Teenage Drug Addiction: How Kids Get Alcohol and Drugs

Most parents don’t believe their son or daughter is at risk for drug or alcohol addiction. According to the Baltimore Sun, 80% of parents don’t think drugs or alcohol are commonly available at parties. In reality, half of teens say both are.

If you’re the parent of a teen between the ages of 14 and 19, however, substance abuse and addiction could be problems affecting your child. The sooner you recognize the problem, the better outcome your teen can have.

Friends and Loved Ones

One of the most frightening findings from the recent National Institute on Drug Abuse study is that most people who suffered an overdose did so after taking a prescription drug they got from a family member or friend. Teen alcohol statistics mirror this important finding, according to the California court system. If you think your teen doesn’t raid your liquor cabinet or search your bathroom for powerful prescription medicines, you are probably wrong.

A casual attitude toward underage drinking doesn’t help, either. Although many parents believe they provide adequate supervision during teen parties, up to one-third of adolescents say there is almost none, according to the Baltimore Sun. Combine a lax attitude toward partying with an environment where parents also abuse alcohol and drugs, and the consequences can be deadly.

A 2005 survey by the American Medical Association that examined the substance abuse habits of teens between the ages of 13 and 18 found:

  • 67 percent of teens reported getting alcohol is easy at home.
  • 40 percent of teens reported getting alcohol is easy from a friend’s parent.
  • 25 percent of teens reported attending a party where adolescents were drinking in front of parents.
  • Parents supply alcohol to teens directly at an alarming rate, despite the illegality and risk of doing so.


Drugs Among Teenagers

Although teens abuse alcohol more than any other substance, marijuana, prescription medication, and heroin are also growing in popularity. At Columbia University, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse found that teens often have an easier time getting marijuana than either beer or cigarettes.

Kids as young as 12 and 13 look through medicine cabinets at home and at the homes of their friends. They are searching for — and finding — powerful drugs such as Adderall, prescription cough syrup with codeine, Vicodin, and Xanax. Some kids even purchase drugs online, according to the New York State Department of Health.

What is most worrisome about these facts is that the earlier an adolescent starts abusing drugs or alcohol, the more likely he or she is to become addicted. New York reports that almost 34 percent of teens know a close friend who uses a prescription painkiller to get high, and about 50 percent don’t believe prescription or OTC drugs present serious health risks. They also falsely believe these drugs are safer than illicit drugs such as heroin — even though more people died last year from prescription drug overdose than heroin and cocaine combined.

Dealers Don’t Discriminate

Illicit drug dealers don’t care whether or not their buyers are young or old. For example, anecdotal evidence reported on Vice.com and elsewhere indicates that in states such as Vermont, heroin is stronger than ever before and easier to find than marijuana. It is so strong and cheap, in fact, that many heroin dealers lure adolescents into abuse with snorting and smoking, rather than scarier method of injecting.

The resulting Vermont heroin epidemic led the state legislature to pass laws letting drug offenders choose treatment over prison. Naloxone, an overdose antidote, has also been made available on an over-the-counter basis.

The bottom line is that a drug dealer only cares about profits. He or she does not care if your 13-year-old is becoming addicted. The dealer does not care if your teen overdoses. He or she only cares about making money by trading your teen’s health and safety for drugs.

Avoiding Teenage Drug Abuse

You are not powerless against the temptation of drugs and alcohol. You can fight back by knowing the risk factors of addiction, communicating openly, carefully supervising.

The risk of addiction increases if:

  • Your family has a history of substance abuse.
  • Your teen suffers from a mental health disorder such as depression, ADHD, or anxiety.
  • Your teen demonstrates impulsive or aggressive behavior.
  • Your teen experienced trauma, feels rejected socially, or has low self esteem.
  • Your teen spends time with people who abuse drugs or alcohol.
  • Your teen is having trouble with schoolwork.

You can fight teen drug abuse by:

  • Having open conversations about the risks of abusing alcohol and drugs.
  • Demonstrating responsible behavior by not abusing alcohol or drugs yourself.
  • Attentively supervising parties and insisting on responsible adult supervision when attending parties at the homes of friends.
  • Watching for signs of addiction, such as changes in grades, social patterns, and overall health.

Contact 12 Keys to speak to a counselor today and for more information about teenage drug and alcohol abuse.

The Addiction Blog