Everyone knows that kids seem to grow up too fast nowadays, but research is showing that youths are waiting longer to try drugs or alcohol.

New research shows that between 2004 and 2017, teens trying alcohol for the first time started doing it at an older age – from 16 to 17.  For illicit drugs, ages also increased. The average age for young people to try heroin went from 17 to 18-years-old. For cocaine, the age went 18 to 19 years. Other drugs, however, didn’t show any significant changes.

Why Is This Good News?

Teens who are trying drugs are waiting, but they are still trying them. What does an age difference really mean in terms of addiction, recovery, and the physical effects of drug use?

“We think this is great news because delaying initiation of drugs prevents early exposure, which we know is associated with various long-term negative health outcomes,” the lead researcher of the study, Karl Alcover, told US News and World Report.

Drug Addiction and Youth in America

Not all teens abuse drugs or alcohol and many of them wait until their older years or college to experiment with drugs. However, most teenagers know somebody who does use alcohol or drugs, and they may not be sure how to about it.

Drugs are typically readily available to teens in school. Many of them will also steal pills from their parents or grandparents. It’s important for family members to dispose of opioids properly for this reason. Many young people addicted to opioids were first exposed to the drug because they had access to it at home.

In 2018, nearly 20% of high school students have been offered, sold or given drugs, in the past year. Yet teenage drug use has been declining. Parents talking to youths about the dangers of drug use, school prevention programs, and better treatment for other mental health disorders can all be factors in a teen’s choice to use or not use substances.

Not sure how to start talking to your teen or anyone else about substance use? SAMHSA has some great resources here.