"Just Say No" has been an idealistic and simplistic hope that teens
will simply have the will power or skills necessary to avoid peer
pressure to avoid using drugs. Logic and reason seem to have bounced off modern adolescents. A number of factors are contributing to the fact that American teens use more drugs and alcohol than their global counterparts. While naively hoping teens will avoid drug usage, modern America's adults lead the world in legal drug usage. Youth workers need to understand how the pervasiveness of drugs, both legal and illegal, impact how teens feel and act around drugs.
Inherent to adolescence is a universal drive to experience
Non-Ordinary States of Consciousness but no safe model or cultural ceremonial means to do so exists. Indeed, it is a universal human trait to desire to alter one?s consciousness. Historically and cross-culturally, this has been done without high addiction rates through ceremony and ritual, declining aspects of modern society. If adolescents are not given healthy access to altered states, we can continue to expect them to take unhealthy paths to altered consciousness.
Finally, the continued breakdown of the modern family leads to deep adolescent discontent and the need to medicate emotions. As cultural teen psychology becomes more pathological, and clinical practitioners medicate more youth, teens are becoming addicted on more and more levels than just recreationally. The proclivity of prescribed medications has reached almost epidemic proportions as parents, teachers and doctors try to control teen behavior with medication, then try paradoxically to teach the same teens not to use drugs to alter their behavior. Alternatives to drugs and a discussion of adolescent addiction vs. adult addiction will be included.
Bret Stephenson is an adolescent counselor who has worked with teens from more than 100 countries. Specializing in archetypal adolescent approaches, he specializes in issues related to the loss of initiation and rites of passage.
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