Most often, a parent will begin to worry about or approach the topic of substance abuse when their child is in their mid-to-late teens. They very rarely consider it an appropriate, or even relevant topic for their pre-pubescent children.

This is the wrong assumption.

According to a study conducted by The American Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) children who are barely out of middle school are experimenting with drugs. Children who are around the age of 12 are most commonly using hallucinogens and marijuana.

This drug usage spikes during the summer months, when spirits are high and adult supervision is low. This combination can make summer an especially exciting time for kids – but can also increase their risk of exposure to harmful substances. This is why we must take every opportunity to warn our kids about the dangers and risks of drug usage. It’s important they are informed and are taught to make clear and level-headed decisions.

Why would A 12-year-old try drugs?

Though it may not be the sole reason, it may be true that some pre-teens turn to drugs because they haven’t had meaningful and insightful discussions about the repercussions of drug use with their parents, guardians, or mentors. Drug awareness education programs start early, but are often vague and lack the meaningful statistics and information to help pre-teens make the smart decision to avoid drugs. It’s more likely that a child armed with real information early on will be able to make wiser decisions when it comes to drug use later. The point when a child should be learning about the serious consequences of substance abuse is much earlier than most parents realize.

The most common cited reason for drug experimentation in young people is peer pressure. Children in their early teens are especially vulnerable, and with the pressure of changing social circles and schools, it may be a way for the child to cope. In the moment, it’s easier for the pre-teen to give in than try to explain why he/she doesn’t want to use drugs. This is predominantly found in children who have fears of being excluded from the group, or who fear the social ramifications of saying ‘no’.

Consequences of long-term drug usage

Regardless of the reason, drug usage is dangerous and even more so if started at a young age. Childhood and early-teen years are a time when the brain is still developing rapidly. Any change in its environment will have lifelong implications. These chemical changes that happen as a result of recreational drug use can increase the likelihood of a severe addiction later in life. This is the same with alcohol. As well, a teen who has been using since their pre-teen years will exhibit less caution when consuming and are far more likely to make a decision that affects their overall health and quality of life.

How to recognize pre-teen drug use

All children experience mood swings and changes in behavior as they navigate puberty. However, a child engaging in illicit activities will have their own tells. If you are familiar with the way the child normally behaves, you should be able to discern between the two.

  • Secrecy can be normal to some extent, but the obsessive hiding of activities or associations is a major cause for concern.
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Changes in sleeping habits
  • Evidence of drug paraphernalia

Sometimes a kid will try a drug once, maybe twice and then decide it’s not for them. Other kids will wind up developing a severe dependency or allow the drugs to negatively affect them.

This is serious.

A child who makes ill-informed and impulsive decisions can set the course of their life into a downward spiral. If you find your child is using or abusing substance contact a mental health professional and get them the help they need. It could save their life.