Teens and drugs: Drug use statistics and a different approach to prevention

Here are some drug use statistics:

  • Over 80% of teens engage in some form of deviant behavior (1).
  • Over 50% of high-school seniors admit to having used drugs (2).
  • Only 10%-15% of the population develop drug addiction problems related to their drug use (1).

The question is:

If the majority of teens experiment with drug use, and so few eventually develop drug addiction problems, should we be focusing on something other than stopping kids from trying drugs?

Most of the costs associated with drug use for the “non-problem” kids come not from long-term use (or addiction), but instead from unforeseen consequences like arrest, pregnancy, and health-trauma in the short term often driven by uneducated, uninformed choices.

We usually make matters worse by grouping troubled kids together in “special education classes”, which has been shown time and time again to do little other than making things worse (for drug use, success in education, arrests, and many other things).

I’m not suggesting we stop trying to show kids that drugs can seriously affect their life in often negative (and sometimes life-threatening) ways. I have however learned (and this is a known fact in intervention design) that trying to stop a behavior is an almost impossible task while guiding people towards more desirable behaviors is much, much easier.

Importantly, doing this should allow us to focus our efforts of guiding at-risk kids away from long-term drug abuse and the addiction that may truly destroy their lives.

Being judgmental, hypocritical, and dogmatic about these issues is only going to keep us on the road we’ve been traveling for so long. Teens and drugs go hand in hand. It’s time to try a new approach.

Just a thought…

Question of the day:

How do you feel about the drug education you received in school? Was there anything you’d change about it if you could?

To see how ridiculous the “Just Say No” anti-addiction campaign was,. check this out:

(1) Moffitt, T. E. (1993). Adolescence-limited and life-course-persistent antisocial behavior: A developmental taxonomy. Psychological Review, 100, 674-701.
(2) Juveniles and Drugs Fact Sheet (2003). Office of National Drug Control Policy .