SOURCE: Cumberland Heights

Cumberland Heights

March 26, 2014 12:59 ET

Marijuana, Prescription Drugs Pose Greatest Threat to Adolescent Men

NASHVILLE, TN--(Marketwired - Mar 26, 2014) - In recent months, there has been a growing conversation about marijuana use. Should it be legalized for recreational use or is it a "gateway" drug to more addictive substances? A recent CNN story (http://tinyurl.com/lgfsqms) is just one example of the conversation that puts a fine point on the complexities of the topic.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana use by adolescents declined from the late 1990s until the mid-to-late 2000s but has steadily increased since then. Dr. Chapman Sledge, chief medical officer at Cumberland Heights, finds that enrollment statistics at the highly respected rehabilitation center in Nashville, Tenn., support the trend.

"The majority of young people admitted for treatment here identify marijuana as the beginning of their substance use. In fact, most young people report using marijuana before taking their first drink," Sledge reports. "Without question, marijuana is a drug that can lead to addiction."

In 2013, 15.0 percent of high school seniors used a prescription drug non-medically, according to a survey by the national institute on drug abuse (http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/high-school-youth-trends). Abuse of the opioid pain reliever hydrocodone also remains a top choice for teens, with 5.3 percent of high school seniors reporting non-medical use in 2013. Chapman says the top three drugs for today's teens who come to Cumberland Heights are:

1. Marijuana

2. Opioids

3. Amphetamines

Sledge also worries more about adolescent males who are shown to be more susceptible to addiction than females.

"Addiction develops by repeated exposure to a substance in susceptible individuals. The more immature the brain, the more rapidly it changes with exposure to drugs, which can cause addiction. Males are more likely than females to engage in risky substance use at an earlier age, and, as a result, are more likely to develop an addiction."

Those who are concerned about a teen's drug or alcohol use can help:

  • Start a conversation. Ask them about changes in behavior, express concern and empathize with their life challenges.
  • Encourage them to seek an alcohol / drug assessment. Addicts often try to convince themselves that they don't have a problem. Ask them to undergo an assessment from a local rehabilitation center or private counselor.
  • Maintain boundaries / limits. Continued substance use despite consequences is characteristic of addiction.

Cumberland Heights' acclaimed youth programs offer a continuum of services for adolescent males ages 14 to 18 who are struggling with substance abuse or dependency. Options include a residential program (30 to 60 days) and intensive outpatient treatment. For more information visit cumberlandheights.org.

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