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Increase in number of drug-related teenage deaths causes concern

Hannah Stoller, Doubletruck Editor

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For most of the students currently in high school, motor vehicle accidents have always been stressed as the major cause of death in teens. Emotional commercials encouraging people not to text and drive air on television, schools bring in texting-and-driving and drunk driving simulations and parents constantly worry about their children’s safety driving home from parties and texting in the car. However, the leading cause of death in the United States has recently changed, and this may cause a shift in concerns and attitudes of educators and students.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), since 2009, more people have died each year from drug poisoning than from motor vehicle crashes. For so long, everyone has assumed that car crashes cause the most deaths in the country; however, this new data suggests that the population should be more wary and educated on the dangers of drug overdoses. Dr. Lisa Hadley, Clinical Director for the Maryland Mental Hygiene Administration and the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration, discusses what types of drugs are most often involved in the deaths.

“The majority of overdose deaths are related to the use of heroin and/or opiod pain medications like Percocet, Oxycodone and others,” Dr. Hadley said.

While these drugs most frequently cause death, others have equally harmful effects that people, especially teenagers, may not realize exist.

“Heroin and opiods, in addition to alcohol, can slow or stop breathing,” Dr. Hadley said. “Amphethetamine, Methamphetamine, Cocaine, and Ecstasy can cause brain damage, heart attacks, and a dangerous increase in body temperature.”

Many teens may think that they know which drugs to avoid and which would not cause physical detriment, Dr. Hadley stresses that they should stay away from drugs altogether.

“There are no harmless drugs—particularly for teenagers,” Dr. Hadley said. “The human brain is not fully developed until a person is in his/her 20s. The use of drugs in teenage years can affect brain development.”

With the number of teenage drug overdoses increasing rapidly, one may wonder what drives these adolescents to ever begin engaging in that activity. According to Dr. Hadley, most people start doing drugs in order to deal with the hardships in their lives.

“Some examples [of reasons why people do drugs] include peer pressure or to fit in with social groups, a way to cope with depression, anxiety or stress, curiosity, or boredom,” Dr. Hadley said.

Just starting this behavior, however, can pose many issues for the user later on, as drugs tend to have an addictive quality. Once people become addicted to a drug, they increase their chances of compromising their health and approaching the possibility of death.

“Some teenagers may develop an addiction or drug dependency, making it hard to stop using drugs,” Dr. Hadley said. “Depending on the drugs, this can cause physical illness when they try to stop.”

Although teachers and parents try their best to educate their students and children about the dangers of drugs, many continue their behavior with the impression of invincibility.

“Teenagers are likely to think that the bad effects of using drugs, including death, won’t happen to them,” Doctor Hadley said. “They are more likely to focus on the immediate effect that they will get from using the drug rather than the long range harm.”

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The student news site of Pikesville High School
Increase in number of drug-related teenage deaths causes concern