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When Are the Risks of Drug Use Initiation Highest?

Drug abuse researchers say that adolescents are most likely to initiate substance use and abuse use during times of great transition in life, such as:

  • When transitioning from elementary school to middle school –At this stage in life, in the very early teen years, children are exposed to a much wider set of peers, and are likely to have some initial exposure to drugs during this transitional stage
  • When transitioning from middle school to high school – During this transitional stage, adolescents experience social and emotional challenges and are exposed to a much larger circle of drug and alcohol users, as well as to easier access to drugs and alcohol
  • When transitioning from the family home to more independent living in later adolescence – Older teens leaving home for the first time to live independently, at college or elsewhere, face a sudden dramatic increase in personal freedoms that can result in increased substance use and abuse. 1
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Page last updated Apr 17, 2015

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