Adolescents Starting To Use Drugs At Younger Age

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – For months now, drugs have been a major topic in the Sioux Empire.

Police say they’re dealing with more drug-related crimes than ever before, and a drug treatment facility in Sioux Falls says they’ve seen an increase in patients.

But what’s more alarming is those patients are becoming younger and younger.

“The youngest I’ve met with in our group has been either 13 or 14,” says adolescent addiction counselor at Keystone Treatment Center Shelby Olsen.

To Olsen, treating teenagers dealing with substance abuse isn’t out of the norm.

“Since I’ve been doing this that’s kind of where it’s fallen,” she says.

But for many, those ages seems young, and that doesn’t even include when they started to use drugs.

“When I ask about their earliest substance use or if they’ve been in programs before, they can go back to as far as 8,9,10 years old,” says Olson. “Some of them have been to multiple programs before they get to us.”

Olson says in the last 10 years, the Keystone Treatment Center has seen the starting age for drinking and using marijuana go down.

Earlier in the week, Sioux Falls Police arrested a 12-year-old boy for trying to sell 3.7 grams of marijuana to his classmates at Edison Middle School.

Olson says there’s two reasons why kids are getting involved with the drug at an earlier age; people don’t think marijuana is bad for them, and it’s easy to find.

“They can get a hold of it on the internet,” says Olson. “They can get a hold of it through adult dealers and that’s one of the scary things. They’re associating with the adult community who have access to harder drugs.”

So how do parents prevent or treat drug use?

“If we can look at it more as a mental health problem and present it as a disease instead of ‘if you do this you’re going to get into trouble’, I think that might have an impact,” says Olson.

The Sioux Falls School District starts educating their students on drug and alcohol abuse as early as 5th grade.

They also partner with Southeast Behavioral Health for dependency education and counseling for students.

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