It is often said that our generation is growing up faster – and facing more significant obstacles – than many generations in the past. While the validity of this statement is dubious, there is one thing that is clear. Today’s young people have more access to hard, addictive drugs than ever before. Throughout the country, drugs like heroin and cocaine are spreading quickly. Prescription drug abuse is also a major issue, from school-related drugs like Adderall to painkillers and other pills. Alcohol, too, can become a major problem, as today’s teens are better able to get their hands on drinks that could potentially lead to addiction.

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This problem has two potential avenues that could provide a solution. First, prevention is important, and keeping these hard substances out of the hands of youth is paramount. Heightened penalties for selling or providing hard drugs to young people could help to curb the flow of these drugs, and a general societal approach to rehabilitation for addicted offenders would significantly benefit the nation’s youth. By helping society’s addicted users kick the habit, the country could cut off supply to some extent, strangling the availability of hard drugs and prescription pills to young people.

Likewise, America cannot and should not neglect its duty toward treatment. In many cases, young users are scared of seeking treatment because they fear the consequences of authority figures. We must make a conscious effort to ensure that when a young person wants to come forward for answers on drug addiction or abuse, our responses are geared more toward that person’s psychological and physical health rather than our desire to immediately punish. This can help to alleviate the negative effects of drug use before the drug use causes major problems or death.