According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s Monitoring the Future study, roughly 30 percent of teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17 will experiment with illicit drugs – including alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and prescription pills. In fact, teenagers are more likely than adults to engage in risky drug behaviors as a way to impress friends and express independence. These adolescents are particularly vulnerable as the school year begins, thanks to peer pressure.
Back to the Classroom
Over the last several years, studies have shown drug and alcohol use among teenagers has remained steady. According to observational trial data published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, however, a general rise in students’ consumption of ‘hard’ drugs is to be expected at the beginning of each school year. According to the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, on any given school day:
- Over 4,000 teens will use an illicit drug for the first time
- Almost 3,500 teens will smoke a cigarette for the first time
- Close to 7,000 teenagers will drink alcohol for the first time
- Over 2,000 teens will use their first prescription painkiller without a doctor’s prescription
“Join the Crowd” Mentality
The reasons for the surge in drug abuse at the school level are abundant: the increased availability of prescription drugs, a rise in stimulant drug use among kids with ADHD, a mistaken notion that prescription medications are somehow safer than street drugs, and - likely the most dangerous culprit - peer pressure.
Friends have an increasingly strong influence during the teenage years. Drug-using pals have been known to sway the strongest of teens, convincing them that trying drugs is “cool.” Under the microscope of peer pressure, a teenager’s naïve experimentation can develop into regular drug use, typically morphing into a strong addiction long before he or she reaches the age of 18.
A Parent’s Job
According to research from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), parents are the best defense against drug and alcohol use. AAP research also shows that, when parents provide their kids with strong, consistent, and frequent drug-related information, they are less likely to develop issues with drugs and alcohol.
When talking to teens about drug and alcohol use, parents should keep the following tips in mind:
- Be absolutely clear that drug/alcohol use is unacceptable
- Be willing to talk openly about the dangers and results of addiction
- Become an active listener
- Give honest answers and avoid making up what you don't know
- Never react in a way that cuts off future discussions
Educate your family by learning more about alcohol and drug abuse
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