Unfortunately the abuse of illegal drugs is not uncommon in today’s adolescent communities. Many teenagers today use illicit drugs as a way to deal with everyday pressures such as school, after school jobs, sports activities, domestic violence and peer pressure. Adolescence has been found to be a period of weakening bonds with parents and strengthening bonds with peers (Flay, 1994). Numerous states have experienced an increase in drug related deaths (http://www. usdoj. gov/dea/stats). More than 1 in 10 of today’s youth aged 12-17 were current users of drugs in 1999 (www. doj. gov/dea/stats).

The number of young adults’ aged 18 to 25 using illicit drugs in 1999 was at a high of 17. 1 percent (www. usdoj. gov/dea/stats). In this paper I will describe some of the most popular drugs in today’s adolescent communities and why the use of illegal drugs is most common between the ages of 12 through 25. I will also describe what the tell-tale signs are in a person with a drug problem and how you can help. Among high school and college students, the drug marijuana is most frequently used in America today.

Marijuana is a tobacco-like substance that varies in its potency, depending on the source and selection of plant materials used (http://www. well. com). Marijuana is usually smoked in the form of loosely rolled cigarettes called “joints, hollowed out commercial cigars called “blunts” and in water pipes called “bongs”. Street names for Marijuana include pot, grass, cannabis, weed, Mary Jane, Acapulco Gold, dope, and reefer. When Marijuana is smoked, THC goes quickly into the blood through the lungs. It then goes to the brain and this is when the “high” is felt.

This can happen within a few minutes and can last up to five hours. There are many reasons why some children and young teens start smoking marijuana. One of the main reasons is because there may be a close family member or friend that may pressure them to try it. Other times, it is because they think it is cool to use marijuana due to societal pressures; they hear songs about it on the radio and see it on TV and in movies. “Whether it’s from TV, movies, or music, young people are receiving too many mixed messages about marijuana” says Donna E.

Shalala, U. S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (Sora, 1997, page 69). According to one study, marijuana use by teenagers who have prior anti-social problems can quickly lead to dependence of the drug (T. J Crowley, 1998, page 57). Statements such as “everybody is doing it” or “it will make you feel good” highly influence middle school and high school students. Usually at the time that the drug is being offered, potential users do not think about the harm this drug can cause in the future.

Marijuana is also very popular in today’s community because adolescents are turned off by the harder drugs and believe that pot is not a gateway drug that may lead to more lethal substances (Sora, 1997, page 71). While marijuana users do not move on to harder drugs, smoking weed does increase a teen’s chances of being exposed, according to the National Institute of Drug abuse in Washington, D. C (Sora, 1997, page 71). So why do teens smoke marijuana? After many case studies and psychological theories “curiosity” is often the most logical reason. Ecstasy the common name for MethyleneDioxyMethAmphetamine.

Ecstasy (E) is a synthetic drug usually sold as small tablets, which come in a variety of colors and sizes. It is also available as a powder and can be snorted or injected. The effects of ecstasy depend on various factors, individually: the amount taken, the users experience with the drug and their expectations (http://www. gethereforfreeinformation. com). The effects of ecstasy can also depend on the quality and purity of the drug, starting about an hour after being taken and lasting up to six hours. Ecstasy may also produce a “hangover” effect. Like marijuana, adolescents use ecstasy because of peer pressure.

Many teens turn to this drug because it is as an escape from a variety of problems that they might be experiencing at home or in school. Others use ecstasy because of the “euphoric” feeling this particular drug produces. Ecstasy is very common at parties called “raves” or at many underground clubs. Many adolescents take this drug just to “feel big” and “show off” in front of their peers. Cocaine is a white crystalline powder usually produced in South America and is extracted from the coca plant. Cocaine users often inhale the powder through the nose where it is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream.

Cocaine can also be heated into a liquid and its fumes inhaled through a pipe in a method called “freebasing”. Freebasing is also a common method of using a form of cocaine called “crack”. Reports of sudden deaths while using crack cocaine are not uncommon because of the high dosages of cocaine that enter the bloodstream while inhaling. Although cocaine is uncommon in middle and high school students due to the cost, teenagers are curious to experiment because of the drug abuse among adult role models such as athletes, entertainers, businessmen and women, and professionals.

However, cocaine is very popular among the ages of 18 through 25 because it is very accessible (www. cocainethfacts. org). Cocaine is a very expensive drug that most teenagers cannot afford; this is why they turn to the cheaper drugs such as marijuana, ecstasy and heroin. The addiction to this drug can become both psychological and physical it can also cause depression when the drug is not available (Sora, 1997, page 91). Cocaine users often complain of eating and sleeping disorders and anxiety.

Despite all the negative side effects people become so dependent of this drug that in most cases, it can cost a person their life (Miller, 2000, page 38). Cocaine users become addicts because they convince themselves that this drug will allow them to perform efficiently in their day to day responsibilities. Most college students feel this drug will allow them to stay awake to complete assignments and/or job responsibilities. Unlike young teens peer pressure is not the main cause of drug addiction in college level students but it is not unheard of.

Lastly, heroin is a drug that comes from the opium poppy. Heroin (also called smack, skag, hammer, H, or horse) is in the class of drugs called depressant, because it slows down the brain and central nervous system (http://www. getithereforfreeinformation. com). Heroin usually comes in powder form and can be injected, smoked or snorted. It is absorbed in the blood and effects the brain within minutes. Unfortunately, despite all the damaging side effects heroin can cause to the body and brain, it is still used by today’s youth and young adults.

Why is heroin so common despite the dangerous side effects? Many say that it is highly promoted in the entertainment business, others say, “heroin is in our cultural bloodstream” (Sora, 1997, page 91). Today’s youth usually start experimenting with heroin because this drug overwhelms them, taking over their thoughts and emotions. It is known to be an escape from the “real world”. Heroin is a highly addictive drug and it is very easy to develop a need and a tolerance for this drug almost immediately after the first or second use.

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