Part of what makes drug addiction and alcohol abuse such endemic problems in society is that these dependencies are rarely just physical problems. More often than not, substance abuse issues are caused and exacerbated by underlying emotional triggers and psychological trauma, including anxiety, stress and depression. That's why for the past 25 years, Dr. M.K. (Khal) El-Yousef and the team at Fairwinds Treatment Center have been devoted to a unique dual diagnosis approach that combines clinical treatment with therapeutic counseling. By identifying and working to resolve the mental and emotional factors at play in drug addictions, we can enable more fulfilling and longer-lasting recoveries for patients.
With that said, more Americans — particularly teenagers — are also doing better to help themselves abstain from illegal drugs, with usage rates steadily on the decline. A new study conducted at the University of Michigan finds that the number of American teens who drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes has dropped to its lowest point since 1975, an all-time record. Marijuana use has held steady, which may not sound positive at face value, but is impressive considering more relaxed laws across the nation toward both medicinal and recreational marijuana, a trend that one would think should lead to more teens smoking marijuana. The fact that all of this legislation wasn't accompanied with a spike in teen marijuana rates, and that the numbers stayed relatively unchanged instead, is in itself a minor victory.
Why the decline? According to Bloomberg, the study found that greater awareness about the health risks associated with smoking and binge drinking has caused more teens to shift away from these substances.
Back in 1997, 61 percent of students across eighth, tenth and twelfth grades reported drinking alcohol. By 2013, that number had fallen to 43 percent and then down again to 41 percent this year. Over that same time frame, the number of students who said they smoked cigarettes also dropped from 28 percent to 8 percent.
However, as the researchers note, there is still plenty of room for improvement. About one-sixth of high-school seniors and 8.7 percent of eight graders now smoke with electronic cigarettes. Additionally, approximately 20 percent of high-school seniors admit to binge drinking — drinking five or more consecutive alcoholic drinks — which, despite being on a downward trend from previous years, is still an issue in its own right. Fewer teens also think of marijuana use as problematic, with only 16 percent of students saying that they disapproved of occasional marijuana smoking, down from 27 percent in 2009.
And one of the bigger problems facing this good news is precisely because it's good news. As the study's lead investigator, Lloyd Johnson, warns, while these are positive-looking trends, taking them too much to heart could actually lead to a resurgence in alcohol and drug abuse in the future.
"When things are much improved is when the country is most likely to take its eye off the ball, as happened in the early 1990s, and fail to deter the incoming generation of young people from using drugs, including new drugs that inevitably come along," Johnson said in an official statement.
While fewer teens indulging in drug use is great no matter how you frame it, that doesn't change the fact that there are plenty of people right now still struggling with substance abuse. If you or a loved one fall into this category, reach out to Fairwinds Treatment Center, one of the best alcohol and drug treatment centers in the country, for expert counseling and therapy that can help you get back on a track to a healthier life.