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Man's face in a cloud of smoke.

ALABAMA A&M UNIVERSITY, Ala. – Children and teens today are constantly confronted with the peer pressures related to drug use. Friends at school, television, music and even family members can glorify and encourage young people to participate in these acts.

Danielle Rudolph, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System family and child development and 4-H youth development regional agent, said while some areas of drug use have declined over the last few years, other areas have actually increased.

“An annual survey done by the National Institute on Drug Abuse revealed some interesting trends on drug use in children grades eight, 10 and 12,” Rudolph said. “The survey indicated that vaping use among teens increased dramatically during the past two years. Also, marijuana vaping use from 2018 to 2019 increased from 7.5 percent to a whopping 14 percent.”

In the 45-year history of this survey, this increase was the second largest one-year jump ever tracked for any substance.

Causes of Drug Use in Young People

According to Rudolph, there are several reasons why young people start using drugs.

“Young people today often have stressful situations that they don’t quite know how to handle,” she said. “Stresses in friendships, school, extracurricular activities, and other avenues can cause them to turn to drugs and alcohol for relief.”

Other reasons a young person may start using drugs include

  • they are simply curious about them
  • they want to fit it and be accepted by their peers
  • the drugs create a pleasurable feeling for them
  • they believe the drugs will improve their performance in academics or athletics

These types of use can cause a dependency and may lead to continued use as an adult.


The best ways to prevent drug use is by showing support to young people and educating them of the effects of drugs.

“Having a support system, coupled with a better knowledge of the effects of drugs, can be essential to helping youth remain drug free,” Rudolph said. “It is up to educators, parents and other community leaders to ensure that youth receive instruction on how to make good decisions when it comes to substance use.”

Parents remaining active in a child’s life will allow them to introduce and discuss the subject of drugs as they grow up. As the first role models they encounter, it is important for parents to set good examples for their child to follow. Having appropriate discussions with children at younger ages will allow them to be more knowledgeable on the subject as they reach ages where pressures are more prevalent.

Alabama 4-H Health Rocks! ®

Alabama Extension works to encourage today’s youth to build strong decision-making skills through Alabama 4-H Health Rocks! ®. These skills can help guide youth away from risky behaviors, such as alcohol, tobacco and drug use.

This program helps youth build life skills that lead to healthy lifestyle choices. It also encourages youth and adults to form partnerships to develop and implement community strategies that reduce smoking and other substance abuses.

To learn more about Alabama Extension’s Health Rocks!® program, contact Angela Williams, an Alabama Extension 4-H youth development specialist, at (256) 372-5713.

More Information

More information on drug use in young people is in Help Youth to Live Drug Free. For further information visit the Alabama Extension website, www.aces.edu.

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