Dear Straight Talk: I’m 14 and friends of mine (I’ll call them Janine and Claire), go to Mexico a lot with Janine’s family where they hook up with older people and get drunk. Now, as a “present” to themselves for eighth-grade graduation, they plan to smoke marijuana. Though Claire and Janine are my friends, they’re not my best friends. If they were, I’d tell them if they didn’t stop I would tell their parents. But I don’t really know Claire and Janine’s parents, or how they will react. What should I do? — “Kayla” From Katrina, 15: I have a friend who started just like this. Two years later, she’s popping pills and taking ecstasy. By all means, tell the parents. From Shelby, 16: You tell their parents, trust me, your friends will hate you. Last year I was a freshman and I didn’t think my friends were doing anything, and then one day I discovered differently. They didn’t pressure me, but because I opened my big mouth and got mad at them, I lost a bunch of those friends. Months later, I apologized and accepted their behavior. Now, a year later, over half of them have stopped. Be there for your friends — just don’t let yourself be pressured into joining them. Most likely they will grow out of it. From Michael, 16: Unfortunately, drinking and smoking weed is like a “rite of passage” and there’s not much you can do. I keep a relatively straight path by thinking of where I want to be down the road and making my decisions based on those goals. If you present your opinion in this “big picture” kind of way, you’ll have more luck. From Emily, 15: Because they’re not close friends, they probably won’t listen to you, but it’s worth a try. On the other hand, be careful not to let their problems become yours. Kids this age are striving to look mature, however, it’s the kids who choose to not pollute their bodies who are the mature ones. From Farren, 20: I would be most worried about the drinking. Many of my peers are now dealing with alcoholism from their years in college. Imagine if you started drinking at 14! You will be doing society a huge favor by telling — or leaving an anonymous note — with their parents or a school counselor. I’m not against teenagers being curious and experimenting, but 14 is too young! Focus Adolescent Services says that teens who start drinking before age 15 are five times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than those who start at 21, and that alcohol is a leading factor in the top three causes of death for 15- to 24-year-olds, which are automobile crashes, homicides and suicides. They go on to say that lack of parental support, monitoring, and communication are significantly related to the drinking habits of adolescents, and that harsh, inconsistent discipline, and hostility or rejection toward children also significantly predict adolescent drinking and alcohol-related problems. Dear “Kayla”: There are four good reasons to speak up: 1) For some kids, using is a phase, but for some it’s not. 2) It’s proven that positive peer pressure does make a difference. 3) It is particularly dangerous to pollute the brain during early adolescence because the pre-frontal cortex (which controls planning, organization, working memory, and mood), begins a huge “re-structuring” at this time. 4) It is easier for parents to manage kids when they are 14, versus, say, 17. Since you don’t know Janine and Claire’s parents and are worried about how they will react, I urge you to inform a caring adult who will know how to intervene. As the statistics Farren provides note, teens are frequently driven into more dangerous behavior when a parent reacts with hostility, rejection, or undo harshness. Teens respond best to love, involvement, and clear, fair authority. Write to Straight Talk at www.StraightTalkForTeens.com or PO Box 963, Fair Oaks CA 95628.