1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 Smoking
Source: 2002 SAMHSA Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS). 6 Infobase Publishing
Figure 6.4 Smoking is an increasingly popular method for taking methamphetamine among users who wind up in the emergency room as a consequence of taking the drug.
PREDICTIVE FACTORS: WHY DO SOME TEENS CHOOSE TO USE METHAMPHETAMINE?
Based upon over 25 years of surveys, the Overview of Key Findings portion of the Monitoring the Future Survey has determined that there are seven factors that tend to predict the likelihood of drug use by teenagers: awareness, motivations for use, reassurance about safety, a willingness to break social norms by violating the law, personality type, peer approval/disapproval and parental approval/disapproval. These factors are useful for predicting meth use in teens.19, 34
The media play an important role in creating awareness of illegal drugs, although not always intentionally. From news reports headlining "The Meth Epidemic" to antidrug advertisements to dramatic story lines showing favorite actors using drugs (whether advocating their use or taking an antidrug stance), the media introduces drugs to a mass audience.
EIGHT WARNING SIGNS THAT A FRIEND MAY BE USING METH1
• extremely dilated pupils
• dry or bleeding nose and lips
• chronic nasal or sinus problems
• sores on arms and face
• drastic weight loss or anorexia
• an extreme change in school grades
• an extreme change in friends (leaving his or her usual crowd for friends who only get high or are in trouble with the law)
However, a process called generational forgetting can fuel drug awareness.19, 34 Researchers at Monitoring the Future assert that the "speed (meth) kills" slogans of the past are forgotten because the generations who took meth back in the 1960s have been replaced with a younger generation. This younger generation does not know about or remember the adverse effects of meth experienced in the 1960s. According to the MTF, this makes it important to continually pass along information about the potential dangers of methamphetamine from generation to generation. Their statistics suggest that each generation must learn anew to increase their awareness about the hazards of using these drugs. Communities, parents, schools, and lawmakers take this finding seriously, and today continue to build awareness of the consequences of drug use and abuse.
"Meth made me get out of my shell. I didn't want the feeling to go away." "I felt weightless and had a smile ear to ear." "My life was suddenly perfect, and I was perfect. I didn't want it to end. I stayed up for seven days." "I wanted to lose weight. Meth was a fast way to do it." "Meth makes you feel more powerful, like you can do anything."1
There are multiple reasons why teenagers enjoy "getting high," as can be seen from these reactions from teens about their experiences with meth. Others start using meth because they need to study all night or keep up with demanding school and work schedules. Meth is popularly used at all-night parties called raves. Some may use meth out of a sense of curiosity or adventure, the desire to "fit in" with a group of friends, or out of boredom. And, for every generation, defiance of parents can be a motivation to use drugs such as meth.
Some teens use meth to deal with depression, anger, anxiety, and family/school problems in attempts to escape from such problems. These "negative" reasons for getting high are the most common in a teen that has underlying psychological issues. This is especially true for adolescents who may substitute drugs as a coping mechanism rather than developing the skills critical to living a full and functional adult life.16
When deciding to do something, people weigh the pros and cons—the benefits and the risks—and then make a decision. Experts describe this as weighing the "perceived risks" against the "perceived benefits," and use this framework to gain further insights into teenage trends in drug use.
Studies show that information about the perceived benefits of a drug usually spread much faster along teen grapevines, especially on the Internet, than information about the adverse risks of that drug. It usually takes longer for evidence of a drug's risks (i.e., addictive potential, overdose reactions, etc.) to accumulate and then be disseminated. Thus, when a new drug is introduced to teens, like crystal meth in the 1980s, the drug enjoys a considerable "grace period." During this time, a new drug's benefits are popularized while its consequences are not yet known.19, 34
When the perceived risks of using a drug catch up with its perceived benefits, the use of that drug likely will decline. This inverse cause and effect link has been supported by survey results, suggesting that teens who believe a particular drug can harm them are less likely to use that drug. This works in the opposite way as well. Teens who do not perceive any risks about a drug tend to use that drug. Looked at in terms of meth, students who use meth are less likely to disapprove of its use and to see its use as dangerous. 16, 19, 34
The 2005 MTF survey asked high school seniors about the perceived risks of using crystal meth once or twice.19, 34
* Over the 15 year period from 1991 to 2005, there has been a slight decrease in the perceived risk of crystal meth (from 62 percent in 1991 to 55 percent in 2005). This finding is an expected outcome since it corresponds with the slight increase in annual use of crystal meth.
* However, looking only at 2004 and 2005, it is important to note that the perceived risks of using ice actually have increased slightly. It will be interesting to see whether this increase in perceived risk results in a decrease in crystal meth use.
* A substantial majority of 12th graders (over 80 percent) perceive that regular use of any of the illicit drugs entails a great risk of harm for the user.
* Far fewer 12th graders (just over 50 percent) perceive great risk of harm by experimenting with a drug once or twice. Although experimenting with drugs is perceived as less risky than regular use, nevertheless a majority of 12th graders believe experimentation with illicit drugs is risky.
WILLINGNESS TO BREAK SOCIAL NORMS AND VIOLATE THE LAW
Social norms about a drug are deeply influenced both by the drug's legal status and whether or not it is considered dangerous. Since methamphetamine use is illegal, except through rare prescriptions, and considered by many to be harmful, its use is discouraged by most of today's American society. Yet, teenagers as a group often rebel against societal norms, and that rebellion often takes the form of drug abuse. It is not surprising that many teens use meth, or at least experiment with it, despite the consequences of clashing with parents, school authorities, and the law. Beyond the high it provides, meth offers teens the means to rebel against authority. Unfortunately, many do not know that the fast-acting addictive qualities of meth make experimentation with it extremely dangerous.
Researchers have long held the hypothesis that drugs cause a teen to behave or act in certain ways. Drug use in adolescence is associated with such traits as poor school performance, delinquency, acts of violence, laziness, and even mental health problems.16
However, longitudinal studies on adolescents (studies that track the attitudes and behavior of the same "cohort" [group] of students over a period of time) support a very different hypothesis. Results from these studies have shown
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