The 411

The “teen” years…. Does that send shivers down your spine? Teens seem to be growing up faster than ever, with a greater need for parental guidance. Please take advantage of the following sites as you navigate the challenges of adolescence. We truly hope they will be a help to you.

Kids who start drinking alcohol before age 15 are 5 times more likely to develop alcohol abuse or dependence than people who first used alcohol at age 21 or older.  A recent study published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine showed that 47% of those who began drinking before age 15 experienced alcohol dependence at some point in their life, compared to 9% percent of those who began drinking at age 21 or older.

YES.  For most, addiction to alcohol and drugs is a process.  Most people who use alcohol and drugs do so with an intention of only using once or “once in a while.”  People often forget we are dealing with addictive drugs that directly affect the brain.  Unfortunately, people often believe if they have used it before and didn’t have a negative consequence the next time they use will be the same. It is easy for occasional use to change to frequent use or constant use — that is addict

While most marijuana smokers do not go on to use other illegal drugs, long-term studies of high school students show that few young people use other illegal drugs without first using marijuana.  Using marijuana puts people in contact with people who are users and sellers of other drugs and are more likely to be exposed to and urged to try other drugs.

Risk factors for becoming addicted to alcohol and drugs, like other conditions and diseases, vary from person to person. But, the common risk factors include:  1. Genetics–your family history; 2. Age when you start using alcohol or drugs; 3. Family (including abuse, neglect and traumatic experiences in childhood) and Social Environment (including access to alcohol and drugs), and 4. Types of drugs used.

As a teen you should be concerned about alcohol and all of the other drugs, legal and illegal.  Recently there has been a significant increase in the non-medical use of prescription pain drugs among young people.  In fact, after marijuana, the next three most commonly used drugs are the non-medical use of prescription pain medications:  Vicodin, OxyContin and Adderall. The United States represents 5% of the world’s population but 75% of the world’s prescription drug use. The problem is real.

Each year, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) tracks drug use trends among high school students (8th, 10th and 12th grades) through the Monitoring the Future Study (MTF).  The following is a list of the most commonly abused drugs among 12th graders, starting with the most frequent:  marijuana, Adderall, Vicodin, tranquilizers, cough medicine, sedatives, hallucinogens, MDMA/ecstasy, OxyContin, cocaine, salvia and Ritali

No. And, research and experience show that the younger someone starts using alcohol and drugs, the greater the chance that they will become addic

Yes, marijuana is a plant but it has very real health consequences, including drug addiction.  While some people think marijuana is a “harmless drug,” actual experience and the real science show a different reality.  More teens are in treatment with a primary diagnosis of marijuana dependence than for all other illegal drugs combined.

The short answer — if you or someone close to you is having a problem with alcohol or drugs and they continue to use, it’s time to get help.  Continued use, despite negative consequences, is a powerful indicator of addiction.

A standard alcohol drink contains about 14 grams of pure alcohol (0.6 ounces):    

  • 12-ounces of Beer or Cooler
  • 8-ounces of Malt Liquor
  • 5-ounces of Wine
  • 1.5-ounces or “shot” of Distilled Spirits/Liquor (e.g., rum, gin, vodka, or whiskey).


Note:  These are approximate, as different brands and types of alcoholic beverages vary in their actual alcohol content.

Once absorbed into the bloodstream, the Kidneys eliminate 5% of alcohol in the urine, the Lungs exhale 5% of alcohol (detectable by breathalyzer) and the Liver breaks down the remaining 90% of alcohol.  Alcohol is broken down (metabolized) by the liver at the average rate of one standard drink per hour and nothing can speed this up, including drinking coffee. Even if the person drinking passes out, their body will continue to process the alcohol. This is a very dangerous time because they are not aware if they become sick. It does not take much more alcohol to give you alcohol poisoning that it will to get your buzzed or drunk.

Research shows that the risk for developing alcoholism and drug addiction runs in families.  But just because there is a genetic predisposition doesn’t mean that the child of an alcoholic or addicted parent will automatically become alcoholic or addicted.  Not all children of alcoholic or addicted parents get into trouble with alcohol and drugs.  And some people develop alcoholism and addiction even though no one in their family has a drinking or drug problem.

Yes, alcoholism and addiction can be treated.  Alcoholism and addiction treatment programs can help a person stop drinking and using drugs. Treatment has helped millions of people stop drinking and drugging, rebuild their lives and live a life in long-term recovery.

You or your friends might think that prescription drugs are safer than alcohol or illegal drugs because doctors prescribe them.  But, these drugs can be just as dangerous. When prescription drugs are used without a prescription they can be as dangerous as alcohol or illegal drugs.  You can die from abusing prescription drugs . . . even the first time. Also, the only person that may use a prescription is the person it is prescribed to. Use of someone else’s medication is illegal.