Exploring Drug Use In Middle School Teens?
Middle school is when young people transition into teenagers. The teenage years are filled with new experiences, shifting hormones, physical development, challenging lessons, and a newfound need for autonomy. Teenagers are notoriously curious and are often known for testing boundaries and pushing limits. Since the early 1900s, behaviorists (psychologists who study behavior) have researched what drives observable behaviors. The behaviors of teens are driven by intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation, as well as their physical, biological, and emotional needs. The motivations that drive each young person vary drastically, and often continuously shift as they enter new stages of their lives. Further, teenagers inherently react to external stimuli from an emotional standpoint. This can be attributed to the fact that a teenager’s brain does not begin to reach its full development until age twenty-five, at the earliest. The prefrontal cortex (the area of the brain that reigns rational thought, executive planning and impulse control) is the last to fully develop. This means that teenagers innately process, problem solve and make decisions using their amygdala (the area of the brain that is most closely associated with impulsivity, aggression, emotion, and instinctive behavior). Hence, teenagers that experiment with drug use in middle school often do so without considering the consequences.
Stats and Facts
Middle school drug and alcohol use is more common than one may assume. Below are various statistics and facts related to drug use in middle school teenagers:
- The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported findings from a survey that found 58.8% of teenagers had consumed alcohol by their senior year in high school, and 47% had used illicit drugs.
- The average age of first use of drugs and alcohol is between 13 and 15 years old.
- The National Institute on Drug Abuse’s 2020 Monitoring the Future Survey found:
- 21.3% of 8th graders reported using illicit drugs in their lifetime
- 25.6% of 8th graders reported using alcohol in their lifetime.
- NIDA-funded research at the University of Michigan found that 8th graders reported alcohol (at 45%) to be the easiest substance to obtain, and marijuana (at 28%) to be the second easiest substance to acquire.
Although, the number of teens and preteens using drugs and alcohol has been steadily declining since it peaked in the late 1990s, middle school drug use remains to be a nation-wide problem. Research has found that the younger someone is when they first try drugs the more likely they are to go on to develop substance use disorder.
For Information and Support
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