Information for Parents

Drug and alcohol abuse by our nation’s teenagers has become a major public health issue. Did you know that:

  • Almost 50% of high school seniors have abused a drug of some kind.
  • 4% of teens report abusing over-the-counter cough medicine to get high
  • 20% of teens say they have taken a prescription drug without having a prescription for it themselves
  • 28% of teens know at least 1 person who has tried ecstasy
  • By the 8th grade, 28% of adolescents have consumed alcohol, 15% have smoked cigarettes, and 16.5% have used marijuana
  • More teenagers die from taking prescription drugs than the use of cocaine AND heroin combined
  • Alcohol is the leading factor in the top 3 causes for death in 15-24 year olds, which are auto crashes, homicides and suicides
  • Teens that started drinking before the age of 15 are 5 times more likely to become addicted to alcohol later on, unlike those kids who waited until after they were 21
  • Teenagers who drink alcohol are 50% more likely to try cocaine than those who never use alcohol

When a parent talks to their teenager regularly about the dangers of drugs and alcohol they reduce the chance of their child using them by 50%! However, only 25% of teens report actually having these conversations! Educate yourself, then educate your kids – it’s the best form of prevention!

But, what if I think my child is already using?

While experimenting with drugs and alcohol doesn’t automatically lead to abuse, early use is a risk factor for more serious abuse and addiction. The potential for alcohol and drug abuse also increases greatly during times of transition, such as changing schools, moving or divorce. The challenge for parents is to distinguish between the normal, often volatile, ups and downs of the teen years and the red flags of active substance abuse, including:

  • Having bloodshot eyes or dilated pupils; using eye drops to try to mask these signs
  • Skipping class, declining grades, or suddenly getting into trouble at school
  • Missing money, valuables or prescriptions
  • Acting uncharacteristically isolated, withdrawn, angry or depressed
  • Dropping one group of friends for another; being secretive about the new peer group
  • Loss of interest in old hobbies; lying about new interests and activities
  • Demanding more privacy; locking doors; avoiding eye contact; sneaking around

What can I do?

Discovering your child is using drugs or alcohol can generate fear, confusion, and anger. It’s important to remain calm when confronting your teen, and to only do so when everyone is sober. Explain your concerns and make it clear that your concern comes from a place of love. It’s important that your teen feels you are supportive.

  • Lay down rules and consequences.Your teen should understand that using drugs and alcohol comes with specific consequences. Don’t make hollow threats or set rules that you cannot enforce. Make sure your spouse agrees with the rules and is prepared to enforce them.
  • Monitor your teen’s activity.Know where your teen goes and who he or she hangs out with. It’s also important to routinely check potential hiding places for alcohol and drugs—in backpacks, between books on a shelf, in DVD cases or make-up cases. Explain to your teen if this lack of privacy is a consequence of him or her having been caught using drugs or alcohol.
  • Encourage other interests and social activities.Expose your teen to healthy hobbies and activities, such as team sports and after school clubs.
  • Talk to your child about underlying issues.Drinking and drug use can be the result of other problems. Is your child having trouble fitting in? Has there been a recent major change, like a move or divorce causing stress?
  • Get help.Teenagers often rebel against their parents but if they hear the same information from a different authority figure, they may be more inclined to listen. Try a sports coach, family doctor, therapist, or drug counselor.


Join the Coalition

Learn more from these Resources

Attend one of our Workshops and bring your teen

Invite Pathway Society to your school or health fair

If your teen needs treatment, contact Santa Clara Valley Department of Alcohol and Drug Services’ Children, Family and Community Services Division at (408) 272-6518