Preventing Drug Use among Teens: What Parents Should Know

  • Published
  • By Earl Rivers
  • 1st Special Operations Medical Operations Squadron

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the use and misuse of alcohol, nicotine, and illicit drugs, and misuse of prescription drugs cost Americans more than $700 billion a year in increased health care costs, crime, and lost productivity. Every year, illicit and prescription drugs and alcohol contribute to the death of more than 90,000 Americans, while tobacco is linked to an estimated 480,000 deaths per year.  


The Monitoring the Future Survey, which is conducted annually by researchers at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, under a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, measured drug, alcohol, and cigarette use among U.S. adolescents in 2017; and, reported the following:


·         Six percent of 12th graders reported daily use of marijuana; and, 71 percent stated they do not view regular marijuana smoking as being harmful. 

·         Seventeen percent of high school seniors reported they engaged in binge drinking, which this 2017 MTF Survey defined as five or more drinks in a row at least once in the prior two weeks.

·         Twenty-eight percent of students in 12th grade reported past-year use of e-vaporizers.

o   Ten percent reported vaping marijuana in the past year; and, 19 percent reported vaping nicotine in the past year, which raised further concerns about the impact on their long-term health.

·         In 2017, past-year misuse of prescription/over-the-counter drugs among 12th graders were:

o   Adderall®: 6 percent;

o   Tranquilizers: 5 percent;

o   Opioids other than heroin: 4 percent;

o   Cough/cold medicine: 3 percent;

o   Sedatives: 3 percent; and,

o   Ritalin®: 1 percent.

·         Past-year use of illicit drugs among high school seniors in 2017 were:

o   Marijuana/hashish: 37 percent;

o   Synthetic marijuana: 4 percent;

o   LSD: 3 percent;

o   Cocaine: 3 percent;

o   MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly): 3 percent; and,

o   Inhalants: 2 percent.


Research shows that the earlier a person begins to use drugs, the more likely he or she is to develop serious problems. The regions of the brain that control decision-making and judgment do not fully develop until people are in their early- or mid-20s. This limits a teen’s ability to accurately assess the risks of drug experimentation and makes young people more vulnerable to peer pressure.


Because the brain is still developing, using drugs at this age has more potential to disrupt brain function in areas critical to behavior control, memory, learning, motivation, and judgment. Thus, it is not surprising that teens, who use drugs and alcohol, often have family and social problems, poor academic performance, health-related problems to include mental health conditions, and involvement with the juvenile justice system.


Fortunately, research has proven that parents play a vital role in preventing their children from starting to use drugs. Therefore, parents should discuss the dangers of drug use with their children.


Furthermore, parents may consider the following positive parenting tips, which are offered by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, to further strengthen resilience, self-confidence and responsible decision-making in their children:


·         Communication. It helps if parents catch problems early, support positive behavior, and stay aware of what is happening in their children's lives.


·         Encouragement. It builds confidence and a strong sense of self, and it helps parents promote cooperation and reduce conflict.


·         Negotiate solutions. It offers parents a way to work together to solve problems, make changes, promote and improve cooperation. Also, it teaches youth how to focus on solutions rather than problems, think through possible outcomes of behavior, and develop communication skills.


·         Set limits. It helps parents teach self-control and responsibility, show caring, and provide safe boundaries. It also provides youth with guidelines and teaches them the importance of following rules.


·         Supervision. It helps parents recognize developing problems, promote safety, and stay involved.


·         Know your child's friends. It helps parents improve communication, reduce conflict, and teach responsibility.


For more information, contact the Hurlburt Field Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment (ADAPT) Program at (850) 881-4237. The ADAPT Program provides a wide range of prevention education, outreach, evaluation, counseling and treatment services to active duty members. The ADAPT Program is located in the 1st Special Operations Medical Group (1 SOMDG) Temporary Phasing Facility, 131 Howie Walters Road, Bldg. # 99960. Family members of active duty personnel should contact TriCare-Humana East at (800) 444-5445 for information and assistance in obtaining substance use evaluation, counseling and treatment services.