Drug addiction has become a growing concern for the Korean society in recent years. The number of teenagers addicted to drugs is on the rise, with some even being caught transporting drugs themselves. The problem is particularly concerning as it is becoming increasingly common for teenagers to start using drugs at an early age.
Recently, a 14-year-old middle school girl was caught by the police after her mother reported that she had administered methamphetamine at her home. This is not an isolated case, as many of those who are caught as drug offenders in their 20s have already been exposed to drugs since they were in their teens.
One of the common denominators for these teenagers is that they start with marijuana. Cannabis is legal in some areas of several countries, including the United States and Canada. This has become the basis for their self-justification that “marijuana is not a drug” for them. However, marijuana is a drug with strong psychological addiction. Those who started with marijuana eventually moved on to stronger drugs. This pattern of drug use is referred to as the “gateway drug” theory, as marijuana serves as a gateway to harder drugs.
Mr. B, in his 20s, who encountered marijuana at the age of 17, said, “I didn’t know it would turn out like this either. Drugs infiltrated my life gradually, like clothes getting wet in drizzle.” Mr. A also did not hesitate to use other drugs such as methamphetamine when the opportunity arose. He actively sought and prayed. After he returned to Korea as an adult, it is said that the first place he ran to was the Itaewon Club Street in Yongsan-gu, Seoul. On purpose, on ‘Cannabis Day’ (April 20), he wandered around the clubs for drugs. After the main route of drug trade was changed to a non-face-to-face method such as Telegram, it was enough to find drugs almost every time he opened his eyes.
The number of teenage drug offenders arrested is increasing every year, but many believe that only the tip of the iceberg is being exposed. According to the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office’s “Drug Trends,” the number of top 10 drug offenders arrested last year totaled 481, a 12.6-fold increase from 2012 (38) 10 years ago. Among these, 291 people aged 15 to 18 were concentrated, which is an increase of 54% (160 people) from just two years ago.
One common denominator for teenagers exposed to drugs is that they end up hanging out with 20-year-olds who are addicted to drugs. Since these 20-year-olds have also been using drugs since their teens, their awareness of drugs is further dulled. This creates a vicious cycle of drug use that can be difficult to break out of.
Drug addiction often leads to other criminal activities. A drug counselor said, “It is not uncommon for distributors in their 20s to use drug-addicted teenage women to provide sexual services to ‘merchant ships’ and get them to obtain drugs.” Attorney Kim Hee-joon, who specializes in drug cases, said, “Four years ago, people in their 30s were the main age group for drug offenders, but in 2021, people in their 20s have become the main age group. The age group who uses drugs tends to get younger,” he warned, “if we don’t catch it right now, teenage drug offenders will spread faster.”
In conclusion, the rising number of teenagers falling prey to drug addiction is a cause for concern. Parents and society as a whole need to be more vigilant and take action to prevent teenagers from being exposed to drugs.