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Updated: Apr 24, 2023

According to an American Academy of Pediatrics study, every day, in America, approximately 4,700 kids, under the age of 18, try marijuana for the first time. The study also showed that, by the time they finished the eighth grade, approximately 50% of adolescents have had at least one drink of alcohol. Drug and alcohol use by a teen increases the risk of addiction and can change the developing brain for life.

The most important influence in a teen's choice to use drugs is their parent(s). With that in mind, remember that it is never too early or too late to talk to your kids about drug and alcohol use. Thus, the following information has been assembled to help you begin a dialog with your children about drugs, whether or not you suspect them of using drugs or alcohol.

What are the Signs of Drug Use?

  • Negative changes in schoolwork; missing school or declining grades.

  • Increased secrecy about possessions or activities.

  • Use of incense, room deodorants or perfume to hide smoke or chemical odors.

  • Subtle changes in conversations with friends, e.g., more secretive, using "coded" language.

  • New group of friends.

  • Change in clothing choices - new fascination with clothes that highlight drug use.

  • Increase in borrowing money.

  • Evidence of drug paraphernalia, such as pipes, rolling papers.

  • Evidence of inhaling products and accessories, such as hairspray, nail polish, correction fluid, paper bags and rags, common household products.

  • Bottles of eye drops, which may be used to mask bloodshot eyes or dilated pupils.

  • New use of mouthwash or breath mints to cover up the smell of alcohol.

  • Missing prescription drugs - especially narcotics and mood stabilizers.

What Do I Do First?

The first step to talking with your kid(s) about drug and alcohol use is for you to learn as much as possible. Visit and for this information.

The next step is to sit down and talk to your kid(s). By staying involved, you can help them stop using drugs and make choices that will make a positive difference in their lives. Tell your kids what you have seen and how you feel about it. Be as specific as possible, about the things you have seen that cause you to have concern.

It is also important, from an early age, to set clear ground rules about drug and alcohol use and to let your kids know that you will enforce these rules.


Talking to your kid(s) about this issue is can be very difficult, but if you follow the information in this section, the talk can be made less strenuous.

Avoid the following pitfalls:

  • Get mad.

  • Tell your kid(s) they are stupid.

  • Do not have a one sided conversation.

  • Let your kid(s) walk away or change the subject.

  • Tell your kid(s) that they are an embarrassment to the whole family.

Try to get answers to the following information:

  1. What are they doing?

  2. How do they obtain the drug(s)?

  3. When was the last time they used drugs?

  4. How long have they used?

The child's reaction to this talk could be any of the following:

  • Get angry.

  • Walk or run away from the conversation.

  • Try to change the subject.

  • Ask you about your drug use. If this happens, be completely honest!


The most important thing to remember about the TALK is that it is not a one-time event.

Columbus Police Department:

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