News Herald – Juliann Talkington
Is your wise, well-adjusted teen really drug abuse proof?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse more than 660,000 Americans used heroin in 2012, double the number six years earlier. Most of the new heroin users are young adults, age 18-25.
Because illicit drug and alcohol use among middle and high school students has been relatively steady, the increase has gone largely unnoticed by parents with school age children. Even though there is no immediate threat to younger kids, it is probably wise for parents to take notice.
With the weak economy, there is concern that college students and recent college graduates may be turning to drugs as a cheap way to cope with employment prospects and debt.
Finding high quality employment is challenging. About 40% of the recent college graduates are unemployed, 16% have part time jobs, and many of those that do have jobs are stuck in assignments that do not require a college degree. According to a recent Gallop/Purdue University poll, about 70% of college graduates have debt. The average debt is more than $33,000, up from $18,600 in 2004. Among those who took the poll, 11% took out more than $50,000 and an additional 21% borrowed between $25,000 and $50,000.
Between job woes and loan payment stress, it is easy to understand why this age group is under pressure.
How can parents help?
It is imperative for parents understand that the job market has changed. Good jobs, regardless of the field, require outstanding math, science, communication, and critical thinking skills.
Then parents need to talk with their children about the financial realities of higher education. Higher education only makes sense when the cost, including loans, is low compared to the income generated after graduation. Otherwise, kids should pursue a trade that has good earning potential and low entry costs like plumbing, hair dressing, and real estate.
Finally parents should think critically about high cost sports and arts activities. Frequently the costs of teachers, coaches, and travel reduces the money a family can save and may force a child to accept admission to a college where the prospects of high quality employment are low.
Making sure your child has strong math and science skills, carefully selecting extra curricular activities, and evaluating the need for higher education can decrease pressure and reduce the chance your child will turn to drugs to cope with financial stress.