(used with Permission)

While the rest of America waits to see what will come of Colorado’s landmark decision to legalize marijuana, others are more concerned with what’s already known about teenagers’ use of America’s third-favorite stimulant.

It was recently reported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institutes of Health that, while the use of synthetic marijuana known as K2 or Spice was down among high school students, use of real pot was actually up. The study, which polled 41,675 students about marijuana use, uncovered troubling behaviors, like 23% of seniors having smoked pot in the month before being surveyed.

But even the attitudes about marijuana use have shifted significantly. The same study also discovered that only 39.5% of high school seniors thought regular marijuana was harmful. In fact, all three groups tested – 8th graders, 10th graders, and 12th graders – saw less danger in smoking pot this year than last year. But when comparing the current attitudes to those from just a decade ago, researchers at the Institutes labeled the noticeable decline in perceived danger a “dramatic” one. But Mary Jane isn’t the only stimulant luring teenagers into a stupor. Good old-fashioned alcohol is still a major player in the lives of young people, too. It’s scary to consider that about 1 in 5 high school girls binge drink, but researchers are “surprised” by the number of teens who “extreme binge drink” (consuming 10 or more drinks in an hour or two). This is even more common with teens who participated in sports.

But it’s not just drugs or alcohol that young people are abusing these days; one preferred substance can be found on the spice rack in kitchens across America. The Cinnamon Challenge, ingesting spoonfuls of cinnamon, isn’t necessarily a “new” concern, but its growing popularity in a short amount of time has the Centers for Disease Control issuing warnings.

It seems there’s no limit to the lengths kids will go to in search of a high – or a rush – these days…regardless of the consequences.

Fortunately, parents can help teenagers steer clear of trouble associated with drugs, alcohol, and yes, even seasonal spices, by taking advantage of the influence made possible by strong relationships. Here are a few solid strategies:

  • Highlight real consequences of drug and alcohol use. No, you don’t have to use scare tactics or show gruesome pictures of mangled bodies and twisted cars, but you can seize opportunities and teachable moments that happen in your community. For example, just about every town has a star athlete (or valedictorian, etc.) who’s made a bad decision with drugs and/or alcohol. You can engage your teens with questions about the consequences of those actions (without belittling the other student).
  • Give them God’s take on controlled substances. God’s Word isn’t quiet on these matters, and if understood correctly, can give tremendous wisdom in learning how to deal with them and their ensuing pressures. The Source for Youth Ministry has several free resources to help you. They all use relevant pieces of pop culture to drive home their important truths.