The United States has a big drug problem. More than 22 million over the age of 12, 8.9% of the population, are current illicit drug users. This is National Drug Facts Awareness Week and the facts may surprise you.

Drug use in the United States, what do you know? T or F?

1. Marijuana doesn't affect IQ. 2. Alcohol is most commonly abused. 3. Cocaine is the leading cause of death.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse ( has a wonderfully provocative quiz to test knowledge about substance abuse. The facts are astonishing and should worry any parent (

Drug abuse often starts at a young age. Seven percent of eighth graders used marijuana in the prior month. One in 10 report they have tried to get high from an inhalant such as glue, cleaning fluid and spray paint.

Teens are particularly susceptible to the long-term effects of drugs on brain development. The human brain continues to develop into early to mid-20s. The pre-frontal cortex, in the front part of the brain, is the last to develop. It is the area of the brain we use for planning, problem solving, impulse control and decision-making. Early abuse can be particularly devastating on brain development.

The NIDA reports that adults who smoke marijuana routinely and who began the habit as teens risk losing IQ. They can lose up to 8 IQ points between the ages of 13 to 38. If one begins with average IQ, an 8-point drop can mean an IQ in the lower 1/3 of the population. A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

Alcohol is the most commonly abused drug, followed by marijuana and cough and cold medication. Among teens ages 16-17, 6.3 percent report driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs during the previous month. Not surprising, car accidents are the leading cause of death for those between 16-19.

The parental medicine cabinet can be a treasure trove for teens. If there are opioid pain relieving drugs, most commonly hydrocodone (Vicodin) or oxycodone (Percocet), left over from some past dental procedure, surgery or painful injury, get rid of them. Do not hang on to these medications, “just in case I might need them.” Take the tablets to your pharmacist for proper disposal. If you have teenagers in your home it is simply too risky to keep them on hand. The selling (and buying) of prescription drugs, to classmates at schools across the country is rampant. Where do kids get the prescription drugs? From their parent's medicine cabinet, purse, etc.

The most common two-drug combination resulting in death is opioid plus alcohol. Deaths from this combination have increased 300 percent from 1999 to 2010 and is now a major public health crisis. More die from abuse or misuse of prescription opioid drugs than heroin and cocaine combined. If you are prescribed such medications on a regular basis consider obtaining a medicine cabinet or other container that can be locked. Consider the same for your liquor. Don't be naïve.

The fight against drug abuse starts at home. The most significant deterrent to drug and alcohol abuse is the disapproval of parents. The disapproval of parents. Not the “look-the-other-way” parents. Not the “not-my-kid” parents. Not the “I-don't-want-my-kid-to-be-mad-at-me” parents. The Disapproving Parents. Parents have more power than peers. Seize your power. Before the sleepless nights. Before the police call. Before the grades tank. Love your kids but don't trust them. And don't trust their friends.

Answers: 1 F; 2 T; 3 F.

Dr. Lori Boyajian-O’Neill can be contacted at