Drug abuse is a significant societal problem that is being aggravated by the current emergence of new synthetic drugs. Technological advancements and the proliferation of the internet have fostered the development and dissemination of synthetic drugs, such as methamphetamine and ecstasy. The majority of the new drugs are created through the synthesis of strong chemicals and are, thus more potent, highly addictive, and luring to youths than traditional substances, such as marijuana. The new synthetic drugs also pose public health challenges as they are not only difficult to trace and test but are also dangerous, thus exposing several youths to both physical and mental health risks. The increasing use of new drugs among the youth is a significant public health concern due to the adverse effects of the drugs despite the rising number of emergency (ER) visits.
New Synthetic Drugs
Numerous new drugs with divergent implications have emerged in America and threaten to worsen the problem of drug abuse among the youth. According to the Global Drug Survey 2019, there is a spike in the usage of new illicit drugs and substances, such as synthetic cathinones and methamphetamine, in America (Shapira et al., 2020). New illegal substances are made in laboratories through the synthesis of strong chemicals or traditional drugs, such as marijuana. Synthetic cathinones are formed through the chemical synthesis of cathinone, an integral element of khat, which is known for its potency (Shapira et al., 2020). Methamphetamine is a powerful and highly addictive stimulant chemically synthesized from its parent drug, amphetamine (Shapira et al., 2020). Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), commonly referred to as Acid, is also a new illicit substance derived from lysergic acid (Shapira et al., 2020). Synthetic cathinones, methamphetamines, and LSD are powerful and highly addictive, and thus, have negative health implications for the American youth.
Statistical Data on Synthetic Drug Abuse and (ER) Visits
Statistical data indicate the existence of a strong correlation between synthetic drug abuse and ER visits among American youth. A national survey conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse revealed that there were more than 28,531 ER visits linked to synthetic drug abuse in 2018 alone, with 30% of the patients being female (Spencer et al., 2020). Notably, 78% of the patients of these ER visits are aged between 12 and 29 years old, thus indicating that the majority of synthetic drug users are the youth (Spencer et al., 2020). The Annual Surveillance Report of Drug-Related Risks and Outcomes 2018 shows that Delaware, Oklahoma, Alabama, Tennessee, and Vermont are the leading states in terms of ER visits related to synthetic drug abuse having registered a total of 12,657 visits (Spencer et al., 2020). According to Spencer et al. (2020), in all four states, the most commonly abused new illicit drugs by the youth are synthetic cannabis and methamphetamine. A 2017 study conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse revealed that the four leading races with regard to synthetic drug abuse in America are non-Hispanic White (5.9%), non-Hispanic Black (2.9%), Hispanic (1.8%), and Alaska Native (5.7%) (Cano, 2020; Lippold & Ali, 2020). The statistics on ER visits and synthetic drug abuse indicate how big a problem new drugs are to the American youth.
Factors Contributing to Drug Abuse by the Youth
Drug abuse among the youth is a result of the amalgamation of several factors, such as the easy accessibility of synthetic drugs, peer pressure, and ignorance. The ease of access to new synthetic drugs and substances has massively fueled the ever-increasing problem of drug abuse among the youth. Most of the synthetic drugs, such as synthetic cathinones and LSD, have unregulated prices and are, therefore, cheap and easily accessible to the youth (Shapira et al., 2020). Lippold and Ali (2020) argue that more than 70% of the youth who abuse drugs were hooked to the habit primarily due to peer pressure. Through peer pressure, youths are easily influenced by their friends into doing drugs. Family problem is also another factor that contributes to drug abuse among youths. Mills et al. (2015) aver that youths hailing from families rocked with problems, whether financial or marital woes, are more likely to engage in drug use and abuse compared to those from stable families. Ignorance of the effects of new drugs is also a contributing factor to drug abuse among the youth. A majority of youths use synthetic drugs as they are ignorant of their negative health impacts.
Drug Abuse Control Measures
The American government has put in place several measures aimed at curbing the problem of drug abuse among the youth in the nation. The creation of awareness campaigns on substance abuse is a strategy that the American government has continuously relied on to fight drug abuse among the youth. The American government has invested massively in drug sensitization programs, such as the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) movement aimed at teaching American youths the effects of drug abuse (Cano, 2020). The American federal government in partnership with several state governments, such as California, are collaborating to train emergency standby health teams to deal with any substance abuse crisis (Cano, 2020). Cano (2020) posits that the trained standby medical teams help in the fight against drug abuse by not only offering medical services, but also providing counseling services to drug addicts. The American government is also combating the societal problem of drug abuse by setting tight regulations in the pharmaceutical industry. The pharmaceutical industry is the source of all the chemicals used for the synthesis of new drugs, such as methamphetamine. Therefore, the stringent regulation of the pharmaceutical industry is key to minimizing the production of synthetic drugs in America.
Several recommendations can be adopted by the American government to complement their existing measures towards the fight against drug abuse among the youth. The government should increase the affordability and accessibility of drug abuse treatment. Currently, more than 67% of drug addicts cannot access drug treatment programs as they are quite expensive (Shapira et al., 2020). Lowering the costs of drug treatment programs will make them more accessible and will encourage drug addicts to seek rehabilitation, thus refraining from drug abuse. The government should also come up with mentoring, tutoring, and work-study programs for the youth. The mentoring and work-study programs will keep the majority of the youths engaged in productive endeavors, thus reducing their predisposition to drug use. Mentoring and tutoring programs can also be used to tackle the problem of peer pressure that fuels drug abuse among the youth.
The emergence of new synthetic drugs worsens the problem of drug abuse among youths in America. Synthetic drugs, such as methamphetamines and LSD, are potent and highly addictive, thus posing a huge drug abuse problem among the youth. That synthetic drugs are easily accessible and cheap makes them widely abused by youths from all racial backgrounds in America. Though the issue of drug abuse is difficult to address, particularly with the emergence of synthetic drugs, the American government should focus on mentoring the youth and providing them with work opportunities. Mentorship and work programs will predispose a majority of the youth from drug abuse. The increasing use of new drugs among the youth is a significant public health concern due to the adverse effects of the drugs despite the rising number of emergency (ER) visits.
Cano, M. (2020). Racial/Ethnic Differences in U.S. Drug Overdose Mortality, 2017-2018. Addictive Behaviors, 106625. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2020.106625
Lippold, K., & Ali, B. (2020). Racial/ethnic differences in opioid-involved overdose deaths across metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas in the United States, 1999-2017. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 108059. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2020.108059
Mills, B., Yepes, A., & Nugent, K. (2015). Synthetic cannabinoids. The American Journal of The Medical Sciences, 350(1), 59-62. https://doi.org/10.1097/MAJ.0000000000000466
Shapira, B., Berkovitz, R., Rosca, P., & Neumark, Y. (2020). Recent use of synthetic cannabinoids, synthetic opioids, and other psychoactive drug groups among high-risk drug users. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 1-10. https://doi.org/10.1080/02791072.2020.1754534
Spencer, M. R., Flagg, L. A., Jackson, G., DeFrances, C., & Hedegaard, H. (2020). National hospital care survey demonstration projects: opioid-involved emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and deaths. Retrieved from https://stacks.cdc.gov/view/cdc/89321