According to Time.com: “Teen drug use shouldn’t be looked at as a rite of passage but as a public health problem, say experts, and one that has reached “epidemic” levels.”

The magazine cited a study from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) that found that “75% of all high school students have used alcohol, tobacco or either legal or illicit drugs and that 20% of these adolescents are addicted.”

This is not only dangerous in the present; teen drug use can have ripple effects well into the future since “90% of Americans who are currently addicted started smoking, drinking or using drugs before age 18.” and scientific research has shown that the earlier someone gets in to substance abuse, the more likely it is that they will become addicted,

The president of the Society for Adolescent Health was quoted as saying that all adolescents run the risk of engaging in substance abuse, but that this is preventable.

Part of the problem may be parental and societal attitudes towards drug and alcohol abuse. Whether parents communicate it directly or indirectly some teens are getting the message that experimenting with drugs and alcohol is just something that kids do.  Other parents figure if their teen uses alcohol, cigarettes, then this is preferable to their using “street”drugs. The message that some kinds of substance abuse are okay allows teens to feel like it is no big deal.

Popular culture certainly portrays teen drug and alcohol abuse as “experimental” and something that teens do because they are “at that age.” Sadly, substance abuse can harm a teen’s development and make it harder to overcome addiction.

No family wants to have to send their teen to a drug and alcohol rehab center. Talk to your children about the dangers of substance abuse and make it clear that it is dangerous. Although it may seem as if parents have very little influence once their children reach the teen years, you would be surprised. They may not want to admit it but teens still look to their parents for guidance.