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What Age do Kids Start Using Drugs?

what age do kids start using drugs

Drug use is an issue that every parent fears. With drugs becoming more dangerous it’s important for parents to understand what age kids start using drugs.

The Ages Kids Start Using Drugs

You should start looking for signs of drug use at the age of 10. Usually kids that start using drugs at or below 10 years of age have an extremely dysfunctional home life and their parents may even give them drugs or force them to use drugs.

A second tier of drug use begins around the age of 12-14. These children often have parents that are not strict and let their children operate with a high degree of trust and autonomy. Kids that start using drugs in this age range are most often exposed to drug use by older friends or siblings. 86% of teens reported knowing someone who smokes, drinks or uses drugs during the school day.

The final group of very young drug abusers start at age 14-15, during their first years of high school. In high school they are exposed to young adults that will view drug use in a different way than children do. 46% of teens reported using illicit drugs before graduating high school. 82% of kids have had their first drink by the age of 16, so intoxication is a common experience for teenagers by age 16.


First Drink by Kids Graph
This graph shows the age that kids reported having their first drink by. 82% of kids had their first drink by age 16. Intoxication becomes a normal facet of life for teenagers by the time they graduate high school.


Peer pressure is the biggest danger to middle school and high school aged children faced with trying drugs. As kids get older they are exposed to more drug use and become more at risk with every passing week. 29% of teens aged 12-14 have friends that abuse drugs, but that number increases to 61% for teens aged 15-17.

Drug Use at School

In 2018 30% of teens witnessed illegal drug use and the most common place for this was at their school. Teenagers spend a considerable amount of time at school and interact with hundreds of different kids every day.

Many schools have started searching children, bringing in drug sniffing dogs and adopting other measures to curb drug use. Kids are more likely to abuse drugs early in the day so the evidence is not on their person.


what age kids start using drugs
This chart shows a breakdown of which drugs are most popular with high school aged kids.


Besides peer pressure a driving motivation for kids is quick profits from selling drugs. In many states kids are limited in how many hours they can work until they’re 18, and selling drugs is a way to make more money than they could with a minimum wage after school job. Kids may obtain drugs at home or purchase them on the street to bring to school where there is a high demand.

Pharmaceuticals are the most popular drugs at school because unlike smoking marijuana there isn’t a strong smell. Tablets can be crushed into powder quickly and snorted and unlike alcohol the effects are more manageable and easier to conceal.

Drug Dealers at Home

Once children have been exposed to drug use their views on the matter change significantly. They may have been told that marijuana kills instantly and other exxaggerations to deter them from using drugs.

They will learn how to identify drugs and even if their drug of choice is marijuana they will likely be exposed to other drug users that use a variety of drugs. Knowing that other drugs hold value to their friends they will now be aware of any prescription narcotics that are in your home. Some children that do not use drugs will sell drugs found in medicine cabinets at home.


promethazine syrup
Promethazine cough syrup has become a popular drug of choice for urban teens. It is often mixed with cold drinks. Parents often consider this a harmless cough syrup.


Lock up all prescription narcotics and any other pharmaceuticals that could have a street value in a safe. The safe storage of a parent’s medication could be the difference in your teen progressing to harder drugs and sticking with a less dangerous drug such as marijuana.

Education is Key

There has never been a more dangerous time for illegal drug use. Chemists favor high powered opioids such as fentanyl and carfentanyl because their potency means high value shipments and smaller and more valuable. The dealers that break down and package drugs for sale on the street are no chemists however, and overdoses due to potency are becoming more and more common.

Teach your children abut the dangers of fentanyl and its prevalence. Be honest with them. Even though they aren’t very likely to die from a marijuana overdose, Fentanyl deaths have risen considerably and there is no way to know if a dose of heroin will have a toxic amount of fentanyl in it.

Another pressing danger is prescription drug abuse. It’s more common for a teenager in 2020 to start by abusing prescription drugs and move to heroin due to cost, availability and potency. 78% of teens say that their doctors and dentists never spoke with them about how dangerous prescription drugs can be.


Naloxone Pen
A naloxone injection is a cheap and effective antidote for opiate overdose if administered soon enough. Unfortunately the potency of fentanyl has led to some overdoses needing 3-5 naloxone shots to counteract,


If you suspect your child has used or is susceptible to drug use consider getting a couple naloxone pens and keeping them at home. Organizations are giving out free naloxone pens and offering free classes to learn how to use them across the country. This small step could one day save someone’s life.

Learn how to identify signs of drug use and be open with communication. 55.8% of teens said the main deterrent to using drugs was their parents.