Why do kids turn to drugs?

I can’t help to think about the recent tragic event in Kanata where a teenager’s life was lost due to opioid overdose. My kids are still years away from becoming teenagers but I could see the road ahead that is filled with challenge, defiance and experimentation of all sorts. I want to say my kids are so good that they won’t do drugs but the reality is that they may be exposed to them and they may decide to experiment too.

So I keep thinking why would kids turn to drugs, alcohol or other types of substance use? I remember when I was a teenager, it was a way of being “cool”, to fit in, to establish an identity that may be fitting within the social circle. But drugs nowadays are very dangerous and could be potentially mixed with very potent opioids that their developing brains and bodies are unable to cope.

I have heard stories related to fentanyl in so many overdose events. Fentanyl is at least 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. For teenagers who have had no or minimal exposure to opioids previously, it can instantly kill them. The fact is we don’t know how pills are obtained at house parties and how much of them are mixed with fentanyl or the other more deadly opioid such as  carfentanyl. It’s just dangerous and deadly.

Not everyone turn to drugs just to be cool. Many have stress and mental health issues that they may not be able to cope. Even adults sometimes can’t cope at some of our own problems and issues, how can we expect teenagers to be able to handle them with ease? They may feel like they have no one to turn to, no one to talk about their problems and no one would understand what they are going through. This is where I hope my kids will not feel that way.  They may not always tell me everything but I hope they know that if they are facing any problems at school or in life, I will be there for them. It sounds cheesy but it is so true.

It may be too early to think about potential problems with drugs. Maybe not. I need to set the stage to ensure they feel safe to tell me anything and everything. I need to help them handle stress, deal with problems, learn to cope with challenges in life. Yes, it is easier said than done. But it is now a life or death situation.

For those who are looking for resources to help prevent opioid overdose, there are tons on the internet. But here are my few thoughts to share:

  • Obtain a naloxone kit. Naloxone which is a medication that can reverse opioid overdose  is now available without prescription and at no charge at many community pharmacies. Here’s a link to resources on Naloxone prepared by the University of Waterloo, School of Pharmacy.
  • Ask about treatment options. Many treatment options such as Suboxone for opioid dependence can now be safely prescribed in the communities, without access to specialized treatment centres.  Find out which physicians are trained and able to help manage individuals with opioid dependence.
  • Talk to your kids, establish an open relationship to help deal with stress and mental health issues.  Make time for them. They won’t run to you to update you with any problems in life. But as you spend more time with them, it may become apparent through your own observation, or they will eventually share bits of their lives with you.
  • Tell your kids don’t gamble with life. Just because they might have taken drugs once or twice and were luckily “ok”, doesn’t mean their next adventure will be that lucky and safe. It could be their last adventure, their last chance to see your family and loved ones again.  Taking drugs now is like gambling with your life. Is it worth the gamble?


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My name is Cynthia Leung and I am a practicing pharmacist in Kingston Ontario, Canada. This blog is for me to share my ideas, opinions and perspectives on how medications are used in our health care system. Note that these posts are my own opinions and do not represent the opinions of my current or former employers and / or organizations that I may belong to. Any possible case scenarios described in my posts would be modified to maintain patient confidentiality. This blog is not a platform for professional advise for patients or health care providers and the content is not meant to support any clinical decisions or replace professional opinions. Also the images are either taken or created by the author, or adapted with permissions. I hope you will enjoy reading my posts!

One thought on “Why do kids turn to drugs?”

  1. As part of talking to your kids, stress the germs. Stress the fact that people can put pool cleaner into the drugs to increase their profit, and decrease their quality.

    RE: How to warn against drugs. Talk about them before your kids know what they are. Experimentation happens younger and younger these days.

    Emphasize the fact that you are a control freak, and that it’s not funny to play practical jokes on friends where they are out of control. Highlight the fact that it’s a form of bullying. Tell them to NEVER leave their drinks unattended.

    I can assure you that my Mom was clear on all these things, which I think helped to keep me off of any kind of experimenting (plus the fact that I had to take medicines all the time, so there was no way I’d think playing around with medicine was “fun”).

    At the end of the day, though, your kids are going to be who they are, regardless of how well you prepare them. My sister did drugs. A lot. My brother dabbled. I did nothing.

    Of the 3 of us, Golden Boy is the most surprising for his choices, while the Baby is a control freak, so her getting hooked was beyond belief. (She’s fine now – this was at a rocky point in her life after her first child and the breakup of her marriage). 30+ years later, you’d never know that she ever tried anything. We were very lucky, and I have to hope that other parents will be lucky, too.


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