Substance Abuse and Teenagers: Stats and Causes | PBI (2023)

Entering high school and your teenage years are among the most challenging to cope with. During this span in our lives, we are looking to fit in and find ourselves while dealing with an influx of hormones taking over our bodies. While most teenagers can get through this stage of life without using drugs, others seek the comfort of drugs or alcohol to cope with the growing pains. Substance abuse and teenagers are well documented in movies and television shows, but is that for dramatic purposes? Or is the trend prevalent in our society?

Parents play a vital role in their children’s lives, and as they grow into teenagers, there’s a host of new worries to consider. Access to marijuana, tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs like opioids rise considerably once they enter high school, but parents can help by talking with their teens about the risks or having their pediatricians monitor them for substance use.

Abusing substances at a young age can have a significant impact on a teen’s health and well-being. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have partnered and developed a guide on how to use screening in pediatric practices. The AAP suggests screening for substance use in children as young as nine.

Substance Abuse and Teenagers – The Statistics

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlights the most commonly used substances and the issues they cause. The following are findings released by the CDC underscoring the prevalence of use among this demographic.

  • By senior year, an estimated two-thirds of students have experimented with alcohol.
  • Tobacco, marijuana, and alcohol are the most commonly abused substances by teenagers.
  • An estimated four in 10 9th through 12th-grade students report trying cigarettes.
  • An estimated 50 percent of 9th through 12th-grade students report trying marijuana.
  • Twenty percent of 12th graders reported experimenting with prescription drugs without a prescription.

Despite its legality for young adults under the age of 21, nearly one-tenth of the alcohol consumed in the United States was by those 12 to 20 years old. Underage drinkers consume more drinks than adult drinkers per drinking occasion. In 2013, there were an estimated 119,000 emergency room visits for young adults aged 12 to 21 for injuries and other problems caused by alcohol.

(Video) Teen Substance Use & Abuse (Alcohol, Tobacco, Vaping, Marijuana, and More)

A 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey showed that 30 percent of high school students drank some amount of alcohol in the past 30 days, while another 14 percent admitted to binge drinking. Even more sobering, six percent admitted to driving after their alcohol consumption, and 17 percent rode with an intoxicated driver.

Consequences of Underage Drinking

Drinking causes an array of issues for adults. For teenagers, their brains haven’t fully developed, causing them to experience a slew of problems that could ruin their life before it begins. Youth who consume alcohol are more likely to experience the following:

  • Social problems, including fighting or a lack of participation in youth activities designed to keep them out of trouble.
  • School problems, including poor or failing grades and higher absence.
  • Legal issues, including arrests for stealing, drunk driving, or causing physical harm to someone while drunk.
  • Physical issues, including illnesses or hangovers.
  • Disrupting their growth and sexual development.
  • Unplanned, unwanted, or unprotected sexual activity.
  • Sexual or physical assault.
  • Alcohol-related injuries, such as falls, burns, or drowning.
  • Problems with short-term memory.
  • Increased risk of committing homicide or suicide.
  • Abusing other drugs.
  • Damage to brain development that may have lasting effects.
  • Death from an alcohol overdose/alcohol poisoning.

Teenagers who binge drink are more prone to experiencing these problems than teens who don’t binge drink. Early initiation of alcohol is associated with developing an alcohol use disorder (AUD) later in life, and teens should steer clear of alcohol altogether.

Causes of Underage Drinking

Substance Abuse and Teenagers: Stats and Causes | PBI (1)There isn’t a specific reason why teenagers turn to drugs or alcohol, but some core issues influence the behavior of teens and why they start drinking or using drugs. As a parent, it’s crucial to understand these reasons and have open conversations about the dangers of drug and alcohol consumption during their youth.

Influential Peers

Your teen will witness a variety of other people consuming substances. If you drink alcohol as a parent, your teen sees that, and they might feel it’s not dangerous because their parents do it. Their social scene may revolve around smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol, and it may be a friend who urges them to experiment with alcohol or pot. It’s extremely common for a teen to try a substance because it’s readily available, and their friends indulge. They might see drug and alcohol use as a regular part of their teenage years.

The Media

It’s no secret that movies and music play a role in teen drug use. When a teenager sees their idol smoking marijuana or drinking alcohol on TV, or hears about their favorite musician discussing drug use in their lyrics, it normalizes this behavior, making them believe it’s ok. As a parent, you should monitor what your children consume and talk to them about it.

(Video) What is Substance Use and Abuse, Teen

Escaping And Self-Medicating

As discussed above, a teenager experiences raging hormones and may not have an outlet to deal with how they feel. If a teen is unhappy and can’t find a healthy way to cope with their stress, they might turn to chemical relief. Depending on the substance they seek, it can make them escape their reality and feel confident, energized, or happy. Those struggling with depression or anxiety may view drugs as the “relief they’ve always needed.” Others might abuse prescription stimulants to provide a boost of energy so they can focus while studying.

Boredom

A teenager unable to be alone and keep themselves occupied is a prime candidate for substance abuse. Not only do marijuana and alcohol provide them with excitement and something to do, but these drugs could fill a void they feel. Alcohol and marijuana also provide a bridge for interacting with other teens and a way to instantly bond.

Rebellion

Depending on their personality, teens might choose different substances to abuse. Alcohol is the most common drug of choice because it allows an angry teen to behave aggressively.

Other teens may abuse prescriptionSubstance Abuse and Teenagers: Stats and Causes | PBI (2) medication solely to get intoxicated, while others may use hallucinogens like LSD or mushrooms to escape.

Teens who use hallucinogens often feel misunderstood and want to escape to a more kind world. Cigarettes also act as a form of rebellion because teens want to flaunt their independence and anger their parents.

Instant Gratification

Teens who seek a “dopamine rush” use drugs because simply put, they feel good. Teenagers may use drugs because it’s viewed as a short-term path to happiness.

Unfortunately, they don’t understand that short-term use can lead to a lifetime of addiction and potential death.

(Video) Risk factors for drug use and drug abuse

Teenagers Lack Confidence

It’s no secret that teens are finding themselves. Many of them might feel too short, too tall, overweight, or embarrassed about their acne. No matter the reason, they’re constantly comparing themselves to other friends or popular influences in the media. As we’ve discussed, drugs and alcohol make teens feel good. For example, alcohol boosts confidence and might wash away the insecurities a teen might feel, providing them with the courage to talk with their crush. Social anxiety is a serious issue, and drugs help it to melt away. Unfortunately, these are short-term solutions to long-term problems. Drugs and alcohol can intensify the severity of these problems later in life.

FAQs

What are the causes of drug abuse among youth? ›

The earliest influences to smoke, drink alcohol, or use drugs may come from the family. Factors that are related to drug use during adolescence include poor self-image, low religiosity, poor school performance, parental rejection, family dysfunction, abuse, under- or over-controlling by parents, and divorce.

What is the leading cause of substance abuse? ›

Peer pressure is a strong factor in starting to use and misuse drugs, particularly for young people. Lack of family involvement. Difficult family situations or lack of a bond with your parents or siblings may increase the risk of addiction, as can a lack of parental supervision.

What are the four causes of substance abuse? ›

Identify underlying causes of addiction like co-occurring disorders, trauma, relationship issues, and stress. Engage in behavioral therapies that help you process these issues so that they lessen their hold on you. Get appropriate medication for co-occurring mental health disorders if necessary.

What are the effects of drugs on teenagers? ›

Substance-abusing youth are at higher risk than nonusers for mental health problems, including depression, conduct problems, personality disorders, suicidal thoughts, attempted suicide, and suicide.

What are the major effects of drug abuse on youths? ›

Harmful use of substances has multiple direct effects on adolescents. The likelihood of unemployment, physical health problems, dysfunctional social rela- tionships, suicidal tendencies, mental illness and even lower life expectancy is increased by substance use in adolescence.

What are the causes of drugs? ›

Why Do Only Some People Become Addicted to Drugs?
  • Family history. ...
  • Mental health problems. ...
  • Adverse childhood experiences (ACE). ...
  • Social pressure. ...
  • Lack of family support or involvement. ...
  • Early use of drugs. ...
  • Use of drugs that are highly addictive.
30 Jun 2019

What are the causes and effects of addiction? ›

Environment: Exposure to addictive substances, social pressure, lack of social support, and poor coping skills can also contribute to the development of addictions. Frequency and duration of use: The more someone uses a substance the more likely they will become addicted to it.

What are the causes and consequences of substance abuse? ›

Using drugs or alcohol can cause dehydration-induced seizures and damage immune systems. This increases susceptibility to infection and further complications, psychotic behavior, and serious cardiovascular conditions, including heart attacks and collapsed veins.

What are the social causes of addiction? ›

Social Factors that increase risk for adolescent substance use can include popularity, bullying, peer relationships, and association with gangs. Other possible factors are social and familial influences are often present simultaneously.

What are the 5 forms of substance abuse? ›

Believe they should lie to others to hide the effects of their parents problems.
  • Prescription Drug Abuse.
  • Illegal Drug Abuse.
  • Alcohol Abuse.
  • Solvent Abuse.
  • “Legal High” Abuse.
3 Aug 2016

What are 5 effects of drug abuse? ›

Side effects of drug addiction may include:

Nausea and abdominal pain, which can also lead to changes in appetite and weight loss. Increased strain on the liver, which puts the person at risk of significant liver damage or liver failure. Seizures, stroke, mental confusion and brain damage. Lung disease.

What are the three most common forms of substance abuse? ›

Substances frequently abused include: Alcohol. Marijuana. Prescription medicines, such as pain pills, stimulants, or anxiety pills.

How does substance abuse affect students? ›

Substance-using students, compared with non-users, are at increased risk for academic failure, including dropout, especially when the use is frequent and heavy. Marijuana use negatively impacts academic outcomes (lower GPA and higher rates of dropout) somewhat more than does alcohol.

What's the number one drug used by teens? ›

Alcohol and tobacco are the drugs most commonly abused by adolescents, followed by marijuana. The next most popular substances differ between age groups.

What are the effects of substance abuse on a person and society? ›

The most obvious effects of drug abuse--which are manifested in the individuals who abuse drugs--include ill health, sickness and, ultimately, death. Particularly devastating to an abuser's health is the contraction of needle borne illnesses including hepatitis and HIV/AIDS through injection drug use.

How does substance abuse affect mental health? ›

If you or someone you care about is chronically using drugs or alcohol it can lead to changes in the brain, which can lead to mental health issues including paranoia, depression, anxiety, aggression, hallucinations, and other problems.

What are the effects of addiction? ›

The Impact of Addiction Can Be Far-Reaching
  • Cardiovascular disease.
  • Stroke.
  • Cancer.
  • HIV/AIDS.
  • Hepatitis B and C.
  • Lung disease.
  • Mental disorders.
10 Jul 2020

What are the issues of substance abuse? ›

There are many complications to substance use problems. They can cause physical problems such as liver disease, lung disease, heart disease, vitamin deficiencies, and brain damage. Some substances can cause birth defects and others can damage the immune system, increasing the risk of infections.

How can we prevent drug abuse among youth? ›

Consider other strategies to prevent teen drug abuse:
  1. Know your teen's activities. Pay attention to your teen's whereabouts. ...
  2. Establish rules and consequences. ...
  3. Know your teen's friends. ...
  4. Keep track of prescription drugs. ...
  5. Provide support. ...
  6. Set a good example.

What can we do to prevent drug abuse? ›

Here are the top five ways to prevent substance abuse:
  1. Understand how substance abuse develops. ...
  2. Avoid Temptation and Peer Pressure. ...
  3. Seek help for mental illness. ...
  4. Examine the risk factors. ...
  5. Keep a well-balanced life.
7 Jul 2021

What are the 5 characteristics of addictive behavior? ›

Key aspects of addiction were measured for each reported behavior, including negative outcomes, emotional triggers (positive and negative emotional contexts), search for stimulation or pleasure, loss of control, and cognitive salience.

What factors contribute to substance abuse in schools? ›

Some studies identified the significant risk factors for substance use among the youth as poverty, lack of parents' involvement in the education of the child, drug abuse by parents and friends, and conflict in family relationships [2-4].

Who is most at risk for drug use? ›

While young adults ages 18-25 have the highest rates of drug use across the board, drug use among adults ages 26-49 is on the rise: The percentage of adults age 26 and older using marijuana daily or almost daily has nearly doubled since 2015.

What is the most common substance use disorder? ›

Alcohol use disorder is still the most common form of substance use disorder in America, fueled by widespread legal access and social approval of moderate drinking.

What is the difference between drug abuse and substance abuse? ›

What is the Difference Between Addiction and Drug Abuse? Substance abuse is when you use a drug in a harmful way. Addiction describes the compulsive seeking of that drug. Substance abuse may not lead to addiction.

What are the 6 types of substance abuse? ›

What are the 6 different types of drug dependence? Within the above categories are six types of drug dependency: alcohol dependence, opioid dependence, hypnotics/sedative dependence, cannabis dependence, hallucinogen dependence, and cocaine abuse.

What is substance abuse adolescence? ›

Substance abuse describes a pattern of substance (drug) use leading to significant problems or distress such as failure to attend school, substance use in dangerous situations (driving a car), substance-related legal problems, or continued substance use that interferes with friendships and/or family relationships.

What are the 4 types of drug abuse? ›

11 Types of Drug Abuse
  • Stimulant Abuse.
  • Cocaine Abuse.
  • Adderall Abuse.
  • Meth Abuse.
  • Opioid Abuse.
  • Heroin Abuse.
  • Prescription Painkillers.
  • Sedative Abuse.

What are 2 types of substance abuse? ›

There are two main types of substance use disorders: alcohol use disorder and drug use disorder. Some people abuse both substances, while others are addicted to one or the other.

Which characteristic is associated with drug abuse? ›

Generally, those who use drugs or alcohol are characterized by having high Neuroticism, high Openness to Experience, low Agreeableness, and low Conscientiousness.

What are the most common drugs in school? ›

The Popularity Of Drugs On College Campuses
  • 1 – Alcohol. 9.9% of full-time college students aged 18 to 22 drank alcohol for the first time in the past year. ...
  • 2 – Marijuana. Nearly 50% of college students have tried Marijuana at least once. ...
  • 3 – Prescription Pills. ...
  • 4 – Ecstasy.
12 Apr 2018

What can be done to reduce drug abuse in schools? ›

Elements of Good Practice for Drug Prevention
  • Information dissemination programs which teach primarily about drugs and their effects;
  • Fear arousal programs that emphasize risks associated with drug use;
  • Moral appeal programs that teach about the evils of use and;
21 Jul 2022

Why is drinking alcohol more harmful for teens than adults? ›

Teen's physical immaturity (for example, smaller body size), developing brain1, and inexperience with alcohol can all contribute to them being more vulnerable to the harmful effects of alcohol than adults.

What are 5 effects of drug abuse? ›

Side effects of drug addiction may include:

Nausea and abdominal pain, which can also lead to changes in appetite and weight loss. Increased strain on the liver, which puts the person at risk of significant liver damage or liver failure. Seizures, stroke, mental confusion and brain damage. Lung disease.

What are the causes of substance abuse PDF? ›

Some of these factors are biological or psychological and could include one or more of the following causes:
  • Genetic Disposition to Abuse. ...
  • Mental Health. ...
  • Stress. ...
  • Childhood Neglect or Trauma. ...
  • Poor Social Skills or Lack of Social Support. ...
  • Peer Pressure. ...
  • Believing Addictive Substances Aren't Bad.
28 Jan 2021

How can we prevent drug abuse among youth? ›

Consider other strategies to prevent teen drug abuse:
  1. Know your teen's activities. Pay attention to your teen's whereabouts. ...
  2. Establish rules and consequences. ...
  3. Know your teen's friends. ...
  4. Keep track of prescription drugs. ...
  5. Provide support. ...
  6. Set a good example.

What are the effects of drug abuse on the community? ›

Drug abuse is often accompanied by a devastating social impact upon community life. The present article focuses on the adverse effect of drug abuse on industry, education and training and the family, as well as on its contribution to violence, crime, financial problems, housing problems, homelessness and vagrancy.

What is drug abuse and its causes? ›

Drug abuse is when you use legal or illegal substances in ways you shouldn't. You might take more than the regular dose of pills or use someone else's prescription. You may abuse drugs to feel good, ease stress, or avoid reality. But usually, you're able to change your unhealthy habits or stop using altogether.

How does substance abuse affect students? ›

Substance-using students, compared with non-users, are at increased risk for academic failure, including dropout, especially when the use is frequent and heavy. Marijuana use negatively impacts academic outcomes (lower GPA and higher rates of dropout) somewhat more than does alcohol.

How do drugs affect your social health? ›

Relationships. Because drugs can change your behaviour, they can affect your relationships with family and friends. There is an increased risk of injury and/or assault to both yourself and other people.

What are the causes and effects of addiction? ›

Environment: Exposure to addictive substances, social pressure, lack of social support, and poor coping skills can also contribute to the development of addictions. Frequency and duration of use: The more someone uses a substance the more likely they will become addicted to it.

What are the three most common forms of substance abuse? ›

Substances frequently abused include: Alcohol. Marijuana. Prescription medicines, such as pain pills, stimulants, or anxiety pills.

What are the 6 types of substance abuse? ›

What are the 6 different types of drug dependence? Within the above categories are six types of drug dependency: alcohol dependence, opioid dependence, hypnotics/sedative dependence, cannabis dependence, hallucinogen dependence, and cocaine abuse.

What can be done to reduce drug abuse in schools? ›

Elements of Good Practice for Drug Prevention
  • Information dissemination programs which teach primarily about drugs and their effects;
  • Fear arousal programs that emphasize risks associated with drug use;
  • Moral appeal programs that teach about the evils of use and;
21 Jul 2022

What can be done to reduce substance abuse? ›

Here are the top five ways to prevent substance abuse:
  • Understand how substance abuse develops. ...
  • Avoid Temptation and Peer Pressure. ...
  • Seek help for mental illness. ...
  • Examine the risk factors. ...
  • Keep a well-balanced life.
7 Jul 2021

How can we solve the problem of drug abuse? ›

Tips to overcome drug addiction:
  1. Surround yourself with supportive people. One of the most important things you can do to stay sober is to find friends who are sober, too. ...
  2. Find new hobbies. ...
  3. Exercise. ...
  4. Volunteer. ...
  5. Eat well. ...
  6. Talk it out. ...
  7. Meditate. ...
  8. Seek professional help.
30 Jul 2017

How does drug use affect mental health? ›

Stimulant drugs can make you feel depressed, anxious and paranoid. Cocaine – a type of stimulant – can make previous mental health problems recur and trigger psychosis and schizophrenia. Ecstasy users can experience memory problems. Hallucinogenic drugs such as magic mushrooms can make any mental health issues worse.

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