What are Teens Saying About Their Reasons for Drug Abuse?

Reasons for Teen Drug Abuse

Despite the widespread campaigns to educate our youth about the dangers of substance abuse, far too many teens use drugs and alcohol today.  But, there are also millions of teens who don’t abuse substances.  So, what are the reasons for teen drug abuse and why do some teens experiment with drugs or alcohol while others refrain?

Experts at the Center on Addiction surveyed teens to better understand the reasons for their drug use.  About 1,014 US teens participated in this extensive, web-based survey.  Part of the goal was to help parents recognize the attitudes, behaviors, experiences, and perceptions related to teen substance use.  Below are some highlights of their findings.

  • Intentions to try substances in the future?
    • About 61% of older teens said yes.
    • Teens with friends who use drugs said yes.
  • Witnessed illegal drug use in real life?
    • Almost 30% reported they had witnessed someone using illegal drugs, primarily at school.
    • More than 82% said they have at least one friend who uses drugs.
    • About 46% did not have friends who use drugs.
  • Ease of access to drugs or alcohol?
    • 37% of teens aged 15-17 said they could easily obtain cigarettes.
    • 31% of teens aged 15-17 said they could easily obtain marijuana.>
    • 0.8% claimed they could easily obtain heroin, 10% could obtain cocaine, and 0.9% could obtain meth.
  • Trust unreliable sources of information about drugs?
    • 33% of teens get information about drugs from other teens via the internet and social media.
    • 61% of older teens get their information from friends who use drugs or alcohol.

The statistics are shocking, but one of the positive results shows that 56% of the survey participants believe some teens choose not to use drugs or alcohol because they have a strong bond with their parents.  Among all the reasons for teen drug abuse, family dysfunction, lack of support, and loneliness rank highest.

Do the Risks of Drug Use Increase as Teens Get Older?

The study also focused on understanding the differences in risk factors as teens get older.  Responses from teens were grouped according to age. For instance, they compared the responses from 12-14 year-olds to those of the 15-17 year-olds. Their findings reveal that the risk factor increases significantly with age.  In almost every category, the older teens ranked higher in their exposure to drug and alcohol use by peers.  

Other Reasons for Teen Drug Abuse

More reasons why some teens are at high risk for drug abuse include the following:

  • Self-Medication:  Teens need an outlet for their anxiety and frustration.  The pressures of being a teen can cause depression and cause teens to seek an escape or something to make them feel better.
  • Boredom:  Many teens have trouble keeping themselves occupied.  They crave excitement and their risk-taking behavior to escape boredom often includes drugs or alcohol.
  • Rebellion:  Teens use drugs to flaunt their independence or to strike out at their parents.  Angry teens usually turn to alcohol.  Teens who want to party tend to use a combination of alcohol and prescription drugs.  Other teens turn to marijuana, LSD, or other hallucinogens to relax and escape to a different place in their minds. 
  • Poor Self Image:  Teens who are shy or who lack confidence find that they can do things under the influence of drugs or alcohol that the wouldn’t do otherwise.  They lose their inhibitions and social anxiety issues.  
  • Watching Others:  Impressionable teens are often surrounded by friends or family members who consume addictive substances.  Also, they see drug and alcohol use in movies, youtube videos, and other online sources.  They begin to see substance use as part of life.

Of course, there is no simple solution to the reasons for teen drug abuse.  Parents can find an abundance of information and resources online to help them talk to their teens about the dangers of using drugs.  

Resources: – Teen Insights into Drugs, Alcohol, and Nicotine: A National Survey of Adolescent Attitudes Toward Addictive Substances – Top 8 Reasons Why Teens Try Alcohol and Drugs


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