Aspirus Media Center

Trends in Drug and Alcohol Abuse and the Impact on Young People


Dr. Saba Khan, Aspirus Family Medicine Resident Physician

As society evolves, so do the patterns of substance use among young adults. One notable trend observed by Saba Khan, DO, a Family Medicine Resident Physician at Aspirus Wausau Family Medicine, is the rising prevalence of marijuana and nicotine vaping among young people.


According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (WI DHS), 11 percent of middle schoolers in Wisconsin have experimented with electronic tobacco products, and four percent are current users. These figures notably increase by high school, with 32 percent of students having tried e-cigarettes, and 20 percent considering themselves current users. In Michigan, the OK2SAY student safety program reports that half of high school students have tried vaping, and one out of five currently engages in vaping.


Vaping gained popularity as an alternative to traditional tobacco smoking, maintaining its appeal among younger populations due to a variety of flavor options, accessibility, and its discreet nature. Dr. Khan expresses a major concern: “It can be done indoors and doesn’t have a strong odor like cigarettes, making it easier to use these products in secret.”


The act of vaping involves inhaling steam that comes from hot nicotine liquid. Despite claims of being a healthier alternative to smoking conventional cigarettes, research indicates that vaping still poses health risks, including exposure to harmful chemicals, nicotine addiction, and respiratory issues.


Beyond the medical risks, substance use during adolescence can impede cognitive development, disrupt academic achievement, increase the risk of legal issues, and exacerbate mental health challenges, leading to long-term health consequences.


Dr. Khan underscores the importance of understanding the underlying reasons driving this behavior and promoting healthier coping mechanisms.


"Prevention is key," she emphasizes. “Having an open dialogue and fostering supportive environments can help them feel safe to confide in you when they need help, instead of turning to drugs and alcohol.


National Drugs and Alcohol Facts Week (NDAFW), taking place from March 18-24, serves as a platform for health care professionals, parents, caregivers, and community members to address the realities of substance use among youth and promote preventive measures.


For more information about substance abuse and resources for prevention, consult with a primary care clinician or visit the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) website.



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