I am often asked: What is normal adolescent "experimentation" with drugs and alcohol versus a process that is unhealthy, addictive, and not normal? My answer is simple: If someone uses illicit drugs it is not healthy. There is no merit in using the term "normal." It is at best arbitrary and difficult to define.
Alcohol and marijuana, for example, are dangerous drugs. Some kids experiment with them, but they are not legal (in the case of alcohol, for example, under the age of 21 in the United States) and are dangerous to one's health - especially for brains that are under the age of 25 and still evolving. This is particularly true for the developing frontal lobe which is involved in executive functioning - one's ability to effectively use cognitive functions that lead to goal directed behavior - not a minor thing to play around with.
It is always fascinating that so many articles focus on the adolescent who uses alcohol and, or, drugs. Indeed, according to SAMHSA (2007), the majority of youngsters between ages 12 and 20 don't drink or use drugs. This type of statistic points to the resiliency of many adolescents. Factors such as self- esteem, self-efficacy (one's belief in their ability to accomplish a task), bolster resiliency and are all strongly influenced by family cohesion.
Do you know that just sitting down with your youngster (by the way, parents are the greatest role models that their tweens and teens have), and letting them know that perhaps there is addiction in your family can raise their consciousness. Think how simple that is.