Why Do Adolescents Turn To Drugs?

Reasons for Teen Drug Abuse

Teens and young adults use drugs for a variety of reasons.  Researchers spend countless hours trying to identify the reasons for teen drug abuse.  As it stands, despite all the efforts to educate our youth about the dangers of substance use, they continue to ignore the warnings.

The following statistics will demonstrate the shocking number of young people who are experimenting with non-medical use of addictive substances in the past year, according to a survey conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH):

  • Vaping – about 40% of 12th graders
  • Illicit drugs – about 20% of 12th graders
  • Marijuana – almost 40% of 12th graders
  • Alcohol – more than 58% of 12th graders
  • Synthetic drugs – approximately 5.3% of 12th graders

These numbers indicate that there are a lot of young people who are struggling with issues that lead them to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol.  Of course, many of these teens may also be the product of peer-pressure, or they want to fit in with the crowd. But, addiction is a complex disorder, just as being a teenager is a complex stage of life. Needless to say, the combination can become deadly.

Other Reasons for the Prevalence of Teen Drug Abuse Today

Teenagers are vulnerable to the signals they receive from adults, movies, music, and social media.  They are exposed to the glorification of drugs and alcohol in many directions.

Let’s break down these influences to gain an understanding of their impact on a young person:

  • People.  Teens see a lot of people consuming a variety of substances.  Maybe their parents smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol Or; they may have a relative that smokes marijuana.  A grandparent may be using a variety of painkillers and sleep aids. Even without these influences, a teen is always exposed to movies that make drug use look like the most fun ever.  They’ve become so desensitized to substance abuse that it almost seems normal to them.
  • Media and music.  About 45% of teens surveyed agreed that some of the music they listen to makes marijuana seem cool. They also agreed that movies and television make smoking pot seem okay to do. Parents should take notice of the programs their teens are watching and talk to them about the content.
  • Self-Medication.  Many teens struggle with depression or poor self-image.  If they don’t have a trusted confidant, they often turn to drugs or alcohol to ease their suffering.  It’s natural for teenagers to want to feel good. Unfortunately, some of the things they turn to that make them feel better can make matters worse.
  • Boredom.  It’s not unusual for teens to become bored.  If they aren’t hanging out with friends or otherwise being entertained, they look for a substitute.  Most of the time they choose marijuana or alcohol to boost their mood and help them bond with other like-minded teens.  However, far too many teens turn to harder substances. In any case, the drugs provide an instant shortcut to happiness.
  • Rebellion.  Teens are complex but they often act-out in predictable ways.  An angry teen often turns to alcohol or meth because these substances enable them to behave aggressively.  On the other hand, a teen will turn to marijuana as an avoidance drug to help reduce aggression. Overall, regardless of the drug of choice, many teens use these substances as a way to flaunt their independence or to make their parents angry.
  • Lack of Self-Esteem or Confidence.  Many shy teens admit that they do things while under the influence of a substance that they would not have done otherwise.  For instance, a high person who doesn’t dance well gains the confidence to dance, or a bad singer will sing anyway, or a shy boy will have the courage to kiss the girl he likes.  If things don’t go well, it can always be blamed on too much booze or too much weed.

Unfortunately, many teens are victims of misinformation about substance use.  They tend to listen to their friends who claim to be experts on the subject. Also, teens believe the drugs are safe because nothing bad has happened yet.

More Risk Factors That are Common Among Teens

The reasons for teen drug abuse are often attributed to risk factors such as child abuse, sexual abuse, or neglect.  Furthermore, many teens have a family history of substance abuse. Sudden trauma is also a contributing factor for some teens. Trauma such as the death of a loved one, divorce, or moving to a new town, can often lead a teen to experiment with drugs or alcohol. These sorts of reasons for teen drug abuse are more common than one would think.

So far, we can’t accurately predict which teens will develop substance use disorders.  But, for those who do, many affordable, evidence-based treatment programs specialize in treating teenagers.

If you would like more information about the reasons for teen drug abuse, please contact us at our toll-free number today.


drugabuse.govMonitoring the Future Survey:  High School and Youth Trends

drugabuse.govPrinciples of Adolescent Substance Use Disorder Treatment

getsmartaboutdrugs.govWhy Do Teens Use Drugs?

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