According to recent surveys, there has been a rise in the use of illicit drugs amongst teenagers. One particular drug that has seen a steady increase in use is Ecstasy, while in other studies researchers have seen drugs become more available in a variety of markets, like the Internet, in order to cover a wider area for distribution.
Teenagers have been a prime source for these Internet-dealers, and while certain drugs have seen a drop in their use, it is only because they have been replaced by more illicit and easier to obtain drugs. Contrary to popular belief, teenage drug use is on the rise, and appears to only be heading on the up and up.
In a study conducted last year by the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research, out of 44,000 students, "the proportions of eighth-, 10th-, and 12th-graders who reported having ever taken ecstasy in 2001 were five, eight, and 12%, respectively"(Ecstasy Usage, 2002). Ecstasy is also known as MDMA, or methylenedioxymethamphetamine. It is a stimulant drug often taken for its hallucinogenic effects and initially became popular during the 'rave' scene during the mid-90s that gained more popularity towards the beginning of the Millennium.
This increase in the use of Ecstasy has been partially blamed on its increase in availability. The Institute's results showed that "the proportion of 12th-graders saying that they could get it "fairly" to "very" easily [rose] from 51% in 2000 to 62% in 2001" (Ecstasy Usage, para 4). It is believed that turnaround in drug use occurs when young people realize that the use of the drug is dangerous, as has been noted in anti-drug campaigns targeting marijuana use and heroin, but in the case of Ecstasy, teenagers are not regarding the drug to be dangerous enough to discontinue using it.
Another survey conducted by the PDFA (Partnership for a Drug Free America) concurred that Ecstasy use is on the rise, though they also showed that marijuana use had dropped in its place. Still the drop isn't as drastic as the published survey would initially have one believe. "Trial use of marijuana has decreased 10% since 1997. In 1997, 44% of teenagers reported trying marijuana at least once compared to 40% in 2000" (Teenage Marijuana, para 3). The surveyed students cited that marijuana had become less appealing because the drug made one less appealing, and in many cases "lonely, boring, or act stupidly or foolishly" (para 4).
On the other hand, the trial use of "X," or Ecstasy is equivalent to that of crack, cocaine and LSD, though "more U.S. teenagers have experimented with ecstasy than with heroin. (pg85, para 6). One reason for this is beyond the name 'the love drug' the myth surrounding Ecstasy is that of creating highs unlike any other drug and it is this myth of being able to experience these ultimate highs that entices teenagers to try the drug. One such myth is coupled with being able to experience the ultimate sexual pleasure and naturally, teenagers find this appealing.
Alternatives like Herbal Ecstasy have not created enough of a buzz to counteract the use of Ecstasy in the club-scene and on an individual level.
The availability of illicit drugs on the Internet has given the seediness of the drug-dealer an alarming spin. Teenagers are finding it easier to order drugs at home, than risking expulsion or arrest if they are caught at school. In a recent article in Better Homes & Gardens, it was noted by U.S. Customs Service that "The Internet is changing the way everybody does business, including the bad guys [and] the days of needing to "know someone" to score drugs are over. Children need only know how to use a computer"(pg85, para 2).
It is not just Ecstasy that teenagers are able to 'shop from the comfort of their own home' rather, "It's all up for grabs. You can get almost anything that you want if you are willing to look for it," says Robert Stephenson of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)" (para 7).
Interestingly enough, the article also cites SAMHSA having found an increase in marijuana use where "use among youth more than doubled between 1992 and 1999" (para 8). It also notes that marijuana has become more potent, with THC levels increasing by 5-10% since 1977.
Besides Ecstasy and marijuana, teenagers are able to find a multitude of other drugs, including ephedra, steroids and prescription drugs like Vicodin. The cost of 'rave drugs' is also a factor in the popularity of Ecstasy, considering teenagers can spend anywhere from $2 - $30 for the drug and others similar to it, like 'K' (Ketamine), GHB and LSD.
Nevertheless, what is probably a larger proponent towards the increasing levels of teenage drug-use, is the availability of information on the Internet regarding "how to make illegal drugs; plenty of Web sites offer recipes, ingredients, and detailed how-to photos. Other sites, which pass themselves off as health or educational sites, give teens frightening advice, such as telling them to avoid hospital emergency rooms for treatment of a drug overdose. There are also sites that give tips for hiding drugs so they can't be found during a police search, and hints for passing a drug test" (pg 86,para 12). For demonstrative purposes, I used a popular search engine to search for websites on "recipes for Ecstasy" and alarmingly had over 17,100 results.
While surveys and statistical data from different agencies seems to contradict one another when it comes to the rise (or decline) of marijuana use, nearly all results concur on the rise of Ecstasy use. Results have also shown a decrease in cigarette use from 2000 to 2001, as well as "Lifetime heroin use decreased for 10th and 12th graders during the study period" (Annual Survey, chart). Also shown in the statistical data was an increase in steroid use amongst 12th graders and "lifetime, past-year, and past-month use of marijuana remained statistically unchanged from 2000 to 2001 in each grade surveyed" (Annual Survey, chart).
It has been argued that many of these results and statistical data are governed by certain demographics where drug-use is part of the social fabric. People will argue that poor welfare communities are more susceptible to illicit drug-use than suburban middle-class communities.
According to a paper published in the Journal of American Academy of Child Adolescence Psychiatry, results of a sociodemographic and peer research regarding illicit drug-use showed that the risk for initiating illicit drug use increased steadily from ages 12 to 21.
Also, high family conflict, low family bonding, and high peers' antisocial activities predicted higher risk of initiation across this developmental period. "Among all family predictors, family monitoring and rules, family conflict, and family bonding predicted adolescents' risk of illicit drug initiation throughout adolescence. A warm and supportive family environment characterized by a strong bond to family members and a low level of family conflict predicted a lower risk for illicit drug initiation during adolescence" (Sociodemographic, pg8).
It also showed that peer groups worked in conjunction with family groups when it came to illicit drug-use in teenagers. "A higher level of peers' antisocial activity predicted a significantly higher risk of illicit drug initiation in this study. This study also found that a higher level of peers' prosocial activity predicted a significantly lower risk of illicit drug initiation. However, peers' prosocial activity did not predict illicit drug initiation independently of sociodemographic background, other family predictors, and peers' antisocial activity"(sociodemographic, pg8).
Both the family structure and peer groups have an influence at different times, and may work against each other when an individual is deciding on illicit drug-use. The affect of family-bonding tends to decrease after the age of 18, where peer groups have come in and evolved…