Teenagers have long had a reputation of using and abusing drugs. Certain elements of youth culture seem to be driven by drug use. However, the relationship is actually more cyclical, where teen culture both drives and is driven by drug use.
How Many Teenagers Actually Use Drugs?
In 2012, 9.5 percent of youths between the ages of 12 and 17 were current users of illicit drugs, according to the latest data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 have the highest rate of illicit drug use of any age group at 21.3 percent, and adults over the age of 26 have only a 7 percent rate of current drug use. Of the 2.9 million people above the age of 12 who first used illicit drugs in 2012, over half (55.1 percent) were under the age of 18, which shows that adolescents have a higher risk of trying drugs.
Although media is not completely to blame for any of the ills of youth culture, it does significantly impact it. Movies and television shows often make it seem like drugs and alcohol are an accepted part of teen culture, influencing some teenagers to engage in such behavior because they believe it is the norm.
It is not just movies and television shows that can influence teenagers to abuse drugs. With the emerging impact of social media and the Internet, youth have the ability to connect with other people from around the world in unprecedented ways. Dangerous behavior can trend on social media, causing large numbers of youth to engage in it. One example is the dangerous drinking game neknominate that is passed from friend to friend on social media.
The club scene has an even stronger relationship with drugs. Certain club drugs, such as ecstasy, GHB, ketamine, LSD, and methamphetamine, are widely used in the rave and club scene. Teenagers who go to raves or clubs are more exposed to drugs than other teenagers. The drugs are an accepted part of the club scene, so many teenagers take them to feel like they belong.
Pressure to Succeed
Teenagers in today's society face a lot of pressure to succeed, especially academically. They have to take difficult classes, receive the best grades, and be involved in several after school activities so they will get into the best colleges. This pressure to succeed drives many teenagers to drugs and alcohol for stress relief. In fact, studies have shown that in competitive cultures, delinquent teens with drug problems become the most popular and admired kids. Teenagers want to have relief from their pressure, and they believe drugs and alcohol provide an easy answer. This perpetuates the idea that the cool kids are the ones who do drugs, drink alcohol, and party.
Peer pressure has a significant impact on teenage drug and alcohol abuse. Many teenagers feel they need to use drugs to fit in or seem cool. Many teenagers also take drugs because they lack self-esteem, and are willing to do anything to feel better about themselves or become part of the cool crowd. They feel that by doing drugs, they will be cool. Because this thinking can be widely believed, many other kids likewise turn to drugs as a way to seem like the cool kids. This creates an endless cycle of a particular section of "cool" teenage culture remaining associated with drug use.
Drugs and alcohol are tempting ways for teenagers to rebel against adults. Teenagers may learn about the possible side effects, including death, but they see their friends using drugs without any negative results. They find drugs an easy way to create their identity away from their parents, society, and other adults, while fitting in with their peers.