Contrary to the assertions of numerous sources, drug abuse among adolescents is at its lowest level in decades. HOWEVER, TEEN DRUG ABUSE AND ADDICTION HAS NOT DISAPPEARED COMPLETELY.

In our society, addictive drugs and substances are ubiquitous. Some have existed for decades or even centuries, while others have emerged within the past few years.
Teenage patients in treatment centers struggle with addiction to a variety of drugs. As a parent, it is important to remain informed of the drug landscape and to understand how experimentation can affect your teen.
Teenage substance abuse has always been a social problem, but our understanding of adolescent addiction has evolved over time.


Teenage drug abuse in the United States is lower than in the past, but it remains a problem for many families.
– Drug use is indicated by the presence of paraphernalia and alterations in behavior.
– Peer pressure, anxiety, and curiosity are common causes of teen substance abuse.
Teens frequently use alcohol, prescription drugs, and illicit drugs.
– Drug abuse and addiction in adolescents can be treated by specially trained practitioners and clinics.


The drug use statistics among adolescents are more optimistic than ever. Consider some facts about teen drug use:
Since we began measuring, illegal drug use in the United States is at its lowest point ever. Teenage use of all drugs except marijuana has decreased over the past five years.
– Vicodin (hydrocodone) use among high school students has decreased by over 60 percent, and only 30 percent say it is easy to obtain, compared to 50 percent ten years ago.
– Marijuana use among 12th graders has remained stable, with roughly the same percentage of daily users as five years ago.
Alcohol use and binge drinking among high school students has decreased to between 10 and 30 percent, depending on age.
– The percentage of high school students who smoke cigarettes is lower than it has ever been, ranging from 1-3 percent, depending on age.


Signs of drug use in adolescents refer to observable changes that may serve as evidence of drug abuse. Signs can be categorized broadly as paraphernalia, physical signs, and psychological signs.
Drug paraphernalia refers to objects or instruments used to ingest, conceal, or use various drugs. The various forms of paraphernalia vary based on the drug and how it must be ingested to be effective. Finding drug paraphernalia is one of the indicators of drug use among adolescents.
Common paraphernalia by consumption method include the following:
– Injection: a rubber cord or belt for tying the arm, alcohol swabs, cotton balls for filtering, lighters, needles, burnt-marked spoons, and syringes.
– Smoking: glass or metal pipes, standard or torch lighters, metal or plastic smoking straws, aluminum foil, water pipes (bongs).
– Snorting: razor blades, rolled up dollar bills, small mirror, snuff bullets, straw (metal or plastic).
If you are suspicious of a particular drug, you should research its symptoms. If you are suspicious but unsure of a person’s drug abuse, the following physical symptoms may be present:
– Variations in eating or sleeping habits
– Reduced personal hygiene and deteriorating physical appearance
– Dry eyes, pupils that are abnormally large or small
– Stuttering, tremors, and poor coordination
– Sniffing or runny nose
– Odd odors on the breath or clothing
– Abrupt fluctuation in weight weight gain or loss
Common psychological effects of drug abuse include:
– Appearing dispersed
– Anxiety, agitation, or paranoia without apparent cause
– Periods of heightened energy, agitation, or emotional instability
– Sudden loss of inspiration
– Changes in attitude or personality that are unexplained
The onset of withdrawal symptoms occurs within hours to days after the last dose. Symptoms of withdrawal will vary depending on the substance your teen is abusing.
You can also search for drug-related physical evidence, which is frequently left behind. Look for marijuana (green plant material) fragments, white powder, unidentified pills, and other unfamiliar substances. Even if you discover evidence, you should not automatically assume the worst. However, keep in mind each piece of evidence in order to construct the overall picture.
In addition to obvious signs, drugs can cause obvious behavioral changes. Despite the fact that adolescence is associated with personality changes, if you observe any combination of symptoms and suspect that drug abuse may be a problem, you should address the issue.


Pressure from Peers Curiosity Anxiety


While predicting adolescent drug use is difficult, research helps us identify the underlying causes of adolescent drug use. These variables may include:
Biology: genes play a significant role in how we respond to medications. One individual may take a drug once and become addicted, while another may take it multiple times without developing an addiction.
Teenagers are still developing the parts of the brain responsible for judgment and decision-making. Early drug use can impair the maturation of brain regions that would ordinarily protect us from future drug abuse.
– Environment: can include the influence of family or friends on a child’s development. The onset of drug addiction is significantly influenced by factors such as our quality of life, the presence of abuse, and exposure to a variety of stresses.
To comprehend why adolescents use drugs, one must view each adolescent as an individual with needs, thoughts, and emotions. The reasons they use drugs are as diverse as those of adults.


Teens abuse the same substances as adults. Abuse-inducing substances range from legal to illegal and can be either natural or unnatural. Be familiar with all the drugs commonly abused by adolescents in order to recognize warning signs of drug abuse.
Alcohol, cannabis, and nicotine are the drugs utilized most frequently by adolescents. Illicit drugs and prescription substances are less common.
How drugs are ingested plays a role in determining which drugs adolescents choose to use. In general, easier drug administration methods, such as pills, drinks, and smoking, will be more prevalent than snorting and injecting.


Illegal drugs are produced illegally, and it is illegal to possess, distribute, or use them. These are examples of teen party drugs:
– Cocaine (available by prescription but is usually made illegally)
– Heroin (an illicit opioid)
– LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide or acid)
– Marijuana ( use in teens is increasing, but legal in some states)
– MDMA (Methylenedioxymethamphetamine or molly) (Methylenedioxymethamphetamine or molly)
– Crystal methamphetamine (available by prescription but is usually made illegally)
– Mushrooms containing psilocybin
– Synthetic marijuana (K2 or spice)


In terms of drug abuse, prescription drugs are rapidly gaining ground. As many prescription drugs are readily available, prescription drug abuse among adolescents is common. Examples of frequently abused prescription drugs include:
– Central Nervous System (CNS) depressants: sleep medications, anxiety medications such as benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, etc.), as well as some seizure medications
– Opioids consisting of codeine cough syrup, fentanyl, hydrocodone, morphine, oxycodone, and tramadol
– Nonprescription medications: dextromethorphan, loperamide (a mild opioid used to treat diarrhea), and pseudoephedrine (used to make methamphetamine)
– Stimulants: products containing amphetamines or methylphenidate


Teen and underage drinking remains a prevalent issue in our society. It may be difficult to shield your child from alcohol, so make sure they are aware of its health risks, such as impaired judgment and alcohol poisoning.
In a recent study conducted by The Recovery Village, 2,136 American adults who wanted to stop drinking or had already attempted to do so were surveyed (successfully or not).
According to research, people who begin drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to develop an alcohol dependence later in life. Among those questioned:
– 10.1% had their first alcoholic beverage at age 11 or younger.
– 37.5% had their first alcoholic beverage between the ages of 12 and 17
– 39.7 percent had their first alcoholic beverage between the ages of 18 and 25
– 12.6% of individuals had their first alcoholic beverage at age 26 or older.
Alcoholism in adolescents can be treated similarly to other substance use disorders. In addition to medical detox, treatment centers provide drug and alcohol addiction treatment. Many facilities are specialized and treat adolescents exclusively.


Adolescent drug abuse can have long-lasting and detrimental effects on the individual, their friends, and their family. Risks can increase depending on the substance abused, the presence of other substances, and the duration of drug abuse.
Youth may feel invulnerable and immune to the dangers of substance abuse, but they are susceptible to the same effects and consequences as adults.
Among the effects of teen drug use are:
– Arrest or juvenile detention
– Birth defects in adolescents
– Terminated from current job or difficulties obtaining employment in the future
– Future financial problems
– Health consequences
– Losing friendships or family relationships
– Sexually risky behavior and sexually transmitted diseases
– Significant illness or injury
– School suspension and expulsion


The effects of drugs on the brain vary depending on the substance.
Certain substances stimulate the production of dopamine, a chemical signal that reinforces reward, in the brain. Other substances inhibit pain transmissions and induce euphoria. The effects of drugs on the brain can permanently alter the cognitive abilities of your teen over time.
During adolescence, when the brain is still growing and maturing, drug use can have a particularly profound effect on the brain.
When adolescents experience a drug high, they experience positive emotions that may increase their mood and happiness. Unfortunately, the positive effects are temporary and come with adverse health effects.
Tolerance, dependence, and addiction are drugs’ long-term effects on the brain. Heavy drug use can result in brain damage, even if your teen later embraces sobriety.


Teenage drug abuse and addiction can be treated. We now view addiction as a disease, as opposed to a moral failing. Frequently, adolescent drug use is an acute or transient stress response. They may have a stressful personal life or be inquisitive and attempting to make friends.
Infrequently, adolescent drug abuse is a difficult-to-overcome biological issue, and casual use can quickly snowball into a much more serious problem.
It is acceptable for what works for your teen to be unique to them. Drug addiction is a difficult medical condition to treat, but you can aid in their recovery with the assistance of rehabilitation professionals.
Teens struggling with drug abuse or addiction have access to tens of thousands of clinics and practitioners with specialized training. The treatment options for substance abuse include psychotherapy, counseling, medication, and other proven methods for retraining an addict to live a drug-free lifestyle.
You may have attempted to confront your teen’s drug problem on your own but were unsuccessful. In this situation, it may be time to seek professional help. Doctors and treatment specialists have spent decades developing and refining their methods, and they can assist adolescents battling addiction to overcome their illness.
Treatment is not a guarantee that your child will stop abusing drugs, but research indicates that drug-addicted adolescents who receive treatment have a significantly greater chance of overcoming their addiction than those who do not. Give your teen the best opportunity to overcome substance abuse issues.


Consult a professional, such as your child’s physician, guidance counselor, or one of our addiction specialists at The Recovery Village.
A professional can assist you in assessing the situation and determining whether or not teen drug rehab is required. If your child requires assistance, a professional will discuss treatment options for substance abuse with you and your child.
If you observe signs that your child is abusing drugs or alcohol, you should act immediately. The majority of people would prefer to enter drug rehab for adolescents rather than drug rehab for adults in the future.
By Conor Sheehy, PharmD, BCPS, CACP, Ph.D. Dr. Sheehy obtained a Bachelor of Science in Molecular Biology from the University of Idaho and a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) from the University of Washington in Seattle. Read further Editor Gretchen Pruett Gretchen Pruett specializes in academic and evidence-based content as a writer and editor based in Detroit. Read further Medically Evaluated By Dr. Kevin Wandler, MD Multiple positions are held by Kevin Wandler at Advanced Recovery Systems. In addition to being the founder and chief medical director of Advanced Recovery Systems, he also serves as the medical director for The Recovery Village Ridgefield and The Recovery Village Palmer Lake. Read further


Is your teen suffering from drug or alcohol addiction? Help get them the support and treatment they need to live a healthy lifestyle.

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