While teenage drug abuse in the United States has declined in most categories over the past decade, it has been a serious societal problem for the past 50 years, with favorite “drugs of choice” evolving among various chemically-derived substances including LSD, methamphetamines like Ecstasy, cocaine, heroin, and many others. And, of course, marijuana use has been widespread for decades. The effects of teenage drug abuse are measured both in terms of financial costs associated with treatment and law enforcement operations intended to disrupt drug trafficking and use, and in terms of lives lost to overdoses and gradual deterioration of neurological systems associated with drug abuse. The appeal of drugs and their ready availability despite those law enforcement efforts has continued to attract new users among not just American youth but those in Europe, Asia, and Latin America as well.
That the problem of teenage drug abuse continues largely unabated is evident in the following data provided by the United States National Institutes of Health National Institute on Drug Abuse:
“Illicit drug use among teenagers re-mains high, largely due to increasing popularity of marijuana. Marijuana use by adolescents declined from the late 1990s until the mid-to-late 2000s, but has been on the increase since then. In 2013, 7.0 percent of 8th graders, 18.0 percent of 10th graders, and 22.7 percent of 12th graders used marijuana in the past month, up from 5.8 percent, 13.8 percent, and 19.4 percent in 2008. Daily use has also increased; 6.5 percent of 12th graders now use marijuana every day, compared to 5 percent in the mid-2000s.”
According to the government data, teenage use of cocaine has decreased over the past several years, but use of heroin, methamphetamines, Ecstasy, and other drugs remain steady, especially heroin. Additionally, some communities have witnessed an increase in use of synthetic drugs, often labeled “bath salts,” but, nationally, such substances represent a very small fraction of the total percentage of drugs abused by teenagers.
Steps the federal government has taken to curb the problem of teenage drug abuse have been focused primarily on interdiction before drugs like cocaine, heroin and marijuana reach U.S. borders – although the recent legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington State will likely affect domestic marijuana use in some way – and on public education. While drug abuse is a national priority, and has been at least since President Richard Nixon established the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in 1973, federal efforts have emphasized those areas in which federal resources are considered to be best oriented, like interdiction, public education, and research into treatment options. Teenage drug use, however, is usually considered a local problem best left to city, county and state authorities.
A particularly useful source of information on teenage drug use can be located at the U.S Centers for Disease Control website address http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/yrbs/pdf/us_drug_trend_yrbs.pdf: Trends in the Prevalence of Marijuana, Cocaine, and Other Illegal Drug Use National YRBS: 1991–2011