Surveys of American teenagers and those who live in other countries throughout the world have proven that there are dramatic differences between the two groups regarding drug and alcohol addiction. The results stem from coordinated studies completed on more than 100,000 college students in the United States and abroad, in countries such as Europe, Asia and Central and South America. The primary sponsor of the research is the University of Michigan.
Teens favor alcohol as their substance of choice in the United States. This is also true of teenagers in Europe, and the latter drink more regularly than their American peers. However, teens in the United States are more apt to develop an alcohol addiction or dependency than teenagers in Europe. Those 18 and younger on the Asian continent are the least likely to have a habitual problem with alcohol consumption.
Marijuana, or hashish, as it is referred to in parts of Europe and Asia–is the second most popular drug among teenagers worldwide in studies that include all developed countries. According to Lloyd Johnston of American Surveys, 18% of teenagers in the United States use marijuana at least once a month, compared with 7% of European teenagers. Statistics from a study conducted by the University of Costa Rica show that teens in Central and South America use marijuana at almost the same percentage as their American peers.
Prescription Pill Abuse
The abuse of prescription drugs is also prevalent among teenagers around the world. In most instances, such drugs are obtained from their parents, who may or may not have legitimate prescriptions. According to a study completed by the University of Texas, teenagers who live with adult relatives who abuse prescriptions are 30% more likely to develop this problem themselves.
In the United States, approximately 2500 students between the ages of 12 and 17 abuse a prescription painkiller for the first time each day. Although abuse of prescription opioids and other narcotic painkillers is most prevalent in the United States, it is also a significant problem in South Asia, Southern Africa and all of Europe, with more than 15 million teenagers combined using such drugs on a daily basis.
Consequences of Substance Abuse Among Teenagers
There are many mental and physical side effects associated with the abuse of drugs or alcohol. For example, the brains of teenagers under the age of 16 are not completely formed, and therefore any substance that influences brain function may lead to permanent damage, depending on the level of abuse.
Additionally, certain drugs and alcohol repress a person’s normal inhibitions. This can result in teenagers participating in reckless behavior that they would otherwise not contemplate if drug use was not a factor. For example, teenagers who are drunk on alcohol or high on drugs may engage in criminal activity or reckless sexual conduct, leading to an arrest record or unplanned pregnancies and STDs.
Any teenager who is dependent or addicted to alcohol or drugs should be treated as soon as possible to avoid setting a negative pattern for the entire course of his or her life. Anyone who is struggling with addiction – in America or abroad – or knows a teen who is in this situation should do everything possible to ensure that the proper treatment is sought.