Addiction Behaviors: When Do Kids start?

In my experience treating addiction, the vast majority of addicted teens start using drugs at age nine or ten years old. Kids with a brain chemistry problem, which  puts them at high risk for addiction, start using alcohol at about age nine or ten. Most of the time they sneak the alcohol from parents. If they have the "at risk brain chemistry" they will subsequently start using marijuana at age 11 or 12, then move on to more potent, and more dangerous, drugs. Most teen opiate addicts I see started using opiates at about age 13 or 14. The vast majority of opiates obtained by these teens comes from a  relative or friend. They will take the drugs from the relative or friend who has had the opiate prescribed for a pain problem. What are the implications of this behavior? Do not assume a 13 or 14 year old would never use potent drugs. Also, we should be talking to children about drugs in second and third grade, NOT middle school. It is generally too late by then.

R. Santasiero, MD