The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry states, experimentation with alcohol and drugs during adolescence is common. Unfortunately, teenagers often don’t 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 has negative health effects. While 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. 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:
- with a family history of substance abuse
- who are depressed
- who have low self-esteem, and
- who feel like they don’t fit in or are out of the mainstream
Teenagers 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.
Some quick facts about adolescent alcohol | substance abuse include the following:
- Adolescents can become addicted to substances more quickly than adults.
- Thirty-three percent of teens experience problems at home, school, work or in the community stemming from substance abuse.
- Often family members are unaware substance abuse is happening in their family.
- Alcohol and other drug addictions are diseases that impact and are maintained by the family system.