The statistics on teen drug use are alarming. The 2014 Arizona Youth Survey states that “two-thirds of Arizona youth will try drugs, alcohol and tobacco before graduating high school.”
This sobering statistic leaves parents with many unanswered questions, including, “Where do kids get drugs?”
This was the topic for a recent Lunchtime Webinar series sponsored by DrugFreeAZKids.org, a program of Southwest Behavioral & Health Services. The brief but impactful free webinars run on Wednesdays from noon to 12:30 p.m. (Arizona time) and provide online discussions regarding the prevention of teen drug use.
Justin McBride, program manager for DrugFreeAZkids.org, acts as facilitator for the informational sessions.
Where do kids get drugs?
McBride says there are many misconceptions about how kids obtain drugs. He tells parents that, similar to the “Stranger Danger” campaign where child abusers were erroneously portrayed as scary monsters lurking in the bushes, anti-drug campaigns tend to leave the impression that drug dealers are unseemly characters hanging out in alleys.
McBride says that kids are more likely to get drugs “from people close to them—friends and family or through referrals.”
The Arizona Youth Survey, which is conducted every two years from a poll of 40,000 to 50,000 Arizona teens, reveals several key points:
- Kids are trying drugs, alcohol and tobacco at younger ages than is often realized. For example, parents may not consider locking their liquor cabinets when their children are still in middle school, but this is the most likely way an eighth-grader can get access to alcohol.
- Medicine cabinets are the places from which kids are most likely to obtain drugs—and not just for their own consumption. Teens often realize that they can make money selling their own prescriptions or those of a parent or relative.
- Medical marijuana cards are a point of access for today’s teens: 18 percent of high school seniors were given pot by someone with a medical marijuana card.
- Easy, early access to drugs can lead to addiction. Research shows that 90 percent of addictions begin before adulthood. In the Arizona survey, 15 percent of teen drinkers admitted, “It’s a habit. I can’t stop.” This number could be greater if teens are not aware of their own dependence.
What can parents do?
Act as a filter. Whether kids use drugs is influenced by their perception of risks—physical, mental, social and emotional—versus the social approval they will receive from friends, family and role models. Parents should screen who and what is influencing their children’s perceptions and have discussions about the messages they receive.
Get educated. Be aware of what’s out there. Do research, read and take classes. DrugFreeAZKids offers a six-week course funded by the Arizona Parent Commission on Drug Education & Prevention called Active Parenting.
Communicate. Talk with your kids and help them build resilience. Make a plan for situations where drugs and alcohol might be in use. Clearly communicate expectations, either verbally or with a formal family contract.
If you are concerned that your child may be using drugs, get help immediately by contacting DrugFreeAZKids.org.
Register for upcoming Lunchtime Webinars
- Feb. 17: Rx2H: Prescription Drug & Heroin Abuse
- March 16: Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) & Substance Abuse (12pm-1pm)
- April 20: Marijuana’s Impact on Youth
- May 11: Getting Smarter With Study Drugs?
- June 15: Examining the Teen Brain