Teen addiction is “the largest preventable and most costly public health problem in America today,” according to a recent report discussed by the the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
Researchers at Columbia University National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse found that 75 percent of high school students nationwide have used addictive substances, such as cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana, cocaine or prescription drugs. And these numbers don’t include incarcerated adolescents or those who have dropped out of school.
Addiction is more likely for “the underdeveloped teen brain,” heightening the possibility of impaired judgment and bad decisions throughout life, the report says.
It also says that teens who are exposed to parents' substance use disorders are more than three times as likely as other teens to have a substance use disorder themselves.
The blame for this abuse not only rests on parents, but also lawmakers and advertisers, the researchers say. Solutions presented in the report include setting a good example at home, higher taxes on tobacco and alcohol products and the elimination of "marketing efforts to adolescents that makes addictive substances appear attractive."
"We rightfully worry about other teen problems like obesity, depression or bullying, but we turn a blind eye to a more common and deadly epidemic that we can in fact prevent," Susan Foster, who works for The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, told the Tennessee newspaper.
Health advocates say parents should talk to their children early and “must be the ground forces in the war on addiction.”
Costs associated with teen substance abuse include an estimated $68 billion toward underage drinking and $14 billion in drug-related juvenile justice costs, the study found.
The study is coming out just as September, designated as national Recovery Month, approaches. Recovery Month promotes the societal benefits of treatment for substance use and mental disorders. JJIE has more resources and information related to drugs and alcohol.