There is perhaps nothing more devastating and scary for a parent than to witness their children fall victim to drug abuse and addiction. Teens and young adults are at especially high risks, as they experience peer pressure, and are at an age where they often seek to experiment, push boundaries, and take risks.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports certain trends in teen substance abuse that are cause for concern. Although teens and people in their early 20’s don’t abuse hard drugs as much as those in their late 20’s and 30’s, it appears that marijuana use in these younger demographics is growing quickly. It has long been common belief, and affirmed by the NSDUH in a 2017 report, that marijuana is a gateway drug. They believe that increasing use of marijuana means that abuse of harder drugs is an issue that will likely develop in the near future.

The Monitoring the Future Survey reports that teenagers are actually more likely to smoke marijuana than cigarettes, although by a small percentage. One contributing factor is the rise of vaping or e-cigarettes, in which young people are smoking cannabis oils. In 2017, 10% of high school students reported smoking cannabis from a vaping device. Depending on its source, some may be totally unaware that what they were about to smoke actually contained cannabis.

2018 Is Projected to Be Worse

Projections indicate that 2018 will likely be worse for teens and young adults. In 2017, marijuana use went up 2% from the previous year. Simultaneously, the perceived risk of smoking marijuana among young people went down. If these trends continue, then 2018 will prove to have even more young people smoking pot. While marijuana in and of itself is not as serious as many other drugs, it is dangerous because it is regarded as a gateway drug. While not everyone that smokes pot will necessarily graduate to harder drugs, it’s extremely common for those that do abuse hard drugs to have started with marijuana.

Measures to Address the Problem

In November 2017, Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice met to discuss how to most effectively address the issue of teen and young adult drug abuse. They were working off of 56 recommendations from the White House’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis. At least this shows that the government is taking steps to address the issue. In the meantime, we must focus on proliferating education and prevention campaigns. When parents talk to their kids and when schools educate children about the dangers of drug abuse, they are less likely to develop a problem. We must reach these young people before they move onto harder, more addictive drugs. We must not let them become future victims of the opioid epidemic.