Close to 600,000 teenagers from 12 to 17 years old have used an illicit drug other than marijuana in the last month. According to, 46.6% of all teenagers by the time they are in 12th grade have tried illicit drugs and/or alcohol.

Those figures were astonishing to me and they have been on the rise for many years. Experts blame the rise in teen substance abuse over the last 10 years due to the increase in peer pressure, the growth of social media and the downtime, confusion and family strife associated with the pandemic.

Experts say the wide availability of some drugs and alcohol is partially responsible for the increase in teenage consumption. For years we have fought the drug problem with “just say no,” which did very little to suppress the spreading of addiction.

Kids in 6th and 7th grade are becoming addicted to alcohol, vaping, illicit drugs and there is a heavy increase in marijuana use. Doctors and psychiatrists agree that drug and alcohol use in teens can seriously hamper further brain development as the brains in teens are not fully developed at that age and will be subject to the permanent damage of excessive drugs and alcohol.

To combat teen abuse, KEYS Academy in Lincroft has developed programs and a curriculum that will help those teens struggling with abuse. KEYS Academy’s mission is to provide an academically, innovative, and supportive environment that will serve to eliminate the achievement gap for adolescents who have been diagnosed with a substance use disorder and are seeking a sober, healthy lifestyle.

KEYS stands for Knowledge Empowers Youth and Sobriety and the programs are carefully selected and implemented by teachers and counselors who are well versed in substance abuse. The academy sits on the serene manicured grounds of Brookdale Community College in Lincroft, NJ.

The academy was open in late 2017 and has been received very well by the students who have and are attending K.E.Y.S. Academy. There is a relief for those students getting the help and care that they need to get out of the grip of substance abuse.

Kudos to the Matawan–Aberdeen School District, which sanctions and has designated KEYS as part of their school system so that the academy receives other necessary assistance to run an accredited curriculum while providing help for those teens looking for sobriety. I applaud the staff and administrators for getting KEYS off the ground and I hope that they can be used as an example to add more schools of this type around New Jersey. Well done, KEYS!

Take your first step today, recovery is possible. Good luck to you.

See How School Cafeteria Meals Have Changed Over the Past 100 Years

Using government and news reports, Stacker has traced the history of cafeteria meals from their inception to the present day, with data from news and government reports. Read on to see how various legal acts, food trends, and budget cuts have changed what kids are getting on their trays.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 weekend host Big Joe Henry. Any opinions expressed are Big Joe’s own.

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