Dear parents:

You think you know, but you don’t. “Not my kid!” Right? Wrong!

If you think I am trying to scare you, you’re right, I am. Thousands of parents—good parents, educated parents, involved parents, aware parents, loving parents—have said, “Not my kid.” And. They. Were. Wrong.

Almost 9 percent of the drug-using population is twelve years old and somewhat older. That population is twenty-two million; do the math! And yes, some are younger than twelve. This is the highest estimate since the survey began in 2002.

Here’s my hands-on survey. Alcohol abuse starts as early as nine years old. This is straight from the horse’s mouth. Here is a real-life example told to me by addicts and alcoholics over and over. It doesn’t get a whole lot clearer than this.

At the age of nine or ten, this young lady observed her parents having an evening cocktail every night before dinner and a glass or two of wine with dinner. Curiosity, a delightful childhood trait, turns lethal as the child decides to try some alcohol when the parents are out or, increasingly, both are at work. It’s fun and bad and so easy to get a friend or even a younger sibling to try it as well. After all, the grown-ups enjoy drinking, and alcohol is rarely locked up. Everyone’s home has alcohol, so it is the first experience with being high. I hear this story over and over and over.

By the time parents get home, the effects of being high have worn off, and the parents have no idea their child has been drinking. These bad, fun-filled events, combined with the lure of the “forbidden fruit,” easily morph into curiosity to try other highs. There is an epidemic out there, and drugs are available everywhere. “Not my kid?” Wake up, people! It is your kid.

It is a dazzling combo of opportunity and temptation, plus some peer pressure thrown in for good measure. Add in their complete ignorance of what addiction actually means, plus their feelings of immortality and underdeveloped brains, and (if you’ll pardon the pun) we have a perfect cocktail for a perfect storm. It is a rite of passage as desirable as any generation has had. Problem is, nowadays this rite of passage is deadly.

Drugs and alcohol are fun. Drugs and alcohol make you feel good. What could possibly be wrong with that? The unprecedented access kids have to one another via texting makes everything they do easier, faster, more secretive, harder for parents to see.

Tragically, parents have said “Not my kid” many times, and they were dead wrong. Dead wrong. We have the statistics to prove it. We have the “horses’ mouths” to prove it. We have the overdose heartaches to prove it.

Don’t ever say “Not my kid.” Every kid is someone’s kid, and tragically you have the odds stacked against you.