Here are some statistics to scare the crap out of the parents out there. These are statistics for kids between the ages of 12 and 17. The figures come from the 2008 National Survey of Drug Use and Health. If you read nothing else of this post, please read the last couple of paragraphs. And please consider having a talk with your kids about drugs.
Seriously, this is critically important.
More than 60% have tried alcohol.
More than 47% have tries illicit drugs.
4.9% have experienced substance abuse problems with alcohol.
4.6% have experienced substance abuse problems with illicit drugs.
There is only a 1.9% crossover, so a full 7.6% of these kids have experienced substance abuse issues altogether.
In regards to the illicit drug use, there is a lot of crossover.
3.4% = Cannabis, 1.2% (est.) = other traditional illicit drugs.
The more frightening statistic is the abuse of pharmaceuticals, which is becoming one of the most serious youth drug problems today. An estimated 3% have abuse issues with pharmaceuticals. But that is just abuse, the estimates for kids in that age group to have tried/sometimes use pharmaceuticals are more than 40%. In context with other sources I have been reading, this is often in combination with alcohol and almost always includes mixing pharmaceuticals.
It doesn't matter if it is the first time a kid has tried this out. The right combination of pharmaceuticals, or mix of pharmaceuticals and alcohol = a dead kid.
I would also point out that initiation is getting younger and younger. We're talking 10 or 11 years old, sometimes younger. And the younger the child, the more likely it is that they will be trying pharmaceuticals. The other thing that is important about this pharmaceutical problem, is that there is far less correlation with traditional risk factors. Poverty, drug abusing parents and even an expressed distaste for illicit "street" drugs are not nearly as relevant with pharmaceuticals as they are with street drugs and alcohol.
A good time for that talk, would be when you next see your kids. Don't wait until they are preteens or teens - that could well be too late. If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed by the prospect, this is a great resource and I am going to post a longer discussion about this when I actually finish my paper.