Parents & Teachers

teenage drug and alcohol abuseTeenage drug and alcohol abuse is not a new problem.  Teenagers abuse a variety of substances, from alcohol to marijuana to easily available medications such as cold, sleep and diet pills.  Illegal drugs, like marijuana and cocaine are more commonly available than you think.  It is never too early to discuss drug and alcohol abuse facts with your teen- studies have shown the average age of first alcohol use is 12 – for marijuana it is 14. The 2011 National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Monitoring the Future Survey indicated that ecstasy and marijuana use are on the rise among 8th graders.

Drug and Alcohol Abuse Facts

#1.  Drugs and alcohol are readily available. There’s no question that teenage drug and alcohol abuse is a problem in many high schools.  Legal and illegal drugs are readily available on the street or even in our local supermarkets as over the counter medications.  The most recent study on drug and alcohol availability by the US Department of Justice is telling:

  • 65% of teens admitted to using alcohol in the last year, 43% in the last month
  • Percentage of high school seniors reporting they could obtain drugs fairly easily or very easily:
    • Marijuana 83.9 %
    • Amphetamines 47.9%
    • Cocaine 42.4%
    • Barbiturates 38.8%
    • Crack 35.2%
    • LSD 28.5%
    • Heroin 25.4%
    • Crystal methamphetamine 23.3%
    • Tranquilizers 22.4%

#2. Teens are not immune to serious substance abuse problems.  It can be hard to discern whether a teen is experimenting and will stop using drugs or if the teen will develop dependency.  A parent or teacher should educate themselves on drug and alcohol abuse facts immediately to help address the issue.

#3. While rates of illicit drug use are declining, the rate of prescription drug use remains high. 15.4% of HS seniors reported non-medical use of at least one prescription medication within the past year.

#4. Teenage drug and alcohol abuse has a serious impact on the community.  Traffic accidents are the greatest cause of death for teens and young adults.  About 45% of these fatalities are alcohol related.

#5. You can make a difference. Teenagers whose parents and teachers talk to them regularly about the dangers of drugs are 42% less likely to use drugs than those whose parents don’t.

Teenage Drug and Alcohol Abuse: Experimentation or Abuse?

Teenage drug and alcohol abuse can be dismissed as experimentation.    According to the Centers for Disease Control, which reports on drug and alcohol abuse facts as they relate to public health, nearly 75% of high school students have tried alcohol, and about 26% of teens have had a recent episode of heavy drinking (more than 5 drinks within a couple of hours). Even experimentation can have significant consequences.

Parents and teachers should monitor the example they set for teens.  It can be difficult for a teenager to discern what is and is not an acceptable use, especially for alcohol use as they see their parents enjoy a glass of wine or beer.

Parents or teachers are often the first to recognize signs of substance abuse due to their intimate relationship with teens – if you have concerns about teenage drug and alcohol abuse, you should consult your health professional or a licensed drug and alcohol rehab facility that specializes in teenagers.

Resources for Teachers

Mind Over Matter Teacher’s Guide:
This education series, developed by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is designed to encourage youngsters in grades 5-9 to learn about the biological effects of drug abuse on the body and the brain. The guide contains lesson plans and magazines.