Understanding the Problem

Being Mindful of Your Child’s Well Being

“You are either part of the problem, or part of the solution”

— 1960’s button.

Young people who try illegal and legal substances can easily begin to misuse those substances, and more tragically, abuse them. Misuse or abuse can affect young people in a number of ways: physically, developmentally, cognitively, and socially. Also, it usually has devastating effects on their friends and family.

Substances are not only the numerous illegal drugs that can be smoked, injected, snorted, or ingested, but also legal drugs, such as alcohol and tobacco.

North American businesses spend hundreds of billions of dollars annually on the production of legal and illegal mood-altering or performance-enhancing substances. People often have most concern for the psychological and physical effects of substance use, but they should not overlook economic factors. The tobacco and alcohol industries spend millions of dollars in advertising each year specifically targeting young people. In many states, marijuana is a major cash crop that competes with hay, corn, and grain!

Teenagers have more choices than they have ever had before, and in North America they are bombarded with information. This wealth of information is not always a blessing because it can add pressure and lead to an increase in stress. Many young people respond to stress by using substances of one type or another.

When asked by Delray Recovery Center why addicts use and abuse substances, many young people respond this way:

  • I smoke cigarettes / smokeless cigarettes to stay thin.
  • I drop ecstasy to dance all night.
  • I smoke heroin to feel no pain.
  • I drink because my friends do.
  • I smoke pot to chill-out and to feel less anxious.
  • Drugs help me with boredom.
  • I take drugs out of curiosity and for new experiences.

Substance misuse is a global problem that seems to transcend social class, race, gender, sexuality, and ethnicity. However, statistics show a strong link between poverty and substance misuse. In the United States, 20 percent of young people live in poverty. In Canada, recent estimates suggest 1.2 million children live below the poverty level. Substances offer an escape from this economic, spiritual, and psychological impoverishment.

Many young people, however, misuse substances because of other dilemmas. In North American culture, an abundance of media-driven messages suggests that the only way to relax, to experience no pain, and to enjoy life is to “take something.” Advertisements for over-the-counter, pharmaceutical pain killers abound, and the demand for performance-enhancing drugs, such as Viagra and androsteroids, has skyrocketed into billions of dollars. Many young people come to believe that they are never good enough, they will never measure up, they could always perform better. The extent of this problem was demonstrated at the recent Pan American Games where several athletes were disqualified, or had their medals rescinded, due to the presence of steroids or cocaine in their blood.

What starts out as a step toward seeking pleasure or escaping pain can wind up as the biggest problem of a young person’s life.

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