About 90 percent of Americans with substance use disorders started using alcohol or other drugs before they turned 18, according to a study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse.

"Teenage brains adapt more quickly to repeated drug use, leading to cravings and dependence," according to an article on the website drugrehab.com.

Our recent series on teen suicide, Before It's Too Late, discussed how the brains of young people play a role on that irreversible action — how the frontal lobe, the part of the brain that controls judgment, impulse control and other crucial thinking, isn't fully developed until age 25 or so.

So it's no surprise that young people might takes risks with drugs and alcohol.

And once a teen begins imbibing alcohol or using other drugs, their brain development can actually be impaired, according to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Those substances, says drugrehab.com, "negatively affect a person’s memory and ability to respond to stimuli and stressful situations.

"That’s why people who abuse drugs at a young age often suffer mental health problems — including depression, personality disorders or suicidal thoughts — later in life."

The answer is, of course, for teens and young adults to avoid drugs and alcohol altogether.

That's a tough goal to achieve. For along with impulsivity, there are many other reasons they might indulge.

It might be simple curiosity, says an article on the website projectknow.com, or an expression of defiance. Sometimes, young people partake to assert their independence, or they think it will make them feel good.

Kids might even be bored, the article says.

And then there's that dangerous outside force — peer pressure.

The other kids are doing it; they want to fit in.

In response to that common influence, the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services has launched the "Develop a Plan" campaign that encourages teens and young adults to think ahead, to create strategy that will help them avoid situations involving drugs and alcohol.

It's no coincidence the campaign coincides with prom and graduation season, as celebrations can often involve drinking and even drug use.

"Develop a Plan" encourages adults to talk to young people about not using alcohol and drugs.

It suggests devising a "code" your kids can text to you, even just the letter "X," if they find themselves in a tight spot. When you get the text, you call immediately and say you need to pick them up or they need to come right home.

"This will be their excuse to swiftly leave the situation," OASES says. "No questions asked."

Are you unsure how to broach the subject of underage drinking and illegal drug use with your child?

Instead of the "big talk," have lots of little talks, suggests the "Conversation Starters" page at talk2prevent.ny.gov.

"Be real and let them know just how dangerous it is," it says. "Be honest. If there is a history of alcoholism or drug abuse in your family tell them about it."

Check out the rest of the tips on that site for more ideas. And do it right away.

In 2016, says drugrehab.com, 1.4 million teens needed treatment for an illicit drug problem. 

You don't want yours to join that club.

Trending Video

Recommended for you