Current Drug Abuses
When we consider the problem of drug abuse in society, we naturally think about the most common of them, such as alcohol, marijuana and such like. Maybe we know some personally who have struggled with harder drugs (i.e., cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin). However, these that I have faced in my youth are now giving way to alternate substances and addictions, especially in the current generation of our youth. Please allow me to discuss a few of them.
First, the problems with substance abuse begin with obtaining common items around the house and abusing their use. I remember hearing about peers who would sniff glue, and I am sure that I had a large magic marker that was so big that if I had sniffed long enough, I would have gotten high (although I never did). Today, the term is called “huffing,” which has to do with inhaling household products. Unfortunately, this age-old practice of substance abuse has not faded away, and experts have begun to see an increase in teenagers huffing a computer cleaner called “Dust-Off,” a trend that began several years ago and is still ongoing. Easily obtained at retail stores like OfficeMax or Office Depot, youth are inhaling such to produce a high that lasts from a few seconds to a few minutes. Harvey Weiss, executive director of the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition, said, “One of the attractions is that it can be felt almost immediately. You don’t have to wait for something to happen.” Nevertheless, this particular substance abuse can cause nausea, nosebleeds, impaired coordination and, in some cases, even death. According to a study from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, in 2010, about two million children ages twelve to seventeen had tried inhalants, the most popular being glue, shoe polish or toluene (a solvent). In addition, when considering common household objects and substance abuse, I must also mention Pharm parties—parties in which children bring medication from their medicine cabinets, throw them on a table, and pick through them, popping them as if they were candy. In fact, they are often referred to as “Skittles parties,” because of the amount of brightly colored pills. This is another rapidly gaining popular abuse of drugs, including OxyContin, Vicodin and such like. A report from researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention several years ago found that more people die each year from prescription painkiller overdoses than from heroin and cocaine overdoses combined! According to Dr. Petros Levounis, director of the Addiction Institute of New York, “Addiction to prescription opioids has become the most important problem we face.”
Second, I am not only concerned with the insurgence of energy drinks in recent years, but I am especially alarmed at the studies showing the effect that such is having on elementary school children. Even with the absence of alcohol, parents must understand that these highly caffeinated energy drinks are dangerous to the health of children. According to Mike Gimbel, a national substance abuse educator, “Energy drinks are gateway for elementary school kids. They drink it like it’s water. Nurses have kids coming in with heart palpitations.” He goes on to say that elementary school students are even fascinated by caffeinated gel strips that one places on the tongue—one strip is equal to a cup of coffee, but children are putting five or six in their mouth at once! Therefore, one overdoses on caffeine just after three or four. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, overconsumption of caffeine, especially in young children with smaller bodies, can cause seizures, strokes or even sudden death.
Third, vaping is becoming a quite popular means of substance abuse. In case you are not familiar with this term, Oxford English Dictionary chose the word “vape” as its word of the year last year in 2014 (always trying to predict trends on the rise, they selected the term “selfie” in 2013). The term indicates “to inhale and exhale the vapor produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device.” Unfortunately, the CDC reported last year that e-cigarette use has tripled among teenagers in just two years! More than a quarter of a million youth who had never smoked a cigarette used electronic cigarettes in 2013. In fact, the CDC also found that 44% of nonsmoking youth who began using e-cigarettes said that they intended to smoke conventional cigarettes within the next year. According to the figures from last year, 4.5% of high school students use them on a regular basis, and 12% have tried them at least once. One of the leading problems with this is that some people believe the false notion that vaping is a decent/safe alternative to smoking tobacco products, and we are beginning to see statistics roll in to prove otherwise. According to the recent study this year by the American Physiological Society, the nicotine in e-cigarettes is just as harmful as that which is in conventional tobacco cigarettes.
Any substance abuse is harmful to the body, which is the temple of God (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Rather than taking in substances that are detrimental to the body (and by doing so, conforming to the world in the process), we are to present our bodies as living sacrifices that are pleasing to God (Rom. 12:1-2). The apostle Paul warned against anything addictive to the bodies (cf. 1 Cor. 6:12), and to the brethren in Thessalonica, he gave an admirable command for this subject: “Abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thess. 5:22). The desire of all of these substances directly correlates to an inordinate desire of fleshly things (cf. Rom. 6:12; 2 Cor. 7:1; Gal. 5:24; 1 Pet. 2:11). May we all, especially parents, educate ourselves to these sinful current trends of substance abuse, and may we all lead the way to living godly lives!