Physical Problems

Teen Drug Abuse

Teen drug abuse has been declining in the United States for the last decade, but several drugs remain a dangerous problem for many teens. Parents and other adults should know the signs of teen drug abuse so they can get help for teens who have a problem with drug use and abuse.

By the time they reach their teens, many young people already know someone who uses drugs. Some kids feel pressure to use drugs like alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana as early as 3rd grade. More kids are introduced to drugs during adolescence, or the junior high or middle school years. The percentage teen drug abuse increases through the high school years and into young adulthood.

  • Over 30 percent of 8th graders have used alcohol, and by 12th grade 66 percent of teens have used alcohol.
  • Teen Smoking: 3 percent of 8th graders smoke tobacco.
  • About 10 percent of 8th graders have used marijuana. About 25 percent of 10th graders and over 30 percent of 12th graders have used marijuana.
  • 10 percent of teens in 12th grade have abused prescription drugs. On average, 2,500 teens abuse a prescription drug for the first time every day. 

Since these teen drug abuse statistics were posted, new statistics were released for the year 2012. See how the 2012 statistics compare:

  • 3.6 percent of 8th graders have used alcohol, and by 12th grade only 28.1 percent of teens have reported getting drunk in the last month.
  • Teen Smoking: In 1996, 49% of 8th graders tried cigarettes, by 2012 only 16% had done so,  However, teen smoking of flavored cigars and Hookahs has significantly increased.
  • About 6.5 percent of 8th graders have used marijuana. About 17 percent of 10th graders and over 22.9 percent of 12th graders have used marijuana in the last month.
  • 14.8 percent of teens in 12th grade have abused prescription drugs.

The use of most drugs among teens is declining. In the last decade these numbers have gone down from almost 47 percent of 8th graders using alcohol, 10 percent smoking cigarettes, and about 12 percent using marijuana. Cocaine use declined in the 1990s from its peak in the 1980s, but it has remained steady since that time. Still, about a quarter of students say that drugs are available to them at school.

The exception to the downward or steady trend of drug use among teens is the teen prescription drug abuse, especially prescription painkillers, which has been rising in recent years. In the last decade treatment for teen prescription drug addiction has increased 300 percent. Many teens have a misperception about prescription drugs, believing that they are safe because they can be obtained legally. Prescription drugs are easy to get from medicine cabinets at home or at family or friends’ houses, meaning that many teens can abuse prescription drugs for free. Also, parents sometimes give their children another family member’s prescription painkillers without realizing the potential dangerous side effects and addiction that can occur.

Teen Drug Use Statistics show the most common drugs abused by teens are, in descending order:

  • Alcohol Abuse
  • Marijuana
  • Prescription drugs (opiates)
  • Stimulants like meth and ecstasy
  • Sedatives and tranquilizers
  • Crack Cocaine
  • Hallucinogens like LSD (acid) or PCP
  • Inhalants
  • Steroids
  • Heroin 

The drugs that are abused most commonly – alcohol, marijuana, and prescription drugs – may be appealing to teens because they think there is no risk involved in using them. Unfortunately, the use of any of these drugs during the teen years can have serious long-term consequences on a teen’s physical and mental wellbeing. A teen’s brain is still developing, so using any drugs during the teen years can cause problems with the teen’s growth, development, and long term health. Also, using these drugs lowers teens’ inhibitions, which can lead to other dangerous choices like driving under the influence or having unprotected sex.

Because teen drug use dangerous, parents should be aware of signs that their teen may be abusing drugs. Signs that a teen may be using drugs include:

  • Having drugs or drug paraphernalia
  • Medications or alcohol missing from your home or the home of family members or friends
  • A change in friends, or hanging out with friends who use drugs
  • Red or glassy eyes, or dilated pupils
  • Slow, slurred speech or talking unusually fast and jumping from subject to subject
  • A dramatic change in appearance
  • Lack of concern with appearance or hygiene
  • Unexplained change in weight
  • Change in performance at school or learning problems
  • Lying or acting sneaking
  • Not caring about risks, consequences, or the future
  • Being disrespectful or aggressive toward family members or family rules and values
  • Showing signs of depression or withdrawal
  • Defensiveness when questioned about activities or drug use
  • Losing interest in favorite activities 

Also, teens who are using or abusing drugs often need money to continue their drug use, though you may not be aware of their money problems. Some signs that teens may be seeking money for drugs include:

  • Valuables missing from your home
  • Your teen having unexplained money or valuables
  • Getting in trouble with the law – or teen violence
  • Stealing money or drugs
  • Borrowing money
  • Always being out of money even if they have an allowance or a job 

It is best to start talking to your teens about teen drug use before they have a problem, but if you think your teen is using drugs, it’s important to talk to them right away. Teens need help to overcome their teen drug abuse.

Physical Problems

Drug Testing Kits

Drug Testing

Parents may want to include drug testing kits as part of a family’s drug use prevention efforts, though parents shouldn’t rely on home drug tests alone to detect or prevent drug use, and many doctors recommend against home testing. Parents should learn about drug testing kits to decide if they are right for their family and situation.

Home drug testing kits generally involve taking a sample from the person and either using a test stick that gives a quick response or sending the sample to a lab that will process the test and return an answer. These types of tests are regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration. The tests that are sent to labs are kept confidential and may be ready in just a few days. These types of tests are usually very reliable. When using the types of tests that give immediate results, any positive results should be confirmed by a doctor or a lab.

Home drug testing kits can be purchased online or sometimes in local stores. When buying drug testing kits online, make sure that you are purchasing from a reliable company, such as one recommended by your local doctor or law enforcement agency. Most multiple-drug tests cost around $10 each, depending on the number and types of drugs tested for, and they are often sold in sets.

The samples that may be used for drug testing can include:

  • Urine
  • Saliva
  • Sweat
  • Hair

The collection methods vary. Urine is usually collected in a cup and then a stick is dipped in the sample, similar to a home pregnancy test. A patch placed on the skin may be used to gather sweat. Swabs can be used to collect saliva to be sent to a lab. Hair samples are usually collected directly from the person and sent for analysis.

Most of these methods can only tell parents if teen have been using drugs in the past few hours or days. Hair can potentially tell about drug use for up to one or more months prior to the test. It is also less invasive. The use of hair is less well-studied, however, and things like the texture and color of hair, as well as chemicals like dyes that have been used on it, may be able to affect the test results.

Drug tests can screen for a number of drugs, including:

  • Marijuana
  • Opiates
  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamines
  • PCP
  • Steroids
  • MDMA
  • GHB

Most drug tests only look for certain drugs, not for every drug a teen may be using. Alcohol is generally only detectable when the teen still has it in their system. There are some drugs that teens use that drug tests may not look for, such as some prescription drugs that teens abuse. This is one of the reasons that parents should not rely on drug tests alone to combat drug use in teens.

Another reason to be cautious about relying on drug testing kits is that some tests can be tricked. Most of the methods teens use to try to trick drug tests are not very effective, and some drug tests even detect substances that indicate that teens are trying to trick the tests. Still, parents should be aware that drug tests, though designed to be very reliable, are not foolproof. Also, tests may occasionally give a false positive. This is why positive tests should always be confirmed by a doctor or another source.

Parents may be tempted to drug test teens secretly, such as by taking a hair sample, but this is not usually recommended. Hair samples gathered secretly may be old, and may even belong to another person, such as if a friend used a teen’s hairbrush or someone at school was close enough to get a hair on their clothing. Also, testing in secret eliminates the potential of using drug testing to deter teens from trying drugs. It also may make it harder for parents to help teens if they find that they are using drugs, since the teens will lose trust in their parents and won’t be able to talk to them about their problem.

The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages involuntary or secret drug testing of young people because there is not enough evidence that home drug testing is useful in combating drug use. Drug testing is not always effective at detecting drugs, and may encourage teens to use drugs that less easily detected, including alcohol. Also, involuntary or secret drug testing may destroy family relationships and do other harm to teens.

If parents are concerned that their teens may be doing drugs but don’t want to use a home drug test, they can take their child to a doctor for drug testing. This also has the advantage of including medical advice and other types of drug and health screening along with the drug test.

If parents decide to use home drug testing, it should not be used to punish teens for drug use. Instead, it should be used to find teens who are using drugs and get them help. Random drug testing may be able to help to deter drug use, and may be able to catch teens who have a drug problem. Drug testing alone, however, is not an effective way to prevent teens from using drugs. The best things parents can do to help their teens are:

  • Talk to teens about why they shouldn’t use any types of drugs and express their love and concern for them
  • Monitor the teens’ behavior
  • Set clear rules against using drugs and enforce reasonable consequences if the rules are broken

Teens who have a drug use problem need counseling and perhaps medical intervention to help them deal with their problem and overcome any addictions that they have. Parents can find counselors or drug recovery programs through their doctor or local health department. Many programs are available for no or low cost to those who cannot pay for medical services.

Drug Testing Kit Sources:
Dr. D. Bruce Burlington, US Food and Drug Administration, News and Events, [Over-the-counter Test Kits for Drugs of Abuse” [online]
National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Frequently Asked Questions About Drug Testing in Schools” [online]
American Academy of Pediatrics, Pediatrics Journal, Policy Statement, “Testing for Drugs of Abuse in Children and Adolescents: Addendum – Testing in Schools and Home” [online]

Physical Problems

STD Statistics

Teen STD Statistics

When it comes to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), the United States offers woefully inadequate education. The proof is in the fact that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 19 million new STD infections occur every year (February 2013 new information indicates this number is now 20 million). And, even more alarming, is that nearly 50 percent of these new cases happen to young people between the ages of 15 and 24. Not only that, but the American Social Health Association (ASHA) reports that half of all new HIV infections occur in teenagers. It is apparent that many of the current and alarming STD statistics could be reduced with proper education.

Syphilis, a sexually transmitted disease that was virtually wiped out (or at least under tight control) as been making a comeback, resulting in an increase in cases each of the last six years, reports the Centers for Disease Control. And while Gonorrhea has leveled off, there is an indication that it could be creeping back into the population.

Chlamydia is another STD that is making a comeback in the population. ASHA reports that it is most prevalent in young people aged 15-24. According to the CDC, from 2005 to 2006 reported cases of Chlamydia climbed from 976,445 to 1,030,911. In 2011, 1,412,791 cases of Chlamydia were reported. However, health care professionals worry that the rates are probably higher, perhaps as high as 2.8 million new cases a year. The problem is that Chlamydia is one of the most under-diagnosed diseases in the country. And young women are the hardest hit by the re-emergence of Chlamydia. Teenage girls have a Chlamydia rate three times higher than teenage boys, reports the CDC.

One of the biggest problems with the increase in STDs among teenagers is due to the lack of education. Abstinence-only education, reports Planned Parenthood, does not address measures one can take to protect oneself during sex. Also, instead of providing practical and actionable information about the importance of being screened for STDs, abstinence-only education ignores STDs, except to point out that they are bad, and that complete abstinence is the only full-proof way to avoid them.

While this is true, many teenagers are sexually active (about 2/3 of seniors in high school have had sex). Abstinence-only education does not address this fact, and it does not educate teenagers that oral sex can transmit sexually transmitted diseases. Many teens think that remaining “technical” virgins and engaging in oral sex, but not intercourse, can protect them from STDs.

The American Social Health Association reports that less than half of teenagers in the U.S. have had discussions about sexual health and STDs during health visits and in schools. Additionally, parents are reluctant and embarrassed to talk about this information. This is contributing in large part to the STD statistics that we see. ASHA also reports that screening guidelines for STDs are not being followed, and that significantly less than half of eligible teen girls have been screened for Chlamydia.

The best defense against STDs is knowledge. Studies have shown that teenagers who are equipped with the education they need to protect themselves are more likely to engage in protective behaviors during sex.


Physical Problems

Teen Sex Statistics

Teen Sex Statistics & Sex Facts

One of the things that provides many parents concern is teen sex. Most parents worry about whether their teenagers are behaving responsibly when it comes to sexual intercourse. Indeed, from worries about unplanned pregnancies to concerns over sexually transmitted diseases, many parents worry about how sexually active their teens are.

And, indeed, there is some cause for alarm. The Guttmacher Institute reports that the United States has the highest levels of teen pregnancy among developed nations. This is hardly surprising, since nearly 75 percent of teenagers have had intercourse by the time they turn 20; only 15 percent report remaining virgins until the age of 21. Additionally, the Institute reports that teens in the US are more likely to have sex before the age of 15, and to have more than one partner in a year, than teenagers in Sweden, France, Canada and the United Kingdom.

However, there is some good news. Child Trends Data Bank reports that condom use is increasing. The reported instances of having protected sex have risen from 46 percent in 1995 to 63 percent in 2005, and was 60 percent in 2011. (Child Trends reports that condom use has remained steady from 2005 to 2007.) Birth control use by teenage girls, however, has not followed this trend. Birth control pill use has remained steady at somewhere between 16 and 18 percent since 1993, and fluctuated between 16 and 20 percent since. This probably accounts for teen sex statistics that show that just under 33 percent of teen girls become pregnant (according to Teen Pregnancy Statistics The CDC has since reported that in 2011 the live birth rate for teens aged 15-19 years is at a rate of 31.3 per 1,000 women.

With a teen pregnancy rate that is nearly twice the rate of that in other developed countries, many parents rightfully worry what can be done. Interestingly, despite a recent government push for abstinence only sex education is schools, teen pregnancy statistics, and teen sex statistics remain in line with trends. As a result, the Kaiser Family Foundation reports, 80 percent of parents think that contraception and protective practices (such as condom use) should be taught as part of a comprehensive sex education course.

Teen sex stats remain relatively stable, but intercourse has dropped to 66.7 percent among 12th graders in the US to 60.3 percent. The Guttmacher Institute found that 50 percent of teens between the ages of 15 and 19 in the US have had oral sex . The indication is that oral sex is beginning to be seen as an alternative to intercourse. And, even though this can prevent come teen pregnancies, many teenagers are under-informed with regard to the fact that STDs can still be caught through oral sex.

The teen sex stats that we see today should serve as a reminder that teenagers need to be guided. They need education and knowledge of what’s available in order to help combat teen pregnancy and STDs. Teenagers should understand that there are physical, psychological and emotional effects that come with sex. They should also be taught that the choices they make now can affect them later in life. But this teaching should not be done with fear.

Teen sex stats show that making sex forbidden doesn’t have an impact on the trends. Perhaps treating teenagers as adults, with respect for their intelligence and decision making ability can help where other methods have so far failed to stem the tide of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases in the US.

Physical Problems

Sexually Active Teens

Sexually Active Teens – we explore the teen sex facts and statistics. Includes info on condom use, talking to teens about sex, and more.

Teen Sex Statistics: It is no secret that teenagers in the United States are likely to be sexually active. Indeed, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report that by the age of 20, nearly 3/4 of teenagers have had sexual intercourse. But, the CDC reports, that number is declining. Among seniors in high school, the number of teenagers who have had intercourse has dropped to 60.5 percent, from 66.7 percent in 1991.

However, the Guttmacher Institute reports that the rate of teens that have had intercourse before the age of 15 is higher in the United States than in other developed nations. One study by the American Public Health Association, put the percentage of teens that had sex by the 9th grade at 33 percent. The CDC reports that today’s adults report that only 16 percent had sex by age 15. While the incidence of sexually active teens may not be going up, they are having their first sexual experiences at a younger age.

This presents an interesting question: why are teens in the U.S. engaging in sexual intercourse earlier? The answer may lie in what teenagers themselves believe about sex.

Sexually Active Teens and Peers: The American Public Health Association (APHA), reports Psychology Today, did a study and found that one of the biggest reasons that teenagers engage in sexual activity is because they think their peers are also having sex. Peer pressure is a factor in the sexual landscape for American teenagers. Even if their peers really aren’t having sex, the perception that they are encourages some teenagers to become sexually active. Many of the teens that were sexually active reported that most, or nearly all, of the other teenagers in their grade had had sex – even though this wasn’t the case in reality.

Teen Sex in Media: According to the American Social Health Association (ASHA), one of the factors that increases the perception that peers are having sex is media content. Teenagers that watch sexual content in the media are more likely to overestimate the amount of sex their friends and acquaintances are having. They are also more likely to feel permissive of sexual activity and multiple partners.

Teen Sex Issues: Teenage girls have more interesting challenges. The APHA study found that the earlier a teen girl became sexually active, the more likely it was that her partner was older. The younger the girl, the larger the age gap with her partner. APHA found that the gap in girls who lost their virginity by age 12 usually had partners at least five years their senior. This is troubling, in that it indicates that older partners may pressure young teen – and even preteen – girls into having sex.

Teen Oral Sex: One of the sexual behaviors increasing amongst teens is the incidence of oral sex. 50 percent of teenagers ages 15 to 19 have engaged in oral sex, reports the CDC. That number increases to 70 percent when the oldest – 18 and 19 year olds – are taken out of the mix. The main reason that oral sex is increasing among teenagers, some think, is because it is perceived as safer than intercourse. Additionally, with the rise of interest in virginity and movements to “save” themselves for marriage, many teenagers consider themselves “technical” virgins if they have not engaged in intercourse. Oral sex doesn’t “technically” count as losing one’s virginity.

This behavior, though, is not entirely out of the ordinary. Indeed, the incidence of teen sex doesn’t appear to be increasing. The CDC did a study of adults, and found that only 15 percent of them waited until 21 to have sex. This means that most of the adults that are worried about their kids having sex most likely had sex themselves as teenagers.

Perhaps of greater concern is the fact that teen pregnancy has not abated. The Guttmacher Institute points out that the United States has a much higher rate of teen pregnancy than any other developed nation. Planned Parenthood places this trend squarely on the shoulders of the current push for abstinence-only sexual education. Teen pregnancies have not gone down in the meantime, but diseases like Chlamydia and syphilis are making a comeback in some states.

Teen Condom Use: Interestingly, protective practices seem to be catching on in younger students. The Child Trends Data Bank reports that among sexually active 9th graders, condom use is at 75 percent. This is encouraging. However, as students get older, they seem less likely to engage in this protective behavior; only 55 percent of 12th graders use condoms. Is it because by senior year many teenagers are down to “steady” partners and engaging in monogamous sex?

This may be the case. The Guttmacher Institute points out that 9th graders in the United States are more likely to have multiple partners, in addition to being more likely than their foreign counterparts to engage in sexual activity.

Teen Sex Talk: APHA maintains that the best way to encourage protected sex, as well as limit early sexual activity in teenagers, is to provide a supportive environment. Openness about sex and sexual issues, as well as supportive discussions of family values, can help teenagers make better informed decisions about their sexual activity.

Talk to your teen about sex. You can help them learn the teen sex statistics and teen std statistics. This could help prevent a teen pregnancy or STD. Sexually active teens are at risk and should learn about teen condom use. Click here for more on pregnancy statistics.

Physical Problems

Teen Smoking

Teen smoking had been on a sharp decline since the mid-late 1990’s, but recent data shows that the adolescent smoking rates are rising slightly.

According to a 2005 study done by the CDC, 23% of high school students reported smoking cigarettes in the last month. This is compared with a previous study of high school students that showed 21.9% in 2003. While this data is somewhat discouraging it is far better than the 1997 level of the same survey at 36.4%. The rise appears to be greatest among white and Hispanic teens while the rates of teen smoking declined among black teens.

There is no concrete evidence at this time to show why the teen smoking statistics have declined since 1997, but some believe it is in better awareness efforts. Some also feel that it is due to a decline in media glamorizing smoking.

The CDC study showed that 80% of smokers begin before the age of 18. A similar study which was published by the American Lung Association website shows 90% of smokers begin before the age of 21.

A study that was done by the CDC also found some interesting facts and estimates:
1. About 3,900 teens under 18 start smoking each day.
2. Of the 3,900 teens that start smoking each day – 1500 will become regular smokers.
3. Those who smoke often have secondary behavioral issues such as violence, drug/alcohol use, and high-risk sexual behavior.

Some of the contributing factors of teenage smoking are:
1. Low socioeconomic status
2. Use or approval of smoking by siblings/peers
3. Smoking by parents
4. Availability and price of tobacco
5. Lack of parent support / involvement
6. Lower self-image or self-esteem

Consequences of teen smoking:
1. Chronic cough – if smoking is continued
2. Reduced stamina
3. Bad breath
4. Yellow teeth
5. Stinky clothes
6. Expensive habit – 1 pack/day = about $1000/year.

Some tips for parents to help prevent teen smoking:
1. Educate your child about the dangers of smoking early on.
2. Be a good example. Only 2 percent of smokers have parents who don’t smoke. (Mayo Clinic).
3. Don’t leave cigarettes where children or teens may have access to them.
4. Teach the teen or child refusal skills

The CDC reports more recent teen smoking statistics, from a 2012 survey, that reports nearly identical numbers to the 2005 statistics. Results show 23.3% of high school students confirming their use of some type of tobacco product at least once in the last 30 days. Statistics confirm that males are more likely than females to use tobacco products, but the gap is narrowing. From 2011 to 2012 there was a significant increase in the use of electronic cigarettes among both middle school and high school students. Traditional cigarettes continue to be the most widely used form of tobacco product but the most significant increase of use from 2011 to 2012 was seen in nonconventional tobacco products like electronic cigarettes (ecigs) and hookahs.

Teen Smoking Statistics Sources: CDC, Mayo Clinic, ALA

Physical Problems Troubled Teen Issues

Underage Drinking

Even though drinking by anyone under the age of 21 is illegal in the U.S., people aged 12 to 20 years drank 11% of all alcohol consumed in the United States this year. Of this amount more than 90% was consumed in the form of binge drinking. Binge drinking is typically defined as five or more drinks consumed on one occasion and is one way to determine heavy alcohol use. On average 28.3% of underage drinkers (10.8 million persons aged 12 to 20) used alcohol in the past month. Research has shown that underage youth drink more than those of a legal age (4.9 drinks vs. 2.8 drinks).

Legal Drinking Age

  • The legal drinking age for different countries varies dramatically, from 0 to 21
  • 10 countries have no minimum drinking age
  • 13 countries have a minimum drinking age of 16
  • 43 countries have a minimum drinking age of 18
  • 1 country has a minimum drinking age of 19
  • 2 have a minimum drinking age of 20
  • The U.S. has the highest minimum drinking age at 21, but there are many exceptions to this general rule, that lead to underage drinking. 

Drinking and Driving

A yearly average of 4.2 million young people between the ages of 16 and 20 reported driving under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs during the past year.

Among high school students in the last 30 days:

  • 45% drank some amount of alcohol.
  • 26% binge drink.
  • 11% drove after drinking alcohol.
  • 29% rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol.

Underage, teen drivers are more likely than older drivers to ride with an intoxicated driver and are more likely to drive after drinking alcohol or using drugs. The number of deaths in motor vehicle accidents involving alcohol, account for 38.6% of all traffic deaths. Reports show 6,002 young people ages 16-20 died in motor vehicle crashes in 2003.

Underage Drinking Deaths

Approximately 5,000 deaths of people under the age of 21 are the result of underage drinking each year:

  • 1,900 deaths from motor vehicle crashes
  • 1,600 as a result of homicides
  • 300 from suicide
  • Hundreds more die from other injuries such as falls, burns, and drownings while they are intoxicated 

This is a big concern because reports show there were approximately 7.2 million people under the legal drinking age who were binge alcohol users in the last month.