SummaryRead the full fact sheet
- Excluding prescription medication – alcohol, cannabis and tobacco are the most common drugs used by teenagers.
- Young people use drugs for many reasons: for fun, curiosity, to feel part of a group or to cope with anxiety or emotional pain
- Help is available for parents and young people who have concerns about alcohol and drug use.
The teenage years can be a time of experimentation for young people – and taking substances can be part of adolescent risk-taking behaviour.
Not all young people will drink alcohol or experiment with illicit drugs – and most who do won’t experience any serious issues from their use.
As a parent, there is no way to guarantee your child will never take drugs, but there are ways you can help to delay or prevent their use, as well as reducing the potential for harm.
Why teenagers take drugs
Young people use drugs for similar reasons that adults do – because they want to feel better or different.
Other reasons include:
- socialising with friends, peer pressure or the need to feel part of a group
- relaxation or fun
- curiosity, experimentation or wanting to take risks
- to escape from mental or physical pain, or challenging circumstances
- to deal with past trauma
- to feel in control.
Drugs used by teenagers
- 69% of females and 63% of males were choosing not to drink alcohol
- 9% had more than four standard drinks at least once a month
- 96.6% had never smoked tobacco and just under 2% smoked on a daily basis.
Reducing drug use in teenagers
It can help to:
- Develop a close and trusting relationship with your child from an early age, and support and encourage positive behaviour.
- Show appropriate behaviour yourself, such as drinking moderately and not using illicit drugs around them
- Establish agreements and rules about what is acceptable behaviour around alcohol and drugs.
- Encourage a healthy approach to life, including good foods, and sports.
- Allow your child to practise responsibility and develop good decision-making skills from an early age.
- Have open and honest discussions about the risks associated with drug use. Do not exaggerate or make information up.
If you suspect your child is taking drugs
There are no specific signs or behaviours that can tell you a young person is definitely using drugs.
Uncharacteristic behaviours such as mood swings, a drop in schooling performance, different friends and a changed appearance may indicate other issues that are not drug related.
If you suspect your child is using drugs:
- If possible, don’t react on your first impulse – give yourself time to think.
- Resist the urge to search your child’s room or belongings for evidence.
- Research drugs so that you have the facts.
- Raise your concerns calmly with your child when you both feel relaxed.
- If your child is taking drugs, don’t issue ultimatums.
- Try to educate your child on the health and lifestyle risks.
- Offer them help & support if they are experiencing issues
Where to get help
- In an emergency, call triple zero (000)
- Tel. – Free, confidential and non-judgmental telephone advice and referral service for alcohol and other drug-related enquiries.
- Tel. – for 24-hour confidential drug and alcohol telephone counselling, information and referral
- Tel. – for information and support for people concerned about a relative or friend using drugs
- Tel. – free drug and alcohol counselling 24/7 via webchat or sms services
- Tel. – free and confidential 24/7 phone and online counselling service for young people aged 5 to 25 years.
- Tel. – a confidential and anonymous counselling phone service for parents and carers on parenting issues
- (YoDAA), Victoria Tel. (9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday)
- – available to young people experiencing serious disadvantage, Tel. 1800 458 685