Those who are accused of drug crimes, especially drug possession, are not always the hardened criminals that the media portrays them to be. North Dakota residents who are arrested for doing drugs started out like everyone else, but made decisions that may have led them to become addicted.

Often, drug addiction starts in the teenage years. According to the National Institution on Drug Abuse, the drug most often experimented on by teens is marijuana. Up to 40 percent of teens in 12th grade admitted to having used illegal substances during the past year at least once. The numbers of younger teens trying drugs were also significant.

Why do teenagers start using drugs? There are many possible reasons, states the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. These may include:

  • Peer pressure or seeing others doing it
  • Drugs being viewed as a normal part of being a teenager
  • The prevalence of drugs in the media, such as movies and television
  • A method of self-soothing or escaping from stress and problems
  • Boredom, rebellion or lack of confidence
  • False information spread by peers about certain drugs being safe to use

Once a person becomes accustomed to using drugs, brain chemistry changes and makes it very difficult to quit. Compassionate drug treatment programs may be more effective at helping a person make positive life changes, rather than treating addiction as a criminal offense. Unfortunately, many young people, as well as those of every age, face harsh criminal penalties for using drugs and are not given the help they need to break their addictions.