When teens return to school, peer pressure, stressors, weekend parties and bullying can all contribute to substance abuse and increase the risk of addiction.
Teen addiction can become a concern for adolescents who experimented with drugs during the summer, especially when they return to school in the fall. Drugs in school are not entirely uncommon, with research showing that 80% of 12th-grade students feel that marijuana would be easy for them to obtain, and about one-third of students in this grade stating that they could easily acquire ecstasy. Beyond the availability of drugs, there are several risk factors for addiction once teens go back to school, including peer pressure, stress, bullying and weekend activities.
Peer pressure in high school can contribute to teen addiction. In fact, according to the research, peers influence substance abuse among adolescents more than parents do. Teens trying to fit in with peers may use drugs and alcohol once they return to school, which can put them at risk for addiction. If a teen is surrounded by others who are using drugs and alcohol, it can be easy to succumb to peer pressure.
Stress in high school students can also be a risk factor for teen addiction. When teens return to school and are faced with the stress of balancing sports, schoolwork, friendships and family life, they may turn to drugs to cope. According to experts, drug and alcohol use can alleviate distress, and stress is a contributing factor to using drugs and relapsing after treatment. Teens who are experiencing school-related stress may use drugs to feel better, and then develop addictions.
Bullying in adolescence can also contribute to teen addiction, as those who are bullied may use drugs to manage their emotions. Specifically, middle school bullying can be a strong risk factor for teen addiction. One study of sixth to eighth-grade students found that those who had been victims of mental or physical bullying were more likely to use alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana and inhalants. Much like with stress, substance abuse can become a coping mechanism for being subjected to bullying.
Weekend activities that involve drug and alcohol abuse are a risk factor for teen addiction. When teens return to school, they may be invited to high school parties where others are drinking and using drugs. Alcohol abuse among high school students is a common weekend activity, with research showing that 20% of 10th graders and 33% of 12th graders have consumed alcohol within the past month.
Marijuana use in teens can also develop into an addiction. The most recent data shows that 2.9% of 10th graders and 5.9% of 12th graders use the drug daily. In addition, nearly 40% of high school seniors report using marijuana within the past year. Using marijuana on the weekends can lead to a substance use disorder over time.
Signs of Teen Drug Abuse
When teens go back to school, risk factors such as peer pressure, stress, bullying and weekend activities can contribute to an addiction, so it is important to watch for signs that a teen is struggling. Signs of drug abuse in teens include:
- Loss of interest in previous activities, such as sports or clubs
- Extreme mood swings or behavioral changes
- Lying or acting deceptively
- Neglecting personal hygiene
- Failing grades or declines in academic performance
- Stealing to obtain money for drugs
- Staying out past curfew
- Engaging in dangerous behaviors, such as driving under the influence
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Changes in sleep habits, including staying up late or sleeping more than usual
Other signs of drug abuse in adolescence can include appearing under the influence or possessing paraphernalia. For example, a teen who is abusing substances may slur their speech, present with bloodshot eyes or dilated pupils or have trouble staying awake. Strange items such as straws, burned spoons, razor blades, tin foil, pipes or needles may be found in the backpack or bedroom of a teen who is using drugs.
If you notice signs of teen drug abuse and suspect that your teen has developed an addiction, teen drug rehab may be necessary. An addiction professional can gather information from you and your teen and perform an assessment to determine what services are necessary to treat the addiction.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Monitoring the Future: National survey results on drug use 1975-2017.” January 2018. Accessed August 18, 2019.
Allen, Mike, et al. “Comparing the influence of parents and peers on the choice to use drugs: A meta-analytic summary of the literature.” Criminal Justice and Behavior, 2003. Accessed August 19, 2019.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Why do adolescents take drugs?” January 2014. Accessed August 19, 2019.
Tharp-Taylor, Shannah, et al. “Victimization from mental and physical bullying and substance use in early adolescence.” Addictive Behaviors, 2009. Accessed August 19, 2019.