Why Kids Turn to Drugs There is no simple answer to why a young person might begin using alcohol or other drugs. Many times, it is a combination of several factors, including society, family and peers. They may turn to drugs to escape stress or loneliness or to overcome shyness in social situations. They may want to be seen as grown up or as a risk taker. Or, they may simply be curious.

Teens often want to be like their role models as well. So, if their favorite music group, older sibling, parents or a 'cool' peer at school uses drugs or alcohol, they may also use drugs or alcohol to emulate their role model (s). Adolescence is often a time of low self-esteem, which can develop as a result of not being able to grow and change as quickly as is desired. Or conversely, physical development can occur much earlier than emotional development. A young person with low self-esteem may feel they are not as smart, attractive, talented or popular as their peers. They may also feel pressured by parents, teachers or others to achieve goals that seem unattainable.

To help deal with the pressure, a young person with low self-esteem may be more likely to put aside his / her good judgment and turn to drugs or alcohol to escape. Start early: Statistics show that by age 13, many young people are already experimenting with drugs. Children may be curious or fearful about drug-related images and messages they see in the community and media. Even when children are as young as 5 or 6, you can talk to them about things that are 'safe' or 'dangerous.' Don't wait until a problem arises to discuss their questions. By talking to children about drugs when they are young, good communication habits are being developed; and the chance that they will discuss concerns later are improved.

Give them the facts: Talk to teens about the dangerous consequences of drug use. Respect their need to know the facts and answer their questions honestly. Help them sort through all the confusing messages they get from peers, television, movies, music and school. Listen, don't lecture: Teens often struggle to express their feelings and concerns to adults. Take time to hear what they are really saying, as well as not saying. Help them think of ways to respond to social situations, especially where drugs are involved.

Encourage them to explore new interests. In doing so, their sense of identity is being developed. Teens who feel secure about themselves are better able to cope with peer pressure. Remind them that they are not alone and they have the ability to make good choices. Be a good role model: Set firm rules about drug and alcohol use and be consistent about enforcing them. Adults need to also make wise choices about their own use of alcohol and other drugs; in other words, what is done is as important as what is said.

Teenagers may be involved with alcohol and legal or illegal drugs in various ways. Experimentation with alcohol and drugs during adolescence is common. Unfortunately, teenagers often don|t see the link between their actions today and the consequences tomorrow. They also have a tendency to feel indestructible and immune to the problems that others experience. Using alcohol and tobacco at a young age increases the risk of using other drugs later. Some teens will experiment and stop, or continue to use occasionally, without significant problems.

Others will develop a dependency, moving on to more dangerous drugs and causing significant harm to themselves and possibly others. Adolescence is a time for trying new things. Teens use alcohol and other drugs for many reasons, including curiosity, because it feels good, to reduce stress, to feel grown up or to fit in. It is difficult to know which teens will experiment and stop and which will develop serious problems. Teenagers at risk for developing serious alcohol and drug problems include those: with a family history of substance abuse who are depressed who have low self-esteem, and who feel like they don|t fit in or are out of the mainstream Teenagers abuse a variety of drugs, both legal and illegal. Legally available drugs include alcohol, prescribed medications, inhalants (fumes from glues, aerosols, and solvents) and over-the-counter cough, cold, sleep, and diet medications.

The most commonly used illegal drugs are marijuana (pot), stimulants (cocaine, crack, and speed), LSD, PCP, opiates, heroin, and designer drugs (Ecstasy). The use of illegal drugs is increasing, especially among young teens. 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.

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. Parents can help through early education about drugs, open communication, good role modeling, and early recognition if problems are developing. REASONS FOR USE Young people use drugs for many different reasons. These vary from drug to drug, person to person, and from situation to situation. A person may start using a drug for one reason but may continue using for quite another reason. Not all young people will experiment with alcohol and other drugs, and only a small percentage will develop a serious problem.

When asked, young people state many of the same personal reasons as adults for initially using alcohol and other drugs, including: Curiosity-it looks like fun! It's a way to be social, and perhaps even to 'fit in.' It's a way to relax and possibly escape boredom. It is accessible and seems harmless. It's a chance to take some risks and rebel, a rite of passage. It's a way to feel good. Eventually, for some people, use becomes a frequent part of social outings.

Reasons for using are now different than before and use continues despite negative consequences. It becomes a way to: Relax and even to decrease inhibitions. Enhance good feelings and escape bad ones. Cope with stress and personal / family problems. Adolescence is a period of great change. Young people experience a dramatic transformation: they change schools, their bodies change, their relationships with friends and family change, and their needs and desires change.

This can be exciting as well as stressful and emotional. The teen years are also a time of making decisions and of discovering one's own values and beliefs around a variety of issues, including health and lifestyle choices. Friends and other outside sources can also influence decisions. The decision to use drugs is therefore influenced by the interaction of many different individual and environmental factors. Unfortunately, many mixed messages surround these issues, and can create a lot of confusion as to what is acceptable and what is not! For example, tobacco and alcohol advertising encourages young people to smoke and drink. A double standard also persists that somehow use is okay when you are older but not okay when you are younger.

And alcohol, tobacco and other drugs are more available and accessible than ever. At the same time the misperception lingers that using substances causes little if any harm. Everyone with a role to play in helping young people shares in the responsibility to assist them to make healthy choices that decrease the likelihood of harmful involvement with alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. Reasons that kids may use drugs. Teens themselves say they use drugs for a variety of reasons: 'I'm curious about what it would be like.' 'My parents don't want me to.' 'It helps me relax and fun.' 'My parents drive me crazy with their demands and expectations.' 'Adults do it all the time.' 'My friends do it, and I want to fit in.' 'It takes me away from the border and the crap.' 'When I drink, it makes me more sure of myself.' 'I like the feeling of getting high or drunk.' By the time kids reach their teens, they naturally start to follow their own path. They become interested in the activities of older teens and adults, especially their use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.

Young people want to be perceived as more adult. In truth, kids who veer into a lifestyle built on something as external and artificial as drugs are defeating their own goals for independence by taking the opposite road - the road to dependence. Young people are more inclined to have drug problems if they have difficulties managing their experiences and emotions, or their confidence and skills can't meet the demands of everyday living. Drug use provided an easy, negative substitute for taking control of one's life in a stressful world. Drug problems may be curbed by involving your kids in avenues like sports, the arts, or aspects of your work which are of interest to them. Family life is also very important in shaping a young person's attitudes towards drugs..