Where Do Teens Get Drugs?

For years, teens have been saying that it is even easier to get drugs than it is to get alcohol. Of course, parents want to prevent their teen from acquiring these harmful substances. How do teens get these drugs so easily?

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How Many Teens Are Using Drugs?

A group of teenagers using drugsIn the past year, approximately 40% of high school seniors, 30% of 10th graders and 13% of 8th grade kids have used a drug. Coupling that with the fact that teens also use alcohol at an alarming rate, it’s apparent that drug use in high school is a serious problem. In fact, each month, over 35% of high schoolers consume alcohol.

Despite the fact that it is illegal for teens to use these substances, they still find ways to acquire them. Most often, several primary sources are behind teens’ acquisition of these substances.

Everyday Interactions

Teens are bound to spend large blocks of time at home and with peers. Accordingly, these are two of the most likely sources of access to drugs among adolescents.

Drugs in School

Many drug transactions occur on school grounds, where teens still sell their drugs and pills to their peers. At school, children have access to a larger pool of drugs than what they would be accustomed to seeing in their own social groups. The best distributors operate in shrouds of secrecy around campus, potentially coming into contact with your teen regularly.

Fake IDs

Your teen or some of your teen’s friends might use a fake ID to get alcohol. In fact, around 7% of high schoolers have used a fake ID to obtain alcohol at some point. It’s an especially important point to consider because teen drinking statistics show teens are circumventing the law to get their hands on these substances. Fake IDs are usually what helps them purchase from bars and liquor stores in the first place.

Access to fake IDs is easier than you may think. As technology has advanced, it’s become more and more difficult for scanners to determine whether an ID is genuine or a fake. There are covert businesses that will actually take a picture of an underage person, and laminate a fake driver’s license. Other times, a teenager has an older sibling who looks very similar to them and they are able to use that sibling’s ID to buy alcohol.

Drugs at Home

If your teen is abusing drugs or alcohol, chances are good that they might find these substances right in your home. If your medicine cabinet contains prescription pills, then your teen has easy access to mind-altering drugs. New drug abusers over age 12 are more likely to abuse prescription drugs than any other kind of drugs, leading to abuse like a quick Xanax high or deeper issues like opioid addiction. Pay attention to your prescriptions; if you notice that you tend to refill prescriptions faster than you expect, somebody may be stealing your medication.

If you or any other person in your home consumes non-prescription drugs, then your teen is likely able to locate and dip into that supply. When other people in the home — especially adults — use illicit drugs, it not only enables access to those drugs, but also validates drug use for your teen.

If you suspect your child is abusing drugs, there is a chance that an adult is providing them. Sometimes, even parents freely offer drugs to their teen. If you are co-parenting with a former spouse, or if you and your spouse are not completely honest with each other, then your child’s other parent could be providing them with drugs. Do not blindly throw accusations at your teen’s other parent, but begin by speaking with your child’s school guidance counselor about how best to approach the situation.

Alcohol is the most commonly abused substance among teens, and adults are the top source of alcohol for teens. Of course, alcohol is legal for adults over the age of 21, so you may like to keep a six-pack of beer in your fridge. However, consider how easy it is to simply grab a beer from the fridge when you get home from work. It is just as easy for your teen to do the same thing. You might also have a liquor cabinet — these beverages make it even easier for teens to drink undetected. While you may know how many beers are left in the fridge, you may not keep a close eye on how many servings are left in your bottle of whiskey.

Here are a few action items you should consider to make sure you can keep drugs away from your children at home:

  • Do not keep leftover prescription pills
  • Use locks on your medicine cabinet
  • If anybody in your home is currently using illicit drugs, see that that adult receives counseling
  • Use locks on your liquor cabinet (if possible, use a separate, lockable refrigerator for beer and other chilled alcoholic beverages)

Buying Drugs Online

A drug dealer selling to teenagersIn the 21st century, we use the internet for most everything — from shopping to booking travel to dating. It is no surprise that a number of drug vendors also take advantage of the medium.

The Dark Web

The dark web is an encrypted subsection of the internet that is inaccessible without special software or authorization. It is largely used for illegal activities such as drug sales. In 2013, there was a federal takedown of an online drug marketplace called “Silk Road,” which had facilitated over a million transactions — totaling over $1 billion in sales — in just more than two years in existence.

Despite Silk Road’s shutdown, similar shady websites remain live and accessible to teens. Today’s teenagers have become increasingly tech-savvy, and many understand how to access the dark web and use it to purchase drugs online. This is one area of the web your vigilance can help prevent your child from getting caught up in.

Illegitimate Online Pharmacies

The dark web aside, the internet is rife with pharmacies that sell drugs illegally. Many of these so-called “pharmacies” are not based in the U.S., so they are not subject to U.S. governance. Teens can go online and order any number of prescription medications, and have them shipped in discreet packaging.

Aside from the fact that teens are using mail-order drugs without prescriptions, there are even worse dangers in this situation. For one, your teen truly has no idea whether or not their online pharmaceutical purchase is what they intended to acquire. Studies show that up to half of these businesses are not selling what they claim to sell. In benign cases, these businesses might simply be providing sugar pills; in more serious cases, these medications can be deadly.

Additionally, there is no way for your teen to know the actual dosage of a medication they purchase online, making overdose a terrifyingly real possibility. Even if a non-U.S. online pharmacy strives to do legitimate business with their customers, your teen is still in danger. Language barriers, lax foreign drug regulations and differing drug formulas all contribute to the risks your teen is taking when purchasing from these businesses.

Here are a few signs that your teen’s online pharmacy is not legitimate:

  • It is located outside the country
  • It does not require a prescription for medications that would require a prescription from a brick-and-mortar pharmacy in the U.S.
  • Its prices are drastically lower than the ones you would see at your local pharmacy
  • There is no pharmacist or medical doctor on staff

Regional Concerns

Teenagers using cocaineDrug use by state varies, so it’s important to remember your concerns may differ from those of other American parents. For example, the legalizatin of marijuana in certain states has made the drug more accessible to kids in those states who can find it distributed around them. Ask your teen’s school guidance counselor or your local police department about which drugs are a common issue in your area.

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Where Do Teens Get Drugs
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