Risk-taking behaviors are certainly high on our anticipatory guidance radar when we see adolescents for health maintenance visits. Even though we are concerned that a risk-taking behavior in early adolescence can portend other risk-taking behaviors in later adolescence—has it ever really been demonstrated? Ewing et al. (doi: 10.1542/peds.2015-1143) have done just that using surveys of over 1100 teens given at ages 12 and 14 looking at alcohol and marijuana use as well as beliefs about their use and then compared these results to how often these same teens at age 16 drive under the influence (DUI) or ride with someone else who is drinking and driving (RWDD). Even beginning at age 12, if a teen felt positively about marijuana use, let alone by age 14 was using it or drinking alcohol—there is a dramatic higher risk of DUI AND RWDD in these teens.
Do you broach these risk-taking behaviors at age 12? Do you wait until teens are older? If the latter, you may be too late in offering the education these teens need to make better choices when confronted by peers with risk-taking opportunities for substance use and abuse. How early do you begin to discuss marijuana and alcohol use with preteens and have you found talking to preteens is making a difference in a positive sense? Share with us your thoughts on this interesting, but sad look at early adolescence through a response to this blog, an e-letter or posting a comment on our Facebook or Twitter sites.