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Substance Abuse Among Teenagers

Teenage substance abuse refers to the use of drugs or alcohol by individuals who are under the age of 18. This type of substance use can include prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, and illegal drugs.

Navigation: What is Teenage Substance Abuse?, Why Do Teens Use or Misuse Drugs?, What Are the Consequences of Teen Drug Abuse?, Commonly Abused Drugs and Their Effects, How to Approach a Teenager About their Substance Abuse, What are the Warning Signs of Teen Drug Abuse?, Rehab Is Your Best Chance


If your child is struggling with substance use disorder (SUD), it could have a major impact on their life. As a parent, it is your responsibility to guide them and help them make healthy choices. This includes avoiding drugs.

Teenagers have the tendency to experiment with various substances because of peer pressure and out of natural curiosity. However, this puts their health and safety at risk. Teen substance use can have lasting effects on the teenage brain because it’s still developing. It can have long-term effects on their cognition and behavior. It even increases their risk of developing an addiction later in life. It is important to discuss with them the consequences of taking drugs.

Before you can properly inform your child about substance abuse, you need to understand what this condition is and how it affects teenagers. Here we will talk about drug abuse and addiction among teens. This will help you recognize the warning signs of drug use and prevent it from turning into something more dangerous.


What is Teenage Substance Abuse?

Teenage substance abuse refers to the use of drugs or alcohol by individuals who are under the age of 18. This type of substance use can include prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, and illegal drugs.

Adolescent drug abuse can have serious and lasting consequences for a teenager’s physical, mental, and emotional health. It can have long-term effects on the adolescent brain. It can also interfere with their social development, school performance, and future prospects.

Substance abuse is a complex issue that often has multiple causes, including peer pressure, curiosity, stress, and underlying mental health problems. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, it is important to seek help from a trusted medical professional.


Why Do Teens Use or Misuse Drugs?

Teens may have different reasons for using drugs. The most common ones are peer pressure, curiosity, stress, and boredom.

Teens may feel pressure from their friends to use drugs to fit in or be part of a group. Socialization is very important growing up, but sometimes teens can get pressured into doing something they are not comfortable with just because they don’t want to feel excluded. These influences may push them into making bad decisions.

First-time drug use usually happens in social settings where these substances are easily accessible such as parties or raves. The availability and ease of access to drugs may increase the risk of abuse and addiction.

Teens may engage in binge drinking or drug use out of their desire for social acceptance. This goes hand in hand with the fact that most teens do not consider the consequences of their actions, feeling indestructible because of their youth.

Teens have a tendency to take risks and engage in dangerous behavior. This is often done out of boredom, curiosity, or the desire to look cool in front of their friends. Some teens would use drugs to alleviate boredom or pass time. Others simply want to experiment to find out about the effects of different drugs.

There is usually a connection between curiosity and the lack of education regarding substance use disorders and their effects. Teens who are not educated about the dangers of drugs may be more likely to use or misuse them.

Still there are others who misuse drugs and alcohol to cope with stress and anxiety. Drugs may provide a temporary escape from stress and anxiety, but this often leads to abuse and gradually develops into addiction and drug dependence.

Substance abuse often stems from mental health issues. In fact, teens with mental health issues may use drugs as a way to cope with their symptoms. There is a close relationship between  substance abuse and mental health disorders. While one doesn’t always cause the other, they do tend to co-occur a lot. When they co-occur, they tend to worsen each other.

Not all teens who take drugs will become addicted. But regularly abusing drugs will eventually lead to it, so you have to prevent this before they get addicted. Some teens are at greater risk of addiction than others. Certain risk factors influence the development of addiction.

For example, genetics may play a role in a teen’s likelihood of using or misusing drugs. A family history of substance abuse makes a person more likely to become addicted themselves.

Other risk factors include: mental illness, exposure to trauma, impulsive behavior, toxic environment, peer pressure, and low self-esteem. The more risk factors a person has, the greater their chances of developing an addiction in the future.

In conclusion, the reasons why teens use or misuse drugs are complex and can vary from person to person. It is important for teens to receive education and support to prevent drug abuse and addiction.

What Are the Consequences of Teen Drug Abuse?

Substance use can have various effects on a teenager’s physical and mental health. Of course, it also has other effects beyond that. We’re going to discuss them here.

The most obvious consequences of teen drug abuse are physical health issues. Substance abuse can lead to a variety of physical health problems, including heart disease, liver and kidney damage, respiratory problems, and brain damage. The physical health effects may vary in terms of severity and duration, depending on the type of drug taken.

It also affects the brain, causing mental health problems including depression, anxiety, and cognitive difficulties. Drug use can complicate or increase the risk of mental health disorders, such as bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, etc.

Substance use disorders also tend to have social effects. It can lead to academic problems, and financial difficulties, and difficulty maintaining relationships. Substance abuse can also lead to family problems.

Teenage drug use is also associated with sexual risk behavior such as unsafe sex and unplanned pregnancy.

Aside from participating in risky sexual behavior, teens may also engage in impaired driving. Driving under the influence of any drug can be dangerous as it impairs their motor skills. It is an incredibly irresponsible behavior that puts everyone on the road at risk.

When a person becomes addicted, they prioritize drug abuse over everything else. Relationships may suffer as a result. The person will start neglecting their responsibilities and lose interest in activities they used to enjoy.

Addiction is a medical condition that is characterized by the compulsive use of a substance despite already struggling with the consequences. Substance abuse can lead to addiction, which can be difficult to overcome and can lead to a destructive cycle of drug use and relapse.

Teens may also develop drug dependence, which is another condition that can prevent them from quitting even if they want to. Drug dependence is when the body has adapted to the constant presence of the substance. Whenever they try to quit or reduce their intake, they go through withdrawal, which is marked by unpleasant withdrawal symptoms and intense cravings.

Overall, substance abuse will lead to a reduced life expectancy. Substance abuse can increase the risk of accidental injury, overdose, and death.

Overall, teen drug abuse can have serious and long-lasting consequences that can impact an individual’s health, relationships, and future prospects.

Commonly Abused Drugs and Their Effects

If you want to prevent teen drug abuse, you should be familiar with some of the most commonly abused substances among teenagers. Teens don’t usually have a lot of access to illicit drugs, but they may still be exposed to some of these dangerous substances.

Alcohol: Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that can lead to impaired judgment and coordination, drowsiness, and decreased inhibitions. Teens are prone to binge drinking, which is the act of drinking excessive amounts of alcohol within a short period of time.

Marijuana: Marijuana is a psychoactive drug that can lead to feelings of relaxation, altered perception of time, and increased appetite. It can also cause impaired judgment, coordination, and memory.

Prescription Opioids: Prescription opioids are pain medications that can lead to feelings of euphoria, relaxation, and pain relief. They can also cause respiratory depression, drowsiness, and decreased mental function.

Hallucinogens: Hallucinogens, such as LSD, PCP, and mescaline, can cause alterations in perception, mood, and thought. They can also cause hallucinations, paranoia, and psychotic-like behavior.

Inhalants: Inhalants, such as solvents and aerosol sprays, can lead to feelings of euphoria, altered perception, and impaired judgment. They can also cause respiratory depression, dizziness, and unconsciousness.

Cocaine: Cocaine is a stimulant that increases heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature. It can also cause feelings of euphoria, increased alertness, and paranoia.

Methamphetamine: Methamphetamine is a stimulant that can lead to feelings of euphoria, increased alertness, and decreased appetite. It can also cause aggressive behavior, paranoid delusions, and damage to the brain and central nervous system.

Heroin: Heroin is a highly addictive opioid that can lead to feelings of euphoria, relaxation, and pain relief. It can also cause respiratory depression, drowsiness, and decreased mental function.

Substance use can lead to drug addiction, dependence, serious impairment, and even death. It’s important to note that the effects of drugs can vary greatly based on factors such as dose, frequency of use, and individual tolerance.

How to Approach a Teenager About their Substance Abuse

If you don’t talk to your teen about the dangers of drug use, they might pursue them out of curiosity or peer pressure. It is important to have this conversation, so make sure you choose a time when you are unlikely to be interrupted. Set your phones aside and have an honest discussion about teen drug use.

Do not have this conversation when you are upset or angry with your child or when you are not ready to answer their questions. If they are drunk or high, it’s not a good time to talk to them about it.

Once you have set a proper schedule for it, start the conversation in a non-threatening and supportive manner. Do not make it into a lecture. It’s better if you can encourage a discussion.

Ask open-ended questions to encourage the teenager to share their thoughts and feelings. Encourage honesty by making sure you remain non-judgmental about their feelings and concerns. Listen actively and without judgment to what they have to say.

If your teen is already engaging in drug use, offer support and resources for help, such as a therapist or addiction specialist. Encourage them to seek help and offer to go with them to their first appointment.

When expressing your own concerns and feelings, use “I” statements instead of “you” statements. For example, instead of saying “You need to stop using drugs,” say “I’m worried about you and your health.”

Avoid threats and ultimatums, as this can create further resentment and push the teenager away. Be patient and understanding, as recovery from substance abuse is a long process.

Remember that substance abuse is a disease, and the teenager needs love, support, and understanding to overcome it.

What are the Warning Signs of Teen Drug Abuse?

As always, prevention is better than cure. If possible, you need to spot the warning signs and symptoms of drug use before your teen develops addiction or dependence. There are plenty of physical and behavioral symptoms to watch out for—all you have to do is pay attention.

First, watch out for the physical signs of substance use, such as red eyes or significant weight gain or loss. They may also suffer from the health effects of substance abuse, so look out for those as well.

Aside from noticeable changes in their appearance and health condition, they will also exhibit various behavioral changes such as changes in sleep patterns, changes in eating habits, abrupt changes in mood, and a lack of interest in personal hygiene.

Decreased academic performance, lack of motivation, and apathy towards previously enjoyed activities can be signs of drug use. Instead of engaging in their old hobbies, they will become secretive. Teens who are using drugs may become more secretive, lie more often, and avoid eye contact.

In the process, they will begin to withdraw from their friends and family members. They may suddenly avoid social activities with family and friends. Also watch out for a sudden change in social circles.

You may also notice other obvious signs of teen drug abuse such as owning drug paraphernalia like rolling papers, pipes, and syringes. A strong odor of drugs such as marijuana or the smell of chemicals on clothes or breath can indicate drug use. A sudden lack of money or the disappearance of valuable possessions can indicate that your teen is selling their belongings to buy drugs.

It’s important to note that not all teens who show these signs are using drugs, but it’s important to be aware of the warning signs and have open communication with your teen to prevent drug abuse.

Aside from looking out for these signs and symptoms, you can also employ various preventive strategies to help them avoid addiction. Establish clear rules and consequences, explaining what would happen if they engage in or continue to engage in drug abuse. Always enforce consequences when your teen breaks these rules. Do not enable their behavior despite your desire to support or protect them. In the long run, this will help them stay sober.

Familiarize yourself with your teen’s friends. If they use drugs, your teen may feel pressure to experiment too. If there are prescription drugs at home, always take an inventory and keep track of it.

Lastly, make sure you provide proper emotional support, praise, and encouragement when your teen succeeds. A strong bond between you and your teen may help prevent them from using drugs.

If your teen is struggling with drug abuse and addiction, look for a rehab center near you today. It is not too late for them to recover and start living a sober life. With your guidance, you can get them started on the right path.

Rehab is Your Best Chance

Treatment is an addicted individualʼs best option if they want to recover. Beating an addiction not only requires eliminating the physical dependence, but also addressing the behavioral factors that prevent them from wanting to get better. Simply quitting may not change the psychological aspect of addiction. Some people quit for a while, and then take drugs or alcohol again, only to overdose because they did not detox properly. Recovery involves changing the way the patient feels, thinks, and behaves.


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Fel Clinical Director of Content
Felisa Laboro has been working with addiction and substance abuse businesses since early 2014. She has authored and published over 1,000 articles in the space. As a result of her work, over 1,500 people have been able to find treatment. She is passionate about helping people break free from alcohol or drug addiction and living a healthy life.

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