The biopsychosocial phenomenon of adolescent substance use is of major importance to all health care professionals. As suggested by the excellent study of Robinson et al1 in this issue of The Journal adolescent substance use should be viewed within the larger perspective of adolescent risktaking behaviors.2 Much of adolescent behavior consists of experimenting with a variety of activities, many potentially perilous, including sex, substance use, and violence. But to understand and find solutions to the risk-taking behavior of youth, we have to understand adolescence in today's culture.
To be an adolescent today is difficult. Pregnancy, incest, sexual abuse, rape, suicide, homicide, prostitution, and other devastating problems are all integral facts of life. Sexual experimentation, for example, often has tragic results as adolescents tend to show little insight into the consequences of their actions. Millions of cases of sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancies are reported annually in teenagers. Adolescent