TJ and Oliver struck up a friendship on the first day of school last year. They enjoy many of the same activities, like basketball and videogaming even though they are opposite in personality. TJ is quiet while Oliver is very social. TJ enjoys watching how Oliver doesn’t seem to know a stranger and how easy it is for him to strike up a conversation for anyone at school or online. He often wishes he could be more like Oliver. Last weekend, Oliver’s parents had a party at his house. While his parents were in the kitchen, Oliver grabbed a couple beers out of the family room bar and told TJ to follow him to his gaming room. Oliver handed TJ one of the beers and a controller as he sat down to get online for a video game. Oliver acted like it was no big deal to drink the beer, so TJ tried to act the same, even though he was kind of freaking out. What if Oliver’s parents came into the room? What if someone had noticed Oliver taking the beers? What would you do if you were TJ?

Experimenting with alcohol and drugs has become somewhat common for some youth. Experimenting can lead to other things, however. What might happen if TJ drank the beer and really enjoyed how it made him feel? Or what if he got really sick? Developing adolescent brains don’t always connect today’s actions to tomorrow’s reactions. Drinking, smoking, and/or getting high can all be unhealthy behaviors. They can interrupt healthy brain development and can have long lasting effects on your health in later years should the individual become dependent on any or all of them. How do you know if you might be at risk for developing alcohol or drug issues? 

  • Do you have any family members who have a history of substance use or abuse?
  • Are you depressed?
  • Do you feel unworthy of good things happening to you?
  • Do you feel like you don't fit in anywhere?
  • Do you have easy access to alcohol, prescription drugs, and/or illegal drugs?

According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry website, 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. Often teenagers use other family members' or friends' medications to get high. Additionally, some adolescents misuse their friends' stimulant medications like Ritalin and Adderall.

Drug use is associated with a variety of negative consequences, including increased risk of serious drug use later in life, school failure, and poor judgment which may put teens at risk for accidents, violence, unplanned and unsafe sex, and suicide.