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Teen Risk for Development of Drug Use

Adolescents whose parents were addicted to drugs or alcohol are at risk for becoming addicted themselves. It is estimated that half of this risk is genetic, so even children who’ve had no contact with an addicted biological parent are still at increased risk. Just because an adolescent is genetically at risk for addiction doesn’t mean they will become addicted, just that they are more vulnerable to other factors that also increase risk for addiction. These other risk factors include untreated mental disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or conduct disorder, high stress such as abuse or poverty, and exposure to drug use in peers, friends, and family members.

Imagine an adolescent growing up and avoiding addiction is like walking on a rough trail without tripping and falling. Having a genetic risk for addiction is like being a bit more clumsy than the average person but doesn’t necessarily mean they will fall. Having other risk factors such as untreated mental disorders, high stress, or exposure to drug use is like putting ice or sleet on a rough trail. So, when a person who’s a bit clumsy is walking on a rough trail that’s also slippery, they are more likely to trip and fall.


What are signs an adolescent has a drug or alcohol problem?

  • Has friends who use drugs
  • Drops old friends and activities
  • Skipping school
  • Drop in grades
  • Is secretive about activities
  • Steals/borrows money
  • Is out late
  • Has drug paraphernalia
  • Has problems sleeping
  • Glassy eyes, red eyes, or slurred speech
  • Mood swings
  • Excessive energy or tiredness

What can you do as a parent?

  • Start talking to your children early and often about drug use. Don’t exaggerate or simply use scare tactics, but children who are well-aware of the risks of drug use are less likely to use them.
  • Be involved with your child’s life. Know your child’s friends, those friends’ families, and what your child is up to.
  • Have consistent rules, curfews, and boundaries among all your child’s caregivers.
  • Understand that family histories of drug and alcohol problems and a variety of mental disorders can make your child more vulnerable to alcohol and drug problems. If your child has any of these conditions, they will need extra help staying away from drugs.
  • Seek outside help when you need it.


In addition to your child's doctor, where can you go for help?

In the greater San Antonio area:


Educational Videos on Drugs and Children


  • Brain and Addiction  - Clarity Child Guidance Center on-demand video
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders - Clarity Child Guidance Center on-demand video




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