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Substance Abuse Among Teens

Substances have unfortunately become familiar territory to many teens. It's important for both teens and parents to understand this challenge that many are facing right now. To start, there has to be more familiarity with what substances are available to teens these days and what the statistics for usage are.

Some of the most common substances that teens have easy access to are:




Prescription drugs

Statistics of usage according to the centers for disease control and prevention (CDC):

  • 4 in every 10 9th to 12th graders have tried cigarettes

  • About 2 in every 10 high school seniors report using prescription meds without a prescription.

  • By the time they are seniors, about 2/3 of students have tried alcohol.

  • 50% of 9th to 12th graders report using marijuana.

How does substance use affect teens?

  • It affects their developmental growth, including brain growth.

  • Can increase the risk of adult health concerns, such as sleep disorders, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

  • Early substance use increases the chance of dependence on them later in life

  • It can cause academic difficulties

What are some risk factors for substance abuse?

  • Family history of substance abuse

  • Mental health conditions, such as, but not limited to depression or anxiety

  • Risk taking behavior

  • Past traumatic experience

  • Low confidence and self esteem

What are warning signs of substance abuse?

  • Social problems: having problems with their current friends, communicating with new friends, leaving their current friend group, and changing their physical appearance (outfit, dress style, etc).

  • Physical changes: more exhausted than usual or more energy, sudden health complaints, and red eyes.

  • Behavioral: suddenly more aggressive, angry all the time, starting conflicts with immediate family, and just generally more moody.

  • Academic: no interest in attending school, more absences and tardiness, grades drop, and more behavioral problems in school.

What steps can you to take to help your teen?

  • The first step is developing good communication skills with your teenager. Feel free to reference this article to help you better communicate with your teens.

  • Be calm when interacting with your teen about this situation

  • Don't berate them for their substance abuse

  • Get your teens proper help. This may be above and beyond your capabilities. Be supportive, but allow the professionals to take over and help your teen

  • Don't be afraid to give some tough love, but don't berate them for their substance abuse

Final Notes

Teens, if you are struggling, please seek help. Speak to a trusted adult, whether it's your parents, teacher, friend, relative, or a counselor. Please don't wait until things get worse.

Parents, be open, calm, and communicate well with your teens. Be their safe space to come when they need help. Remember to listen to them when they talk.


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