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The Most Common Causes of Teen Drug Use


According to the CDC, 15% of high school students have ever used illicit drugs including cocaine, inhalants, heroin, methamphetamines, hallucinogens, or ecstasy. Furthermore, 14% of students misused prescription opioids.

The CDC also reports that youth using injection drugs are at high risk for HIV, as well as overdosing on drugs. There is also a direct link between youth opioid use and sexual risk behaviors.

Additionally, students who report using prescription drugs without a doctor's prescription are more likely to have experienced physical or sexual dating violence than their peers. As a result, drug abuse is associated with sexual risk behavior, violence, mental health, and suicide risk.

However, parents can help their teens who are struggling with substance abuse. It is important to know the causes and symptoms of teens' substance abuse in order to take steps in the right direction.

The Most Common Causes of Teen Drug Use

Drug use among teens is often caused by the following factors:

  • Peer pressure: When friends use drugs, teens are more likely to do so as well.

  • Boredom: Drug experiments are more likely to occur among teens who have nothing to do.

  • Stress: Teenagers who are stressed out by problems at school, in relationships, divorce, or in other areas of their lives are more likely to resort to drugs.

  • Mental health problems: Mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and ADHD increase drug use among teens.

  • Family history of addiction: Addiction in teens is more likely to occur when they have a family member who is addicted to drugs.

  • Availability of drugs: Having easy access to drugs increases the likelihood that teenagers will use them.

Drug use by teens does not necessarily lead to addiction. You should, however, be aware of the risks associated with teen drug use and talk to your teen about them.

What You Can Do to Help Your Teen Manage Substance Abuse

For your teen's safety, follow these tips:

  • Discuss drugs with your teen: Explain the dangers of drug use to your teen and the importance of making healthy choices.

  • Become a role model for your teen: Avoid taking drugs yourself to set a good example.

  • Take part in your teen's life: You don’t have to be a “helicopter parent.” But, you should take the time to get to know the friends and activities of your teenager.

  • Encourage your teen to participate in extracurricular activities: Keeping teens occupied and away from drugs is one of the benefits of extracurricular activities.

  • Take the time to listen. Provide your teen with support and a good listening ear if they come to you about drug use.

A number of resources are available to help you if you believe your teen is using drugs. The best person to talk to about your teen's issues is his or her doctor, a therapist, or a counselor. Likewise, support groups are available for parents of teens who struggle with drug abuse.

You may also find these resources helpful:

  • The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): The NIDA provides drug abuse and addiction resources.

  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): The SAMHSA is a federal agency that offers substance abuse and mental health information.

  • The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD): The NCADD provides resources and information regarding alcoholism and drug abuse.

If you are worried about your teen's drug use, don't hesitate to seek help. It is never shameful to ask for help, and you might save your life if you do.

FAQs About Teen Substance Abuse

What are the signs of teen drug use?

  • Behavior changes, including mood swings, irritability, and aggression.

  • A change in school performance, such as a fall in grades or absences from classes.

  • Changing physical appearance, such as weight loss, gaining weight, or red eyes.

  • Isolation or increased secrecy.

  • Hobbies and activities that used to be enjoyable no longer interest them.

  • Engaging in more drug-related activities with friends.

  • The discovery of drug paraphernalia, such as needles, pipes, or rolling papers.

The signs listed above should alert you to the need to talk to your teen. Moreover, not all teens who exhibit these signs use drugs. Nevertheless, if you are concerned, you should speak with your teen and seek professional assistance if necessary.

What are the effects of teen drug use?

The following are some of the negative effects of teen drug use:

  • Addiction: Teen drug use has the potential to lead to addiction, a chronic, relapsing disease of the brain characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful side effects.

  • Health problems: Drug use by teens can harm the lungs, liver, and brain, as well as cause respiratory problems.

  • Legal problems: Drug use among teens can result in arrests and convictions.

  • School problems: Teen drug use can lead to academic failure, dropping out of school, and suspensions or expulsions.

  • Relationship problems: Addiction to drugs can lead to problems with friends and family relationships.

  • Financial problems: Many teenagers who use drugs will steal money to buy drugs, incur debt, or get into trouble with the law.

What can I do if my teen is using drugs?

It is important to stay calm and talk to your teen if you discover that he or she is using drugs. Having a sense of belonging is also important. It is possible to help your teen with a variety of resources. Consult a trusted adult, such as a doctor, counselor, or teacher.

Alternatively, you can call a hotline, such as the National Drug Helpline (1-800-662-HELP) or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline (1-800-662-HELP).

For teens who are struggling with drug abuse, there are many treatment options. Support groups, therapy, and medication may all be options. Your teen can live a productive and healthy life if he or she receives the right help to overcome drug abuse.

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