Teens, Alcohol & Marijuana:
Stay a Step Ahead
The following information has been prepared to help parents and other adults understand issues related to teenagers, alcohol and marijuana.
Adolescence is a time when teens actively and consciously create an identity for themselves. At this time in life, as teens work at becoming adults and discovering who they are, parents and other adults may find that teens:
- question family rules, values and beliefs
- experiment to satisfy their curiosity
- want to experience things for themselves
Yet teens can be so vulnerable because they don't always think about the consequences of their actions.
Alcohol is the drug most commonly used by teens. Marijuana is the other most commonly used drug. The legal drinking age in Ontario is 19 years. Marijuana is illegal in Canada with the one exception of medical use under physician supervision outlined by the Marijuana Medical Access Regulations.
Many teens use alcohol or marijuana to experiment and assert their independence:
- On average, grade 11 students who drink say they started to drink at 13 ½ years old and were drunk for the first time at 14 years old.
- 20% of grade 7-11 students in Ontario reported getting drunk at least once in the past 4 weeks.
- 36% of grade 11-12 students reported having used marijuana in the last year and 1 in 10 past year users reported dependence.
Teens say they use alcohol and marijuana to:
- be relaxed and have fun
- be like their friends
- try new things
- feel better about themselves
- deal with stress
- have "something to do"
- get drunk or high
To many teens it may seem like all their friends are drinking. Many teens believe marijuana is "natural" and therefore harmless. Teens see people drinking and smoking marijuana on TV, in movies and music videos. This is often portrayed as positive, glamorous and risk-free.
Kids who drink underage, who drink to get drunk and who make unsafe choices when drinking or using drugs put themselves and others at risk for injuries.
What parents can do:
- Learn about alcohol and marijuana
- Talk to your teen about alcohol and marijuana
- Build your teen's strengths
- Help your teen to plan ahead