may be involved with alcohol and legal or illegal drugs in
various ways. Experimentation with alcohol and drugs during
adolescence is common. Unfortunately, teenagers often donít
see the link between their actions today and the consequences
tomorrow. They also have a tendency to feel indestructible
and immune to the problems that others experience. Using alcohol
and tobacco at a young age increases the risk of using other
drugs later. Some teens will experiment and stop, or continue
to use occasionally, without significant problems. Others
will develop a dependency, moving on to more dangerous drugs
and causing significant harm to themselves and possibly others.
is a time for trying new things. Teens use alcohol and other
drugs for many reasons, including curiosity, because it feels
good, to reduce stress, to feel grown up or to fit in. It
is difficult to know which teens will experiment and stop
and which will develop serious problems. Teenagers at risk
for developing serious alcohol and drug problems include those:
a family history of substance abuse
have low self-esteem, and
feel like they donít fit in or are out of the mainstream
abuse a variety of drugs, both legal and illegal. Legally
available drugs include alcohol, prescribed medications, inhalants
(fumes from glues, aerosols, and solvents) and over-the-counter
cough, cold, sleep, and diet medications. The most commonly
used illegal drugs are marijuana (pot), stimulants (cocaine,
crack, and speed), LSD, PCP, opiates, heroin, and designer
drugs (Ecstasy). The use of illegal drugs is increasing, especially
among young teens. The average age of first marijuana use
is 14, and alcohol use can start before age 12. The use of
marijuana and alcohol in high school has become common.
is associated with a variety of negative consequences, including
increased risk of serious drug use later in life, school failure,
and poor judgment which may put teens at risk for accidents,
violence, unplanned and unsafe sex, and suicide.
can help through early education about drugs, open communication,
good role modeling, and early recognition if problems are
signs of teenage alcohol and drug abuse may include:
repeated health complaints, red and glazed eyes, and a
change, sudden mood changes, irritability, irresponsible
behavior, low self-esteem, poor judgment, depression,
and a general lack of interest.
arguments, breaking rules, or withdrawing from the family.
interest, negative attitude, drop in grades, many absences,
truancy, and discipline problems.
friends who are less interested in standard home and school
activities, problems with the law, and changes to less
conventional styles in dress and music.
the warning signs listed above can also be signs of other
problems. Parents may recognize signs of trouble but should
not be expected to make the diagnosis. An effective way for
parents to show care and concern is to openly discuss the
use and possible abuse of alcohol and other drugs with their
a physician to rule out physical causes of the warning signs
is a good first step. This should often be followed or accompanied
by a comprehensive evaluation by a child and adolescent psychiatrist.
information see Facts for Families
"The Depressed Child,"
"Children of Alcoholics,"
#3 Updated 11/98