the system of checks and balances where Congress, the
Senate, and the House of Representatives will decide whether or not they approve it.
If approved, the next step would be financing the project. Since this course is taking
effect in public schools the source of money for this project will most likely come from school
taxes. Financing this program would be included in the school budget which is what parents vote
on every year. It does seem logical that if school taxes were to be raised for any apparent reason,
one as important as strengthening a child s drug awareness and education is a reasonable one.
School taxes might even not be greatly effected by this program because it would shift the money
being spent on the current drug education program to the new one.
If implemented, my proposed policy would indeed be a drastic change in the current school
cirriculum, but it will surely be for the best. If schools keep functioning at this rate, they will be
openly ignoring a major problem facing their students. They will willingly send students out into
the world with a misperception of the dangers of drug use. This is something that is essential life
knowledge and is more important than learning geometry proofs and chemical formulas. Many
events in our history have required drastic change which has made the world a better place. If
people were too afraid to give women the right to vote or grant African Americans Civil rights
our world may have faced a disaster. These drastic changes were necessary. Teenage drug abuse
is rapidly becoming a larger problem every day. If a drastic change is not made soon, more
innocent lives will fall victim to the severe problems of addition.