Teen Substance Abuse

Growing up in an always-connected world of social media and technology has its rewards as well as its challenges. Teenagers feel as though they must present and upkeep a certain persona of themselves, whether or not it matches who they are in real life. In these efforts to fit in, teenagers may be willing to sacrifice what they’ve been taught or their personal morals in order to feel as though they belong. This problem has existed forever; it is why peer pressure has always been the top reason students choose to try substances. Only, now, the young and reckless experience is broadcast to the world, lives online indefinitely, and can come back to haunt them years later.

Teen Substance Abuse
The hope of parents, teachers, and law enforcement everywhere is to prevent such instances from happening altogether. To stop substance use before it starts or, if necessary, before it escalates into a serious problem which susceptible teens can’t come back from on their own. So, if preventative measures are where the most energy and funds are put, it’s certainly beneficial to know who is at the greatest risk. Factors that make teenagers more prone to developing a substance use disorder include:

  • Parental Usage: If someone’s parents use substances around a teen, they are likelier to pick that specific habit up themselves.
  • Home Life: Additionally, if drug or alcohol use is unmanaged at home, it is a good indication that the household in its entirety is less stable. When this is the case, teens will often seek out said stability and support elsewhere in the form of peers or substances.
  • Adolescent Trauma: Any and all traumatic experiences, such as physical or sexual abuse as a minor, can have long-term ramifications on a young person’s psyche. Drugs and alcohol can become a crutch or means of escapism.
  • Coping Skills: Life is filled with stressors. If a healthy means of dealing with these episodes isn’t established early, damaging alternatives can be the norm.
  • Genetics: Substance abuse problems are due to nature and nurture. Some teens will acquire biological predispositions from their parents.


With this baseline understanding of “why” substance use issues originate in teens, the next logical progression is determining what substances they are using. While there are some arguments that point to the addictive, substance-like qualities of smartphones, tablets, video games, and other tech have on present-day teens, that is a discussion all its own. The focus of this explanation is the traditional idea of substances, namely, drugs, alcohol, and tobacco products among others. The gamut of legal and illegal substances can be abused by teenagers, however, the more easily accessible the more commonly it’s used. Examples include prescription opioid painkillers, party drugs such as Molly, over-the-counter cough medicine, alcoholic beverages, nicotine, marijuana, amphetamines like Adderall, designer drugs like K2, Spice, or bath salts, and noxious inhalants such as keyboard cleaner or spray paint. Younger teens lean toward using these inhalable products, while older teens use pills and alcohol as their drugs of choice.

A study conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) concluded that upward of 74 percent of adults who use drugs started doing so before their 17th birthday. As such, it is imperative to combat substance use as early as possible in order to prevent lifelong behavior that truly destroys lives. Luckily, teenagers are impressionable individuals. Each and every one is just as capable of developing healthy habits and making good choices as the opposite. They just need help to proceed in the right direction.

Teen Substance Abuse
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