A common ground
Contrary to the belief of many, the youth of today are not as different from those of the past, especially the youth of the 1980's. These similarities can be seen from an examination of the lack of social issues which youth involved themselves in. While today's young people may not be as involved we see that this trend began with youth from the 80's. In the 80's we saw a decline in youth involvement and interaction with society from those of generations past, there were no large rallies or protests like those of the sixties or the seventies. Instead we see adults of this time developing programs attempting to better young people of the generation, without a large rebuttal from the youth. A prime example of one of these is Nancy Reagan's "Just Say NO" campaign, a program created in order to differ youth from the use of drugs. Through the sixties and seventies America saw a large increase in drug usage by youth and by the time the Reagan years came around adults had had it with this.
Just say NO! Youth Drug prevention of the 1980's
Just say NO! was a program founded in the mid 1980's aimed at decreasing youth drug usage founded by Nancy Reagan. Reagan's work in drug prevention began when she found out that some of her friend's children had been using and that some even had died due to drug use. Just say NO! got it's name from when Reagan visited a school talking about turning down drugs and a little girl asked her, "Mrs. Reagan why don't you just say no?" Before even beginning her role as first lady she began her, fight attending the first National Conference of the National Federation for Drug-Free Youth and addressing the National Legislative Session of the PTA in 1982. Reagan had her work cut out for her with the high adolescent use of cocaine and marijuana. By the end of the 80's Reagan flexed her muscles, lowering youth cocaine usage by one third and marijuana usage by 7%.
Living Life Above the Influence
As time went on and youth culture changed so did the approach taken in an attempt to dissuade youth from drug abuse. A new organization called Above the Influence was formed and was aimed at educating youth. Unlike the Just Say NO! program, Above the Influence took a more indirect route at discouraging drug use. Instead of simply telling youth the dangers and telling them to say no, this new program attempted to teach youth in order for them to make their own educated decision. This new technique appears to working with 80% of youth saying they have heard of Above the Influence and 75% percent saying that their message appeals to them. The immediate effectiveness of the program is evident in some areas like cocaine usage, which is way down, but is struggling in regard to marijuana usage, which has increased steadily since the early 2000's.
The Many Pressures
Youth get involved in drug usage for many reason that stem from a multitude of sources. Between the 1980's and today we see overlapping pressures leading to drug use such as peer pressure and self image. Most youth wouldn't even consider doing drugs but when they are placed in a drug free environment. As soon as the majority of their peers are experimenting though, some can hardly say no. As show by the a study done by the National Institute of Drug Abuse we see that percentage of drug usage is higher in older youth today. This shows that while more are taking drugs those who are not doing drugs are surrounded by more who are. This Creates an endless circle of peer pressure. A study done in the mid 1980's also states that youth have a tougher time turning down drugs from peers than they would from parents or other figures in that youth's life. In addition to peer pressure youth begin taking drugs because of self image. Whether they believe that doing drugs will make them cool, or they are upset about the way they look and use drugs to cope with their unhappiness, we see that this is in large part a reason youth begin taking drugs.
The Concern's of the Youth
When examining the causes of youth drug usage one may start to see the general theme that youth are not comfortable with themselves as people. Instead of attempting to be their own person youth are striving to be like the rest of society and what is considered to be the norm. Peer pressure shows youth attempting to be like others instead of sticking to their values and what makes them unique. Also taking drugs purely because of depression based on insecurities with one's appearance demonstrates how backwards the views of our society are. As more youth turn to drug use based on what they are seeing on television, from celebrities and even from their peers we see a decrease in individuality, and an increase in conformity. This is simply because starting in the 1980's societies youth values somehow shifted from advanced thinking to a more shallow way of life. The fact that more importance is placed on people's personal status and appearance than the things which make them a special individual demonstrate the drastic change of how people were valued between the early decades of the twentieth century and those from the 1980's on.
A Loss of Individuality
Youth drug culture beginning in the 1980's and the causes for it show the loss of individuality in society which began to occur then, continued through the 90's and we still see today. Similar drug usage levels along with nearly identical reasons for youth beginning to experiment with drugs demonstrate the conformity which we are now seeing in society. Youth are now putting more importance on what everyone else is doing, and less on what they should be doing. This continuation of thinking from youth of the 1980's to youth of today illustrate how culture of today stems from what was going on in the 80's. While their have been small changes in ways which youth are approached and their thinking, for the most part things which today's youth have come to value stem from values developed by youth of the 1980's.