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These days kids are experimenting with a wide variety of drugs. While most people don't associate cigarettes with drugs, surveys as well as our own residents in Teen Challenge report that nearly all people who have used drugs started smoking cigarettes as youngsters before they first experimented with drugs.

"No step on this path is inevitable, but this 'gateway' principle makes clear that the best way to end new addictions among the young is by drawing a line on the abstinence side of marijuana use, underage smoking and drinking," the report said.

This is not to say that everyone who smokes cigarettes today uses drugs or used to use drugs. But when children begin to smoke, this is an early sign of rebellious behavior -- especially if your family does not smoke cigarettes.

If you discover that your child is smoking cigarettes, you have to ask yourself -- why? If your child is smoking, his friends probably do also. The most common reason a child smokes is to feel "cool" or to be accepted by his friends. According to those who began using drugs as teenagers, the groups of kids at schools who smoked were also the ones most likely to use drugs and alcohol. We can try to deny it and say, "but Johnny's not a bad kid." But the reality of the situation is that those kids that smoke cigarettes are more likely to get into other kinds of trouble as opposed to those groups of kids that have other kinds of activities that are wholesome and that do not include smoking cigarettes.

Children will usually begin experimenting with drugs that don't seem dangerous to them, such as alcohol and marijuana. But once the thrill of these drugs wears off, they will often graduate to drugs like speed, LSD, and PCP. Later on, as experimentation turns into addiction, kids may turn to cocaine and heroin.

Always be on the lookout for obvious signs that your child is using drugs. When being smoked, marijuana has a very distinct odor and kids will often burn lots of incense to cover up the smell. Often after smoking marijuana kids will go on an eating binge.

Drugs such as speed will cause your child to appear very hyperactive and to stop eating and sleeping for long periods of time. If your child seems to be losing a lot of weight and is looking skinny or emaciated, there is a strong possibility that he or she might be using speed or cocaine.

When confronted about drugs many kids will say, "I'm just smoking a little pot (marijuana)." But if you see drastic physical changes such as: extreme weight loss or extreme changes in sleep patterns (too much or too little sleep), these are signs that your son or daughter is using much stronger drugs than marijuana. Marijuana will cause some tiredness but not to extremes as the harder drugs will.