Teen Methamphetamine Use is Rising: Here’s Why

Drug trends are constantly changing. What might be a popular drug of choice today, can easily be obsolete in several years. This is often due to many factors including access, awareness and the prevalence of new, emerging drugs. One drug that appears to be on the rise is methamphetamine. In fact, amongst Americans over the age of 12, research suggests that its use was higher in 2013, with 595,000 current users, compared with 353,000 users in 2010. 1.3 percent of 10th graders alone say they’ve tried meth at some point in their lives. So what does this mean for you and your teen? Here’s what you need to know about this rising drug trend.

Effects of Methamphetamine

First of all, it’s important to understand the effects of methamphetamine, particularly amongst teenage users. Put simply, meth affects dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain, making the user feel happy or euphoric. It also affects norepinephrine, leading to an increased sense of alertness or wakefulness. Finally, serotonin levels are also affected, leading to a change in the user’s mood and sometimes causing irritability.

Some common side effects include anxiety, paranoia, mood swings, lack of appetite, hallucinations, seizures and even psychosis.

Meth can also be dangerous because it’s commonly “laced” with other, unknown substances so it’s quite likely that the user isn’t even sure what they are putting into their body.

Teenagers Drug Risks

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Why Would Teens Use Meth?

With all of these risks and negative side effects, why might teens use meth?

One recent and significant study out of Australia shows that methamphetamine abuse has become an increasingly common drug of choice amongst teens who are admitted into rehab programs. Researchers also found associations between meth use and number of places lived and enrolment in a special class at school, suggesting that young people who may have difficulties at school or unstable living conditions may be at a higher risk of methamphetamine use.

The study also suggested that the increase in use was also because meth has become more available as its price went down and its manufacture increased, a trend which has also been seen in the United States as meth trades from Mexico have risen. In other words, for teens, cheaper drugs are often more appealing and if trades of the drugs have risen, that likely means it’s easier to access.

One other study also suggests that teens with a traumatic brain injury are four times more likely to use methamphetamine than teens who haven’t experienced this sort of brain trauma.

Finally, it’s important to look at the desired effects of the drug to understand why teens might use it. Feelings of euphoria, happiness and alertness are all desired feelings amongst teens – especially if they are feeling particularly stressed out or depressed.

Teen Meth Use

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Moving Forward

Of course, with these factors in mind, it’s important to consider how you can take proactive steps as a parent to support your teen. If your teen has troubles in school, has had an unstable living environment or had experienced a brain injury, you now know that it’s important to watch for signs of drug abuse. More broadly, however, supporting your teen through stressful times or through periods of low moods is also important, as is educating your teen on the risks and realities of methamphetamine use.

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