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Tennessee Teen Drug Use on the Rise

Posted on September 1, 2014 in Research & News

Tennessee Teen Drug Use on the RiseTeen substance abuse is rising to alarming rates around the country, but particularly in the state of Tennessee. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists some disturbing statistics for Tennessee teens. Not only are these young people using drugs more and more, they are also using hard drugs like heroin. Experts and officials are concerned about how easy drugs are to access in Tennessee and the inevitably dire consequences for young people.

Teen Drug Problem in Tennessee

News outlets have recently reported that Tennessee ranks No. 1 in the country for use of methamphetamine. A CDC evaluation of risky behaviors by teens in 2013 reveals that 4.4 percent of high school students in Tennessee have used heroin, 4.9 percent have used meth and 4.7 percent have injected any type of drug. The national average for the latter is 1.7 percent. The teens also report being able to buy drugs at school.

As with most areas of the country, prescription drug abuse has been cause for concern in Tennessee. Also at issue is the transition many of these prescription drug abusers are making to cheaper heroin. Both are opioids and provide a similar high. The most troubling fact in the CDC report is that many teens are now using heroin as their first opioid. Without a tolerance created by abusing prescription opioids, teens using heroin for the first time are much more likely to overdose and die.

Why Tennessee Teens?

Some officials and medical caregivers in Tennessee are not surprised by the CDC statistics. Trauma centers and emergency rooms report that they see the most incidents of drug use among teens in the summer months. Experts say that teens turn to drug use when they are bored, have free time and are not supervised. The blame, some say, can be put on the recession in Tennessee. The state has been slower to recover from the economic downturn than others. Many parents have been forced to work two or more low-paying jobs, while teens are not being hired at all. The result is a lot of young people in the state with no jobs to go to and no parents around to watch what they do.

Helping Tennessee Teens

If the reason for the uptick in drug use is boredom and lack of supervision, teens need to be given access to positive activities. One issue holding teens back from doing more positive things is transportation. Many have no access to a vehicle. In Nashville, teens have been given free access to the city buses. This may help them find better ways to spend their time, including attending Boys and Girls Club activities or other centers for at-risk youth.

The problem in Tennessee illustrates the issue that many teens face around the country. While Tennessee may be experiencing a more severe problem than other states, everyone is impacted by the recession and by the easy access to cheap, hard drugs like heroin. Teens are particularly vulnerable, and all adults must take responsibility for preventing them from starting to use drugs or helping them once they have.

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