Substance abuse is one of the most disheartening vices facing this generation in many regions across the globe. The rate of substance abuse has risen rapidly over the past two decades, with more people succumbing to drug addiction as each year passes. Many governments are allocating huge budgetary amounts and resources to curb substance abuse through preventive measures, treatment of addicts and fighting high levels of drug trade.
Amid the rise in drug availability and affordability in many of our social environments, there is an emerging new trend in today’s youth drug culture highlighted by a decrease in the number of teenagers abusing drugs today. The ‘generation Z’ of 2017, which is made of young adults aged between 12-24 years old, seem to be shifting from the reckless intoxication of drug abuse that has for a long time been associated with teenagers into newer behavioral patterns.
Take a step back from media reports, and it might be completely impossible to fathom the fact that teenagers might be getting less high on drugs today compared to the youth in the 90s and 2000s. Unbelievable as it may sound, this is the other side of the coin that we need to embrace as a society.
According to World Drug Report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (2016), drug prevalence and abuse continues to be stable or decline in many parts of the world among teenagers.Alcohol, tobacco, prescription drug abuse, heroine and other illicit hardcore substances have been on a decline especially in cases of long-term use, with marijuana maintaining a stable level over the past year.
While many of the conditions foster the a rise in drug abuse among young adults and children, most evidence shows that less teenagers are willing to get high on drugs with fewer teens engaging in smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol. So why are teenagers, who have often been the targeted customers in the drug trade, losing interest?
Well, this bright spot in the fight against drug abuse can be attributed to various factors such as a shift in socio-economic dynamics and attitudes that have propelled today’s teenagers in a whole new direction. There is a robust of things that excites the ‘Snapchat’ and ‘Instagram’ generation with the most crucial factor of relating to self image on the internet. This can all be traced back to the fact that young adults today are getting a new high off their smart phones through the internet.
Every social medial platform today is filled with the obsession of looking good and body perfection. Technology has created a whole new world of vanity and image consciousness. There is class of teenagers today that are obsessed with fitness, yoga, organic foods, going natural and staying healthy. It’s the new trend, like a ‘don’t do drugs, instead drink a kale smoothie’ new kind of generation, pushing more teenagers to embrace ‘smoothies’ rather than alcohol to get that perfect body for an Instagram post.
Emma, 21, a university student says ‘‘I don’t do drugs, not because of any religious reasons just because drugs don’t make me look good online. I want to look good and healthy all the time, it’s the new cool’’. Victor, who just turned 18 years on the other hand, says as much as he can get access to drugs, he doesn’t have the time to indulge in such activities. He further says ‘’When am at home, am always on my laptop playing video game, if am hanging out with my friends, there is always a game to play and drugs just seem like a waste of time’’
It is amazing to think that as much as teenagers spend way too much time on their computers and smart phones, technology is gradually playing an important role in discouraging drug abuse among young adults. Playing video games and use of social medial platforms may have their fair share of disadvantages. Nevertheless, researchers worldwide are gradually unanimously agreeing that these interactive media channels offer an alternative ‘high’ for teens, hence fostering the fight on drug abuse, with has far more diverse negative effects.
While there is very little definitive research evidence on the correlation between decline in drug abuse among teens and technology, it would be ignorant to completely rule out the possibilities. Smartphone usage especially among teenagers provides a perfect tool for socializing even without meeting other users.
The isolated socialization acts as a major catalyst for reduced indulgence in social drug use such as smoking and drinking. Additionally, smart phones have turned its user into paparazzi in waiting. With a social paranoia of getting caught on camera doing something silly, teenagers prefer to skip getting high since it might backfire and tarnish a their public image for life, something many young teens are unwilling to risk.
Today, it’s almost socially acceptable to say that you are not drinking or smoking. Anna, 19 says that even at those parties where a blunt of weed is being passed around, it’s perfectly okay to turn down the offer. ‘‘I have done that severally, and nobody judged me or treated me differently’’, says Anna. She admits to smoking weed occasionally but says, ‘‘I don’t indulge as often as I did when I was first introduced, because now most of the time I am on my phone even when around friends who smoke’’.
While it seem that technology is the new high for teens and a substitute for drug abuse such as drinking and smoking, experts still warn that this is just a new form of escapism and it doesn’t not necessarily make the world a much happier place. However, as gadgets consume a huge percentage of teenagers’ time, they also definitely provide access to a variety of information on mental health and personal wellness.
On the down side, some parents are not receptive to this new ‘high’ among teenagers. Gaming addiction is increasing rampant among young people and a worrisome trend for parents. Alex, 45, a father of two daughters and a school counselor says, ‘‘Sometimes, I worry more that my two daughters are addicted to their phones, than drugs. I would rather deal with a teenager who is smoking weed, than addicted to their Smartphone. There is no cure for that type of addiction’’.
In all honestly, many years after the introduction of technology into our world, many people are still getting around its pros and cons, trying to find a neutral path in accepting its relevance in our lives. In many areas, technology has had the chance to impact positive changes. Notably, keeping teenagers off drugs is manifesting to be one of its latest positive influences.
It cannot be exclusively proven that the menace of drug abuse will be completely eradicated in the next decades, because, let’s face , technology or no technology, drug use is also carried out for the purposes of pleasure and teens will always be party animals. Conversely, we can appreciate the little steps that are being achieved in curbing the use of illicit substance in the daily lives of our youths, hoping that this will be a positive step in cleaning up the worrisome drug culture among young people.