Drugs and Alcohol

Recognizing the Gateway Drugs

These gateway drugs are a dead-end decision that limits your teenagers potential and possibilities.


  • Smoking during the teenage developmental years causes permanent genetic changes in the lungs and forever increases the risk of lung cancer, even if the smoker quits.
  • The average teen starts using tobacco at age 12. Smoking is a “pediatric disease”.
  • Tobacco is highly addictive and most likely to take hold during adolescence.
  • There are over 4000 chemicals (including 43 known carcinogens and over 400 other toxins) in tobacco.
  • Smoking makes you smell bad, gives you bad breath, makes your fingers turn yellow, and gives you premature wrinkles.
  • Tobacco is the leading cause of drug-related deaths.
  • Smoking inhibits athletic performance immediately.



  • One 12 oz. beer has the same amount of alcohol as 1.5 oz. of whiskey, 5 oz. of wine, or a wine cooler.
  • “Chugging” drinks or binge drinking can be fatal because it raises the blood alcohol level rapidly. “Chugging” can induce an alcoholic coma and vomit aspiration.
  • Alcohol-related auto accidents are the leading cause of death among young people in the 15-24 year age group.
  • Alcohol is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. and is involved in well over half of the fire deaths, drowning, injuries, traffic fatalities, and murders in the U.S.
  • Adolescents may become addicted to alcohol in only 6-18 months. For adults, it takes 5-15 years.
  • Children of alcoholics have a four to ten times greater risk of becoming alcoholics than children of non-alcoholics.
  • Alcohol destroys brain cells that do not regenerate.
  • Date rape typically occurs because one or both parties are under the influence of alcohol and/or other drugs.


  • THC, the active chemical in marijuana, stays in the body for a month or more, stored in the brain, testes, ovaries, and other fatty organs.
  • Marijuana use inhibits short-term memory and comprehension, alters sense of time, slows reactions, reduces the ability to perform tasks requiring concentration and coordination, and with frequent use, is linked to an inability to abstract and understand concepts.
  • Frequent use of marijuana is linked to decreased sperm count and sperm motility in men, and irregular ovulation and menstrual cycles in women.
  • Marijuana is often cut with fillers and can contain other drugs such as opiates or PCP, so users do not always know what they are smoking.
  • Today's marijuana is about 300% more potent than that used in the 1960-70s.

Rohypnol - Date Rape Drug

  • When dropped into a drink, Rohypnol causes the victim to “pass out” mentally within 20 minutes.
  • Rohypnol renders victims helpless and defenseless against sexual assault.
  • Males are also targeted. After unknowingly consuming a Rohypnol they may wake up and find they are missing their wallets, credit cards, etc.
  • Besides being used as a “date rape” pill, teens are abusing Rohypnol by swallowing the pills for a quick “cheap drunk” feeling.


  • Teens often inhale common household substances such as glue, cleaning fluids, paint thinner, aerosol products (e.g. spray starch, whipping cream) and other solvents because they are inexpensive and easily available in every home.
  • Inhalant abuse is on the rise among children of all ages.
  • Inhalants can cause heart failure, damage the kidneys, the liver, or the brain.
  • Inhalants can kill the first time they’re used. The victim usually dies through asphyxia or suffocation.

What Can I Do if I Suspect My Child is Using Alcohol, Tobacco or other Drugs?

Realize that no child is immune to drugs. Take seriously any concerns you hear from friends, teachers or other children about your child's possible drug use. Many adults feel helpless, and assume that they can take care of the problem within the family itself. Covering up for your child or denying the problem will only allow it to get worse. Addiction is a disease - it is chronic and progressive and it requires treatment.

If there is a problem, seek professional help. Suggestions for talking with your child and getting help if you suspect drug use:

  • Agree on a course of action with your spouse or other adult before talking with your teen.
  • Don’t confront your child when s/he is high.
  • Do let your child know that you do not condone his/her behavior but still value him/her and will be a supportive advocate.
  • Be open and honest with your feelings but do not let anger or fear overwhelm your effectiveness to communicate.
  • Be specific about your observations.
  • Don’t be misled by denials such as, “I've only tried it once.” “It’s not mine - I was just holding it for a friend.” “Everyone is doing it.” “Marijuana can’t hurt you.”
  • State the consequences for drug use based on your family rules, but don’t threaten more than you are prepared to enforce. Enforce consequences.

What Can My Child Do If S/He is Using Alcohol, Tobacco or other Drugs?

  • Recognizing the problem is the first big step. Asking for help is the next one.
  • Talk to someone s/he trusts—parents, a school counselor, a teacher, a student in recovery.
  • Call the self-help resources located on the back page of this booklet—Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, etc.
  • Contact a community resource—National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (NCADA), Youth Emergency Services (YES).

Signs to Look For

Changes in behavior often occur subtly and over time, making drug behaviors more difficult to identify. If you do not notice subtle changes, more blatant ones will begin to appear. While it may be difficult to distinguish typical adolescent behavior from drug-induced behavior, you should consider possible drug use if you notice several of these changes in your child:

Changes in Physical Appearance

  • messy appearance, lack of hygiene
  • bloodshot eyes, dilated pupils
  • frequent use of eye drops
  • runny nose, congestion, coughing
  • wearing dark glasses when unnecessary
  • pale face, circles under eyes

Changes in Eating and Sleeping Habits

  • difficulty falling asleep, insomnia
  • inappropriate napping
  • significant weight loss or gain
  • poor appetite
  • sudden appetite, especially for sweets

Changes in Friends and Interests

  • new or different friends, especially ones who use drugs or are much older
  • friends rarely introduced and seldom come to house
  • more time spent in room or away from home
  • secrecy about actions and possessions
  • hobbies, sports or extra-curricular activities are given up; everything is "boring"
  • stays out past curfew

Attitudes towards Drugs and Alcohol

  • pro-drug messages on posters, clothes, notebooks or body
  • strong defense of the occasional use of drugs by peers
  • easily angered when confronted about drug use
  • concern expressed by others over his/her use of alcohol or drugs

Physical Evidence of Drug Use

  • evidence of inhalant use: cloth smelling of chemicals, glue bottles
  • Visine or other eye drops
  • drug paraphernalia, e.g. roach clips, rolling papers, bongs, pipes, screens
  • baggies containing dried leaves, seeds
  • burning incense, room deodorizers
  • prescription medication disappearing
  • unexplained possession of large sums of money or belongings
  • money or other valuables disappearing from family members

Changes in Behavior and Personality

  • abrupt changes in mood
  • hostility, defiance of rules
  • depression, “I don’t care” attitude
  • lack of responsibility
  • blaming, lying, making excuses
  • loss of memory, shortened attention span, disordered thought patterns
  • withdrawal from family, isolation, secretiveness

Changes in School or Job Performance

  • lowered grades, neglected homework
  • frequent tardiness and absenteeism
  • falling asleep in class
  • quitting or getting fired from job
  • discipline problems

How can you raise a drug-free child?

Parents can strongly affect whether or not their children choose to try drugs. The most important thing is to keep the lines of communication open. Create an atmosphere of trust, and make sure they know they can talk to you about anything. Use your influence and love for them to help them stay drug-free. Your teens look to you as a role model to learn how responsible adults behave.