According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), marijuana use by adolescents declined from the late 1990s until the mid-to-late 2000s but has steadily increased since then. Chapman Sledge, MD, chief medical officer at Cumberland Heights, finds that enrollment statistics at the rehabilitation center in Nashville, Tenn., support the trend.
"The majority of young people admitted for treatment here identify marijuana as the beginning of their substance use. In fact, most young people report using marijuana before taking their first drink," Sledge reports. “Without question, marijuana is a drug that can lead to addiction.”
In 2013, 15 percent of high school seniors used a prescription drug non-medically, according to a survey by NIDA. Abuse of the opioid pain reliever hydrocodone also remains a top choice for teens, with 5.3 percent of high school seniors reporting non-medical use in 2013. Chapman says the top three drugs for today's teens who come to Cumberland Heights are:
Sledge also worries more about adolescent males who are shown to be more susceptible to addiction than females.
“Addiction develops by repeated exposure to a substance in susceptible individuals. The more immature the brain, the more rapidly it changes with exposure to drugs, which can cause addiction. Males are more likely than females to engage in risky substance use at an earlier age, and, as a result, are more likely to develop an addiction.”