The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released a policy statement regarding the role of primary care providers in screening for drug use, brief intervention and referral to treatment. The introduction provides a good summary of why those of us working to prevent youth substance abuse do what we do.
Although it is common for adolescents and young adults to try mood-altering chemicals, including nicotine, it is important that this experimentation not be condoned, facilitated, or trivialized by adults including parents, teachers, and health care providers. Use of alcohol and other drugs remains a leading cause of morbidity and mortality (disease/injury and death) for young people in the United States. Even the first use of alcohol or another drug can result in tragic consequences such as unintentional injury or death. All substance use involves health risks that can occur long before there is drug addiction, and teenagers seem to be particularly susceptible to health risk-taking behaviors and injuries related to alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use. In addition, research has established that adolescence is a period of neurodevelopmental vulnerability for developing addictions; age of first use is inversely correlated with lifetime incidence of developing a substance use disorder.