Youth substance abuse on the rise

Published: Jan. 15, 2019 at 8:11 PM MST
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A recent study shows more than 7,000 high school girls used prescription drugs without a doctors prescription in 2017.

The results are part of the

, which is administered to a sampling of Idaho ninth- through 12th-graders.

"We used to see a lot of marijuana and alcohol use as the primary and we still see that, but for a while, it shifted over to methamphetamine use," said Alexis Pearson, a treatment supervisor for the Treatment and Recovery Center in Twin Falls. "Now, we’re seeing a shift into more opioid and heroin problems in this area."

The Idaho Youth Risk Behavior Survey is part of a national program aimed at understanding behaviors among "youth related to the leading causes of mortality and morbidity among both youth and adults and to assess how these risk behaviors change over time."

Pearson said she's seen children as young as 13 years old coming in to get help.

"It's hard, especially when they get into harder drugs because we know where that's going to lead," she said.

She said it's not uncommon when youth come in and their parents are also addicts.

"Some of the parents aren't naive as we think but then other parents do have the view of, 'Oh, they're just experimenting and it's fine,'" she explained.

She said the more they see addiction and substance abuse in adults, the more she sees it trickle down into adolescents.

"The more normal it seems because it's so common in these areas where families where addiction is prevalent," she said.

The treatment and recovery center in Twin Falls tries to help children and their parents better themselves from substance abuse.

"What are their needs and how can we help both them and their family to treat the problem rather than just, here's education and skills to figure it out," she said. "If we're not addressing what the causes of the problems are, then we're really not addressing the problem."

Keeping an eye on children can help also, by asking questions and knowing what they are talking about, Pearson said.

"It’s OK if your child lies, but go with your gut and follow that if you need to, because it’s better to be safe than sorry later," she said.

Getting the help they need is important to remember, Pearson said.

"The more awareness there is and the more proactive people are the more we can get a hold of the problem of instead of trying to catch up with it later," she said. "The big thing in all of this is, getting help for you or your family member as quickly as possible. Take advantage when someone’s ready."