Teenagers and Drug Addiction: What Parents Need to Know

One of a parent’s worst nightmares is seeing their child become addicted to drugs or alcohol. About one in five teenagers will try drugs or drink at some point during their adolescent years. Recognizing the signs of addiction in a teenager and intervening quickly can significantly reduce the impact of a substance use disorder on the adolescent’s life.

Failing to intervene early with treatment and counseling can lead to poor educational attainment, destroy a teen’s chances of building a career in their early twenties, and also risk permanent disability and overdose. It’s critical that parents and guardians can recognize the signs and symptoms of drug abuse, know where to turn to for help, and take action to get their teen into a detox and rehab center.

Teen Addiction

The following article will explore the reasons why teens try drugs, what the most commonly abused substances are, and what parents and guardians can do to get their teen the treatment they need for drug addiction.

Why do teenagers try drugs and alcohol?

In most cases, teenagers will try drugs or drink because they think it’s a part of growing up and that experimenting with substances is a rite of passage. They are also often pressured into trying drugs or alcohol. In many cases, their peers will not actively pressure them into experimenting. But if a teenager’s close friends are doing drugs, they may feel that it’s no “big deal” if their best friend is getting high or drunk.

In some cases though, it’s vital that parents are aware that a significant portion of teens who abuse drugs or alcohol are doing it to alleviate the symptoms of a mental health condition. Around 29% of teens who use drugs do it to cope with major depressive disorder symptoms. Teenagers also try drugs or drink for the following reasons:

  • To alleviate stress
  • To explore and sate their curiosity
  • As a way to balance the stress of responsibility with the freedom of youth
  • Because they have easy access to drugs or alcohol and are bored or curious
  • Because their friends or peers are doing drugs or drinking and they want to “fit in.”
  • As a result of poor impulse control
  • Misinformation about the dangers of using drugs
  • Their family abuses drugs or alcohol
  • They are using drugs or alcohol to cope with emotional or mental health issues

What substances do teens most commonly abuse?

Recent studies on teenage drug use have shown that teenage use of vaping tobacco products has substantially increased in the last few years. Vaping is the most commonly abused substance, second only to alcohol in recent surveys on eighth, tenth, and twelfth graders in the U.S. More than 37% of twelfth graders have used a vaping product in the past year. Teens are most likely to become addicted to:

  • Vaping with nicotine or hashish oil
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Using marijuana
  • Drinking alcohol

The good news is, use of illicit drugs, besides marijuana, have reached their lowest levels in two decades among teens. Use of heroin, opiate-derivatives, ecstasy and molly, methamphetamine, amphetamine, sedatives, ketamine, and hallucinogenic drugs have all reached historic lows among teens. Among prescription drug abuse, teens abuse drugs at the following rates:

  • 5% of teens abuse prescription stimulants such as Adderall
  • 7% of teens abuse tranquilizers
  • 2% of teens abuse opioid drugs
  • 2% abuse cough and cold medicines
  • 9% abuse sedatives

For illicit drugs, teenagers abuse marijuana the most:

  • 37% of teens use marijuana
  • 7% abuse synthetic cannabinoids
  • 3% use LSD
  • 7% use cocaine
  • 6% use molly or ecstasy
  • 5% abuse inhalants
  • 4% use heroin

What teenagers are most likely to abuse drugs or alcohol?

Although teenage drug and alcohol abuse rates have decreased or held steady in the past ten years, teenagers are still the largest group of drug users in the U.S. Of all new drug users in the past year, more than half are under the age of 18. Becoming addicted to drugs as a teenager, and not receiving swift and immediate medical intervention, can cause many issues for at-risk teens. They can significantly reduce the quality of their mental and physical health, and they also put themselves at risk of accidents, overdoses, and premature, preventable death. Drug abuse as a teen is also linked to poorer lifetime achievements and life satisfaction rates.

Teenage boys are more likely than adolescent girls to experiment with drugs, binge drink, and become addicted. Other notable demographic risk factors include:

  • Having a close family member who is addicted to and abuses drugs and alcohol
  • Having poor impulse control
  • Suffering from a mental health disorder
  • Experiencing trauma or significant, negative event

Also, studies on teenage drug addiction have found certain demographic links and variables that can increase an adolescent’s risk profile for addiction. Those include trying drugs for the first time as a younger teen, being an ethnic or racial minority, and having a low educational achievement. Being male or female, or living in a wealthy or poor area had less to do with a teen’s risk profile for drug addiction.

What can be done to help teenagers with drug abuse or addiction issues?

Finding out that your teenage son or daughter is abusing drugs or alcohol can overwhelm even the calmest of parents. It’s critical that parents and guardians can intervene quickly when it comes to drug addiction. The course of treatment will depend on many different factors:

  • What substances your teen is addicted to
  • If they abuse multiple substances
  • How long they’ve been addicted
  • If they are using drugs to self-medicate an underlying mental health condition
  • What your family and teen’s needs are

In many cases, people who are addicted to drugs will need to undergo a safe, medically-supervised detox during the withdrawal process. For many substances, it’s not safe for someone to quit cold-turkey. Getting help from a medical detox center can ensure that your teen can safely taper off a drug under the guidance and supervision of an experienced medical team. After which, they may need to stay in an on-site rehab facility, or continue with outpatient rehab for many months after they safely detox from drugs.

Is your teenage son or daughter exhibiting the signs of drug abuse and addiction? The dedicated and caring counselors at Mission Harbor Behavioral Health can help your teen recover from drug addiction. Please contact Mission Harbor today to explore your options for drug addiction treatment for your child.

The facilities at Mission Harbor are staffed with trained experts to best assist patients with their mental health issues. We are capable of dealing with any and all cases with a licensed staff, equipment, and approved techniques. Our mission is to help those who want to help themselves, and we support your decision in seeking help.

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Alcohol addiction is extremely difficult to overcome on your own. Seek specialized help and let professionals guide you in your recovery.