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Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Apr 19, 2018

Youth drug prevention: Who’s responsible?

Apr 03, 2015

By BRYCE KELLY

Mt. Pleasant News

Marijuana. Alcohol. Tobacco. Cocaine. Prescription drugs. The list of illegal and harmful drugs being used regularly or recreationally by youth could go on and on.

But are drugs and alcohol really being used the way that news entities and social media say they are? Is the problem blown out of proportion? And if the problem really is as big as everyone says it is, who’s responsible for helping change things?

Recently, the topic of teen drug and alcohol abuse has been on my mind and I decided to do some digging to better educate myself on the subject. Needless to say, I got more information and public opinions than I thought I would.

In speaking with high school students in Iowa and other states, my original thoughts on the acceptance of drug use among youth was reaffirmed. Many of the students I talked to spoke very plainly about the excessive use of alcohol and marijuana in high schools and among their peer groups. In fact, many of them didn’t see marijuana and alcohol use as a big deal and thought it to be rather harmless.

It was much of the same in terms of cigarette and e-cigarette use, the latter garnering more popularity in the last couple of years. Prescription drug stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin, which are drugs often used to treat ADHD, also seem to be holding steady in terms of popularity among teens.

But what was astoundingly shocking to me was the use of other drugs, many of which I never dreamed would be used rather regularly by young people. According to many students I spoke with, cocaine and similar forms of the drug seem to be evermore popular in high schools in recent years. In speaking with a number of public school teachers and teacher’s aides, they were also quick to confirm the use of the drug and said its existence has been growing in American high schools for the last few years.

So whose job is it to correct these issues, and can teen alcohol and illegal drug use ever be completely eradicated?

Personally, I think drug and alcohol abuse, just like a multitude of other crimes, will always be an issue…among all age groups. Regardless of that simple fact, I don’t think that means we should all throw in the towel and just “let kids be kids”.

Children (and that still includes teenagers) are under the care of their parents or legal guardians at least until they legally become an adult, at the age of 18. That being said, the responsibility of teaching kids the dangers and destructive nature of all types of drugs and alcohol begins with parents.

Parents are charged with setting a good example for their kids in word and deed. Telling your kids that drugs are harmful, but using drugs and abusing alcohol yourself sends kids and teens contradictory information, and doesn’t help them make wise choices. Although I am not a parent yet, I still have a responsibility to my younger sister and young nephews to not only tell them, but also show them, the importance of living drug and alcohol free.

If parents can instill in their kids a sense of pride in living their lives without an addiction to drugs, tobacco and alcohol, then teachers and church leaders are also charged with reinforcing that in schools and churches. If these adults know a child is struggling with drug or alcohol abuse, it is their responsibility to step in and guide students in the way they should go.

While most adults would agree with me on this side of the issue, many school employees and volunteer youth leaders I spoke with also said that it isn’t unheard of for adults to ignore these issues as they can often be uncomfortable and time consuming to deal with.

As much as this disturbs me, I do understand that confronting a young person about alcohol and drug abuse is difficult. However, I also want to encourage adults that loving others is not easy all of the time.

I would also say without a doubt, that ignoring the problem is one of the most harmful and unloving things an adult could do to a child struggling with drug or alcohol abuse. Youth that experiment with these harmful substances needs someone that cares about them enough to tell them what they are doing is destructive and that their choice to abuse these substances is keeping them from being all that they can be.

Ultimately, kids who turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with life or to feel acceptance are lost and need someone to find them. They need someone to tell them they are special and worth more than gold.

So who is the child that you need to be seeking? Don’t wait to reach out. Tomorrow could be one day too late.

 

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