Way back when, drugs were the domain of losers where back-alley transactions and inner-city ghettos were the only places to score. Not anymore. In the same way that tattoos have gone mainstream, drugs have come out of the ghetto and can be found everywhere. Partly to blame are some of the entertainment figures and the type of lyrics put into the heads of impressionable teens. The amount of celebrities that go in and out of rehab is in the news continually. We all observe these celebrities coming out of rehab, seemingly doing OK, and so it seems OK. Overdo drugs and just go to rehab. Come out and all seems fine. No biggie. Even the high-profile overdose deaths do not make drug use diminish. These high-profile celebrities using drugs are the role models of today. MTV and even TV programs are showing drug use as not such a big deal.

Peer pressure, as always, is a big part of teen years. Nowadays, since even the “nice” kids use, the pressure to use oftentimes is overwhelming. When you are a teenager and most of your friends are getting high, you risk being an outsider if you do not use, and that is too big a risk to take. Only the strongest can resist.

So of course, with role models using, stigma has been diminished, and we find ourselves in the midst of a true epidemic. Not a day goes by without seeing some celebrity coming out of a club looking wasted.

Many kids observe their parents drinking, and even some misguided parents will smoke pot with their teens. Drinking is not considered such a big deal because it is legal, part of celebrations and everyday life, and since all you have to do is wait until you are of age, why not just start sooner?

Add to that the whole pill-taking society for every imaginable reason, and so taking a pill has become simply part of the growing-up experience. Depressed? Take a pill. Overweight? Take a pill. Can’t sleep? Take a pill. Trouble concentrating? Take a pill. So of course teens don’t find it strange to take pills to be happier, higher, cool.

Without stigma attached to using drugs, there is little to persuade curious teens not to use, especially since using is happening everywhere.
The unparalleled access teens have to each other due to texting no longer lets parents actually know what is truly going on. Additionally, more and more households have both parents at work, leaving teens access to privacy as never before. The amount of drinking is unimaginable to most parents of teenagers. Every home has alcohol in one form or another, and access is easy.

Older siblings turn on their younger siblings. Counselors in camps turn on their charges. Cooler older classmates get their younger counterparts to try any number of drugs. Because of the current attempts and successes of closing down the so-called pill mills, more youngsters are trying the more easily attained heroin. You read that right, heroin! Statistics tell us 8 percent of eighth graders use heroin. Even heroin has lost its stigma. Even though you can snort heroin, more people inject because the high is quicker and more intense. Even the distasteful delivery of the drug by injection has not proven to be a deterrent.

The use of meth (methamphetamine) is on the rise. This drug is one of the most destructive of all. Meth can be smoked, snorted, or injected. The high from meth can last from six to twenty-four hours, unlike cocaine in which the high can be over in half an hour. Meth is the most abused hard drug. There are more meth users than those using cocaine and heroin combined. Crystal meth is called the poor man’s cocaine. After about six months of using meth, your teeth start to decay and rot. This is because meth inhibits the flow of saliva, which is necessary to keep teeth and tissue moist. Meth users also go through psychotic episodes where they think bugs are crawling under their skin, and many have harmed themselves attempting to get rid of the bugs, which are called crank bugs. Meth destroys the part of the brain that generates dopamine, the feel-good chemical, and so it is impossible to feel pleasure from anything except more meth. Yet even with all this information available, people start to use meth as they chase the next high.

The incredible use of teenage drug using is also the cause of unwanted pregnancy and the spread of STDs. Who knows how many kids do not even finish school because of using drugs?

Where are the role models speaking out against drugs? Where are the ethical standards for rappers and other entertainment idols to use their influence for good? Nowhere, that’s where.

Teens I have spoken to who are able to withstand the pressure do so because their parents started at their young ages and talked and talked and talked about staying away from drugs. Regardless and unfortunately, more teens are starting to experiment with drugs anyway. It’s one thing to hear what parents say and quite another thing to succumb to peer pressure.

Still, conversation must begin early; parents need to beat the lure of the forbidden and the need for their kids to feel they fit in. Make no mistake, this is not easy. There is no longer the stigma of old to help parents. Most every young adult in rehab started using and experimenting in their early teens. It is highly unusual to learn of an addict that started using in late teen years or later. Of course, there are those that did start later, but they are truly the exception.

Nowadays, the nice kids are using, thereby overturning the stigma once associated with drugs as a ghetto problem.

We are losing this battle. What can we do to not lose the war?