Teen drinking down, concern of prescription pill use grows

- Neil King is a junior studying clinical psychology at Augsburg College and says his life changed at 13 years old when he tried drugs for the first time.

“My friend got his wisdom teeth taken out, so we had access to Vicodin," said King. “I actually broke my arm that same year in snowboarding accident and I was prescribed lot of pain medication, and that's where my addiction started with that.”

From there, King says convenience led him to every drug he could get his hands on, including heroin. He's not surprised at all about new statistics showing smoking cigarettes and drinking among teens fell to new lows in 2015. The numbers come from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a federal agency that tracks addiction and mental health issues in the United States. The annual survey questions about 67,000 Americans both teens and adults as young as 12 years old.
The findings show less than 10 percent of adolescents, ages 12 to 17, reported using alcohol in 2015, down from 17.6 percent in 2002. In that same time frame, smoking every day dropped to 20 percent last year from 32 percent.

“Alcohol dropped, but young people have more access to substances than they've ever had before,” said Dr. Joe Lee from  Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation.

“Young people used to start with cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana and graduate up to opiates, heroin,” said Patrice Salmeri from the StepUP Program at Augsburg College.  “They are starting now with prescription painkillers, stealing prescription painkillers with their parents, grandparents.”

Both Salmeri and Lee work with young people battling addiction, and are far more focused on the study findings of 19 million people over 12 years old misusing prescription drugs in the past year.

“Addiction is not going to go away, it's something that is so prevalent,” said King.

That’s why King hopes more people pay attention to the people behind these statistics, and realize there are programs to get sober, just like he is. 

“Two and a half years at the end of the month,” he said.


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