Wooton:Examining local trends of substance abuse
By Will Wooton
I see the trends of substance abuse up close and personal. As a group, Pacific Treatment Services has assessed thousands of teens. Our tracking system for monitoring substance abuse is a formal system consisting of client honesty-based questioning and an Adolescent Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory (SASSI-A2). (More information can be found at www.sassi.com.) We have used this data in our practice to monitor trends which help us to better serve the families we work with. By being aware of what is going on in specific areas and schools, we know what to look for and can make parents more aware.
Looking up national statistics on substance abuse can be done with relative ease ( www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/monitoring-future) but I prefer knowing what is going on in a specific San Diego school or neighborhood. Because I work in substance abuse, I don’t track prevention or how many teens first started using in a given area. I work with kids who already use and we track what drugs are “hot” or trends of abuse in a given area.
I believe that substance-abuse trends follow patterns. Each decade brings in a drug of choice. In the 1960s it was “peace, love and acid,” the 1970s brought us “disco and heroin,” and the 1980s was Nancy Reagan telling us to “just say no” as cocaine abuse ran rampant. The 1990s were a transition from cocaine to methamphetamine and now we are fighting prescription pill and heroin abuse.
My personal belief is there are social, financial and political factors that cause these trends but, most of all, it is the destructive effects of these drugs. All through the 1990s meth was everywhere, and kids and adults were abusing it heavily. In the later part of the decade, promotional campaigns showing people who lost their teeth and with horrible skin conditions were shown on TV and in print. The term “tweeker” became an insult teens would use against each other. It was looked down upon and thought of as a “dirty drug.” The new “cool” thing was to use Ecstasy and pills. We now can see the direct link between the pills and heroin abuse that’s hitting today. Meth was given such a bad reputation that teens didn’t want to use it. It fell out of favor as they saw their peers and people they knew becoming psychotic while using it.
Heroin is now the top drug in addition to marijuana and alcohol. A frightening 74 percent of the kids who we work with have used it and 92 percent say that they could get it at school within a day. Here is a breakdown of a few more.
• Cocaine: 9 percent abuse it; 16 percent can get it
• Ecstasy: 22 percent abuse it; 30 percent can get it
• Prescription pills: 60 percent abuse it; 88 percent can get it
• Methamphetamine: 15 percent abuse it; 26 percent can get it.
The favorite route of administration for heroin now is smoking but I.V. abuse, or shooting up, is growing at huge numbers. This will kill kids. No doubt or discussion needed about this; sadly, in a few years many teens will have died from heroin. The younger generation will watch their friends die and be scared away from it just like in the 1970s.
While meth is at a much lower level of use then in the 1990s, it is starting to come back strong. I have seen more teens using meth in the last 12 months then in the last three years combined. I think because of the low cost and the forgotten devastation of this drug, many kids will fall into it and, as we saw 10 to 20 years ago, it will be a challenge to save them.
Wooton is director of Pacific Treatment Services and co-author of “Bring Your Teen Back From The Brink”. PTS is a substance abuse company working with teens and young adults. Website: www.PacificTreatmentServices.com.
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- Will Wooton: What if someone doesn’t want to be helped?
- Will Wooton: How do you tell if your teen is on drugs?
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