September is National Recovery Month

Each September, for the past 23 years, thousands of prevention, treatment, and recovery programs and services around the country have celebrated their successes and shared them with their neighbors, friends, and colleagues in an effort to educate the public about recovery from substance use, how it works, for whom, and why. There are millions of Americans whose lives have been transformed, perhaps saved, through recovery, however, there is still much work to be done.

It is estimated that 60% of the US population is actively using some form of substance, including alcohol, tobacco, and/or drugs (recreational, prescribed or illegal); twelve per cent have admitted to using illicit drugs in the past month. While substance use is not an addiction, it can lead to it. In response to the consistent reported growth in substance use and confusion between substance abuse and dependence, the term substance use disorder was created as an official psychiatric diagnosis in 2013{Drug overdose deaths exceeded 70,000 in 2017, a 400% increase since 1999.}

As with adults, the double digit increase in reported substance use by teens is alarming. The teen years are a time of rapid growth, exploration, and risk taking. Taking risks provides young people the opportunity to test their skills and abilities and discover who they are. But, some risks such as smoking, drinking alcohol and using drugs, can have harmful and long-lasting effects on a teen’s health and well-being, including juvenile-justice involvement. Of the 730,000 arrests of youth under the age of 18 in 2018, 40% were under the influence of drugs or alcohol when arrested. Of those charged with a crime, and detained, substance use disorder was the most common diagnosis (ranging between 35 and 77% of the cases depending on gender and state) contributing to the offense.

The Center for Disease Control has been deeply concerned with this growing trend and formed a panel of experts to recommend ways to avoid and/or identify substance use among teens. The panel identified the following as high-risk factors for youth substance use:

  • Family history of substance use
  • Favorable parental attitudes towards the behavior
  • Poor parental monitoring
  • Parental substance use
  • Family rejection of sexual orientation or gender identity
  • Association with delinquent or substance using peers
  • Lack of school connectedness
  • Low academic achievement
  • Childhood sexual abuse
  • Mental health issue

Recognizing that parents are a powerful influence in the lives of their teens, the CDC panel suggested that parents make a habit of knowing about their teens, what they are doing, who they are with, and where they are and setting clear expectations for behavior with regular check-ins to be sure these expectations are being met. This recommended parental monitoring can reduce their teens’ risks for substance use, and abuse, leading to injury, pregnancy, arrest and juvenile-justice system involvement.

Youth Opportunity Foundation’s mission is to assist vulnerable youth in becoming successful adults. Substance use represents a huge impediment to the growth and development of our kids. YOF is a member of INStep, an Indianapolis based, nonprofit organization created to align a community-wide response to substance use, in order to support, be informed and participate in solutions to this ongoing issue.

Alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, prescription stimulants, and methamphetamines are the most widely used drugs in the country. Here’s a closer look at US drug use rates, and which substances are most commonly used, according to NCDAS research:

  • Alcohol: 139.8 million people
  • Tobacco: 58.8 million people
  • Marijuana: 2.9 million people
  • Prescription stimulants: 2.9 million people
  • Methamphetamines: 2.2 million people
  • Prescription painkillers: 1.9 million people
  • Heroin: 957,000 people
  • Cocaine: 638,000 people
  • Prescription sedatives: 319,000 people

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