NJCMO Newsletter

What is Substance Use?

Substance use is the use of alcohol, drugs, and other substances that can alter a person’s mood, thinking, and behavior. It is a major public health problem in America and New Jersey, with youth being one of the most vulnerable populations.

There are many different types of substances that youth can use, including:

  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco
  • Cannabis
  • Prescription drugs
  • Illegal drugs

Is substance use among youth on the rise?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, youth substance use is a major public health problem in the United States. 2.08 million, or 8.33% of all 12-17-year-olds in the US report using drugs in the last month. In addition, nearly 5,000 young people die from drug overdoses each year.

Drug use rose 61% among 8th graders between 2016 and 2020 alone.

Why do youth use substances?

There are many reasons why youth may start using substances. Some youth use substances to fit in with their peers, while others may use them to cope with stress or problems in their lives. Some youth are also curious about trying substances, while others may have easy access to them.

In fact, 50% of teenagers have misused a drug at least once, with 62% of 12th graders having abused alcohol in the past. 

What are the risks of youth substance use?

Youth who use substances are at risk for a number of problems, including:

– Academic problems

– behavioral problems

– mental health problems

– Physical health problems

– Social problems

What are the consequences of youth substance use?

There are a number of consequences that youth may face if they use substances, including:

  1. Academic problems: Youth who use substances are more likely to have problems in schools, such as lower grades and attendance.
  2. Behavioral problems: Youth who use substances are more likely to engage in risky behaviors, such as fighting, stealing, and having unprotected sex.
  3. Mental health problems: Youth who use substances are at increased risk for developing mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression.
  4. Physical health problems: Youth who use substances are at increased risk for developing physical health problems, such as liver damage and addiction.
  5. Social problems: Youth who use substances are more likely to have social problems, such as conflict with family and friends.
  6. Juvenile Court & Criminal Charges.

Youth substance use can also be particularly deadly, as 11.2% of all overdose deaths are aged 15 to 24 years.

How can we prevent youth substance use? 

There are a number of things that can be done to prevent youth from using substances, including:

  1. Education: Providing youth with accurate information about substances and their effects can help prevent them from using in the first place.
  2. Early intervention and treatment: If youth are already using substances, early intervention and treatment can help them stop before it becomes a more serious problem.
  3. Parental involvement: Parents play a vital role in prevention by talking to their kids about substance use and setting clear rules and expectations.
  4. Positive youth development: Programs that provide youth with positive activities and role models can help prevent them from using substances.

How can I get help for youth substance use?

If your child or someone you know is struggling with youth substance use, there are a number of places you can put them in contact with to receive help:

– Your doctor

– A mental health professional

– A substance abuse counselor

– A support group

– Rehabilitation facility

– A Care Manager via contacting a Care Management Organization

You can also call the National helpline for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

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