There is a huge debate going on over the impact of drug abuse on our society. There are those that believe it is overblown and mental illness takes priority over recreational drug use gone wild. The truth is, kids and adults who have untreated mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and some types of psychosis use drugs to try to medicate their symptoms themselves.
You see ,strangely enough, it is much better to be a drug addict than to be mentally ill. Mental illness seems to imply parents are at fault and the child is damaged beyond all hope of repair. The child may also be totally untrustworthy, prone to fits of homicidal rage, at the blink of an eye. Drug use can just be overcome, by sheer test of will, and a few 12 step meetings here and there.
But what if there are both mental illnesses and drug abuse going on at the same time? What if your 16 year old son is struggling with severe depressive episodes and anxiety, which makes it impossible to stay in school a whole day without having a nuclear level melt down. What could he use to help get him through that day? Maybe a little marijuana? It isn't that hard to get. You can actually grow and harvest a small amount for personal use without drawningtoo much attention to yourself. Then there are the over the counter things, like benadryl, that help you relax. Kids who don't have an avenue to go seek help from a medical doctor without alerting the parent patrol resort to whatever they can get to help them. Alcohol is another big seller. It is easy to get and legal. There are many many more.
The more complex the array of substances, the higher the danger for something bad to happen as a result of a child trying to figure out a way to cope. If parents truly believe their kids are innocent of drugs, there may be another thing we need to add in the mix called denial. Adults are rarely privileged to the underground communication networks of their kids. Teens are getting inside information from friends who have been there and found things that help them make it through undetected, at least for a time. They will try whatever it takes to help them feel normal again.
So what do we look at first? Which came first, the mental health issue or the drug issue? It really depends on the environment and the child. But any child who has a family history of either mental health issues or drug abuse concerns needs to know just how quickly they could get sucked into a quagmire of darkness and grief. There are so many prevention programs, it would be hard to list them all here, so I will just include a few links for you. The issue most important to this discussion is all kids are subject to abusing drugs. All kids are prone to developing a mental health issue even if only a mild one for a short period. My challenge to you is you decide which one gets the most attention. Do we just not screen for drug abuse and hope they are the 10% that are honest when they say they have NEVER tried a drug? Or do we assume they all have tried and just include drug prevention education in their classes and treatment plans if they are over 10 and under 75 yeras old?
I talk to kids everyday. They all admit to having used drugs of some sort regularly. Some are prescribed. Some the parents know about. It helps them do better on test scores, it helps them eat less. It gives them more energy. They can talk better to girls. Loads of reasons why. Those kids are out there with your kids. Have a serious talk with your own kids and find out how big an issue it is for them and their friends. Then,armed with personalized facts, talk with city, county and state leaders about why there are so little drug abuse prevention programs for adolescents and even less actual treatment programs and why those programs don't get funding. If you do get an answer, please share it with us. Our kids are dying to know why they are so unimportant.
For more information on drug abuse and prevention try this group www.SAACADA.org , and NIDA