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Teen Drug Use / Abuse

What do statistics show about teen drug use/abuse?  What drugs do teens commonly use/abuse? What can you do if your teen is using or abusing drugs? This article will review statistics, useage, and offer some suggestions for help with teen drug use/abuse.


Nobody likes to think that their son or daughter may be involved with drugs, but it's a reality that we must all face at some point in our lives. The more we know about what may be going on behind our backs, the better prepared we will be to deal with the situation preferably before it becomes an issue. A lot of parents put off talking to their children about drugs, but children are using drugs at earlier ages these days.

In a study done by SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), "in 2004, an estimated 19.1 million Americans aged 12 or older were current (past month) illicit drug users, meaning they had used an illicit drug during the month prior to the survey interview."

Drug rates and types of drugs used, vary according to several factors. For example, the most common type of drug abused changes depending upon the age group a child falls into. Overall, males tend to abuse drugs more often than females. Where you live in the country also has an impact into the amount and type of drug abuse.

Most common drugs

Although marijuana is the most commonly abused illicit drug, alcohol abuse by underage drinkers ranks the highest. We tend to forget alcohol as being a drug, but if abused it can be just as devastating and deadly. Another type of drug abuse that is currently on the rise is prescription/non-prescription drug abuse and household chemical misuse (huffing). Again, these drugs/chemicals are legal but if abused as is commonly done by teens, it has quite a deadly outcome. According to the NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse), inhalants are usually the earliest form of drugs that children use.  Abusing things such as these can start a snowball effect into the use of other types of drugs.

Popular types of prescription drugs abused

  • Painkillers (such as Vicodin ? & OxyContin ?)
  • Stimulants (Ritalin ?)
  • Cough suppressants (such as NyQuil)

Commonly abused household chemicals (just to name a few)

  • Paint thinner 
  • Gasoline 
  • Nail polish remover 
  • Deodorizers 
  • Glues 
  • Spray paint
  • Cleaning fluids

Does type of drug abuse change with location/region?

Depending on where you live in the country, both the amount and type of drug abuse differs. According to SAMHSA, "estimates show that past month use of any illicit drug in 2003-2004 ranged from a low of 5.8 percent in Mississippi to a high of 11.8 percent in Alaska for all persons ages 12 and older."

For example, marijuana use is highest in Alaska and lowest in Mississippi and Utah. Rhode Island has the highest rate of cocaine use in the country. Underage alcohol abuse was the highest in Iowa, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Wisconsin. The West leads the nation as having the largest percentage of drug abuse, followed by the Northeast, Midwest and the South.

Drug abuse also tends to be higher in metropolitan areas as opposed to non-metropolitan areas.

What can we do if our teen is abusing drugs?

Probably the most obvious thing we can do to keep our children safe is keeping our eyes and ears open. Watch for signs that your child may be abusing. Talk to your children and keep the communication lines open. A lot of children are very naļ¶„ and unaware of the impacts that drugs may have on them. It's ultimately up to us to be informed and keep them educated about the results that drug use can have on the rest of their lives. If you suspect that drug abuse has already become an issue in your child's life, it's best to seek out the proper professional help as soon as possible.

1. oas.samhsa.gov
2. nida.nih.gov
3. medicinenet.com
4. drugfree.org

Related Article: Teen Smoking >>

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