Teen drug use and addiction is a sad reality that the United States faces today. Right now, close to five million teenagers struggle with a drug or alcohol problem. Even worse, most of them never receive help. If you want to learn more, here are ten sobering facts about teen drug abuse that you might not know.

teen drug use media influences

1. Peer pressure is not the only reason that teens use drugs.

One of the many dangers of substance use is that it can quickly become substance abuse and, eventually, addiction. Teen drug use may start as experimentation, but without intervention, it can spiral into a problem that continues into adulthood. So, why do teens use drugs at all? Outside of peer pressure, the top reasons why teens use drugs include:

  • Genetics
  • The desire to “escape”
  • Mental or emotional disorders
  • Academic and other age-centric pressures
  • Media influences (i.e., movies, television, video games, etc.)

2. Mental health issues are a driving factor in teen drug use and addiction.

For years, adolescent mental and behavioral health specialists have observed a link between certain mental health issues and substance abuse among teens. The most common problems that contribute to the rates of teen drug use include depression, anxiety, and emotional trauma. In fact, one study of almost 500 teenagers found that depression drastically increases the allure— and thus, the likelihood— of drug use.

young teen drug use

3. Addiction can start at a younger age than most people think.

Unfortunately, the average age when teens begin using drugs is far younger than people might think. In fact, various reports indicate that most teens who use drugs first start as young as 13 years old. Plus, those who start drug use at such a young age are almost seven times more likely to develop an addiction as those aged 21 or older who start abusing substances.

4. Teens who use drugs and alcohol are more likely to develop substance use disorders in adulthood.

Multiple studies across decades of research have shown that teen drug use significantly increases the likelihood of developing an addiction as an adult. After all, teenagers have not finished growing, and so their brains and bodies are especially susceptible to the chemical changes that addiction causes. This is why teens who begin using drugs at a younger age are more likely to relapse when trying to quit.

teen drug use and smoking

5. One in five high school-aged users meet the criteria for a substance use disorder.

According to SAMHSA, one in five high schoolers who use drugs like tobacco and alcohol meet the medical criteria for a substance use disorder. Moreover, about 74 percent of adults who seek treatment for an addiction began using substances before the age of 17— the age that most people would enter their junior or senior year of high school.

6. Teens abuse alcohol the most.

Contrary to popular belief, illicit drugs are not the most popular among teens. In fact, teens usually experiment with substances they can easily access through friends or family. This includes prescription medications and, more often than not, alcohol. Today, teens abuse alcohol more than any other substance. Various studies and surveys have concluded that:

  • 23 percent of teens have consumed alcohol by the 8th grade.
  • 9 percent of 8th graders have been intoxicated at least once in their life.
  • 46 percent of 12th graders have been intoxicated at least once in their life.
  • 61 percent of high school students have consumed alcohol at least once by the end of their last year.
teen drug use and depression

7. Prescription misuse among teens is on the rise.

Although alcohol abuse is the most common drug problem among teens, prescription drug use is not far behind. Roughly 15 percent of high school students have misused prescription drugs at some point. Moreover, the high schoolers who abuse prescriptions often get them from others (i.e., they themselves are not prescription holders). Some of the most commonly abused medicines among teens include:

The most widely abused prescriptions drugs among teens are relievers, namely opioids like OxyContin and Percocet. Furthermore, about 90 percent of high schoolers who abuse these kinds of medicines have also experimented with other addictive substances.

8. Teens don’t seem to know the risks of regular marijuana use.

In recent years, many people have begun to adopt a more relaxed view on recreational marijuana use. Back in 2000, 58 percent of high school seniors reported that they believed marijuana to be a harmful drug. Last year, that same poll plummeted by 27 percent. This is especially worrying since teen marijuana use can lead to various short- and long-term health issues. These include:

  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Higher heart rate
  • Memory impairment
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions
  • Changes in mood or personality
  • Respiratory problems (e.g., coughing, trouble breathing, etc.)
  • Cognitive difficulties (i.e., issues with thinking and problem-solving)

One study even highlighted to effects of regular marijuana use on IQ scores. This study revealed that teens who smoke marijuana regularly are at risk of losing an average of eight IQ points between their early teens and their late thirties.

college teen drug use

9. Substance use is a prevalent problem among college students.

Drug use is also a common problem among teenaged college students. In 2016, a reported 45 percent of male teens and 42 percent of female teens used an illegal drug during their time in college. The most popular illicit drugs among teens in college include:

  • Heroin
  • Cocaine
  • Inhalants
  • LSD (or “Acid”)
  • Ecstasy (or “Molly”)
  • Marijuana (both synthetic and non-synthetic)

Of course, alcohol seems to be the most popular abused substance among teenaged college students. According to data collected through the Monitoring the Future Survey, 12 percent of teen college students reported having ten or more drinks in a row at least once in the two weeks leading up to the survey. This amounts to roughly one in eight college students. In the same study, an additional 25 teenaged students reported having 15 or more drinks in a row during the same two weeks before the survey.

10. Substance use can be deadly for teens.

Teen drug use can have deadly consequences. According to Trust for America’s Health, the drug overdose mortality rate among people aged 12 to 25 has more than doubled nationwide over the past decade. Still, the danger goes beyond health problems. Several reports have linked teen drug use to an increased risk of injury or accidental death. This is especially true for automobile accidents. One study conducted in 2015 found that nearly half of the teen drivers who died in car accidents used alcohol, marijuana, or both.

teen drug use and isolation

Help for Teen Drug Use and Addiction at Lumiere Healing Centers

If your child or another teenaged loved one is struggling with drug use and addiction, please call Lumiere Healing Centers at 513-909-2225. Our programs and services are structured to meet the individual recovery needs of each of our clients.

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