Muir Wood therapist, David Laing

Teen Substance Use: Cigarettes vs Alcohol vs Marijuana

Tracking drug and alcohol use among teens is the purpose of a number of different surveys and research studies each year. This year, the Center for Substance Abuse Research at the University of Maryland at College Park released a study that looked at the changes in drug and alcohol use among teens from the 1970s to 2013. The data show that American teens are smoking cigarettes and drinking less alcohol than they did 30+ years ago, but their use of marijuana has increased significantly.

Specifically, 72 percent of teens reported drinking alcohol in the month prior in 1978, but that number plummeted to a little over 39 percent in 2013. Cigarette use dropped from more than 38 percent in 1976 to 16 percent in 2013.

However, marijuana abuse has increased significantly in the past few years. About 18 percent reported past-month marijuana use in 2006, but by 2013 that number jumped to more than 22 percent.

Trends in Teen Drug Abuse

Trends among teens change with the wind, and when it comes to drugs and alcohol use, a number of factors can contribute to those changes. These include:

  • Region. What is available where you are? Is your town near a major drug trafficking route? Do local dealers grow or produce a certain drug?
  • Price. Depending on the kind of money your teen has, his choice in drugs or alcohol may be based on what he can afford.
  • Peers. What are his friends using? Or are they using anything at all? Peers have a direct impact on what and how much illicit substances are used.
  • Taste. Some teens prefer to mellow out, slow down, and relax, and choose drugs that help them do this. Other teens prefer to amp up, taking stimulant drugs to increase their adrenaline and/or focus and social interactions.

Is Your Son Getting High or Drinking?

Knowing what the kids in your town are using and what’s available to your teen may start with what’s making the news but it’s important to talk to your son about what is happening around him. Ask him if he knows anyone who uses any specific drugs or what kids are selling or using at his school. If you know what’s out there, you can research the signs of use of that drug and be better equipped to identify those signs if they appear in your son.

If your son is drinking, smoking marijuana, or using drugs of any kind, don’t wait for the worst to happen. Contact us at Muir Wood now and intervene before the effects of drug and alcohol abuse begin to take their toll.