African-American girls and Hispanic boys comprise the majority of teens involved in illicit drug use, and their parents and other caregivers are urged to act immediately to deter the behavior, according to a new survey.
A recently released survey from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency detailed teen drug use between 2008 and 2009. According to the survey, drug use among Black teen girls was up 43 percent, compared to 39 percent for their Hispanic male peers.
The survey also revealed that, over the past months, members of the groups ranging in age from 12 to 17 admitted having used drugs about 3 percent more since 2008.
“It’s hard to know what’s behind it, but one thing is that generally when we saw this increase we also saw a decrease in their perception of risks or harm caused by drugs,” Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, said during a NewsNation broadcast interview. “That usually tells us that drug use will increase – and unfortunately, it has.”
Kerlikowske said that new thinking has moved away from thinking of the issue as a “war on drugs,” and instead as a larger societal problem.
“For too long we’ve looked at it as a criminal justice problem, we really need to understand that it is also a public health problem and an education problem,” Kerlikowske said.
According to The National Institute on Drug Abuse, the negative effects of drug involvement usually include a drop in academic performance or interest as well as strained relationships with family or friends. The institute also noted that many young teens have often already tried drugs like alcohol, marijuana and cocaine, and that while they might tell themselves they will only try a drug once, they find themselves under persistent peer pressure to continue to experiment with drugs.
California recently voted down a ballot measure which would have legalized personal marijuana use, and Kerlikowske added that if people continue to casually associate marijuana as a medicine “that sends young people the absolute wrong message.