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Drug and Alcohol Abuse Among Adolescents

Let's say we stop the first adolescent who passes by your house. I give him money and tell him to purchase some illegal drugs. At the same time, I give you money and tell you to get me a six-pack of soda. Both of you would probably get back at the same time with the items I requested.

This is an exaggeration, but not far from the truth. Drugs are available everywhere, from the highest socioeconomic levels to the lowest, from the best schools to the poorest schools. Recent surveys by national organizations related to drug abuse and alcoholism show:

  1. The average age of first drug use is 13. The average age of first alcohol use is 12.

  2. Over 50% of high-school seniors have tried drugs. Over 33% have tried a drug other than marijuana.

  3. Nearly 33% of all high-school seniors claim that most of their friends get drunk at least once a week.

  4. Nearly one in 16 has tried cocaine or its powerful, addictive derivative, crack.

  5. High-school senior girls ingest more stimulants and tranquilizers than boys. Girls almost match the boys' use of alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs.

  6. Approximately 33% of fourth-graders reported peer pressure to try alcohol and marijuana.
Times Have Changed
Things have changed dramatically since we were children. The drug user or addict in our day was seen as a degenerate. Today, drug use cuts across all socioeconomic levels. It is even seen on TV and in movies as something done at social gatherings or parties. Negative effects are minimized.

Attitudes and values of the adolescent and preadolescent have shifted away from authority figures and toward more pleasure-seeking, big-money, fast-living people - toward sex, drugs, alcohol, and money.

This section gives a general overview of substance abuse in preadolescents and adolescents, and touches on the types of situations in which substance abuse is more likely to occur and the reasons for this behavior. Signs and symptoms of substance abuse are also included. For further details, consult one of the many excellent books on this subject. Also, check with the substance abuse agency in your area, which can provide literature about drug and alcohol use.

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From Keys to Parenting Your Teenager by Don Fontenelle, Ph.D. Copyright 2000 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by arrangement with Barron's Educational Series, Inc.

Buy the book at Barron's.

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