For teens, it can start as experimenting with drugs or alcohol at a party. Then it turns to addiction and abuse later on in life. As 90% of people who struggle with substance abuse started using before they turned 18 years old.
The reasons adolescents start using can be genetics, their environment, or social pressures. Teenagers on drugs also have a higher risk of developing an addiction.
Read on to learn the main reasons teenagers turn to drugs and how to help them.
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1. Peer Pressure
A peer pressure definition includes teens getting influenced by friends or family members. This happens with teens trying drugs or alcohol to impress people in their social circle. It gets done as a way to fit in, rather than a personal choice.
Social pressure can also happen with someone the teen is dating or from an older sibling. Peer pressure often takes place when teens choose to attend parties or social events. This is where drugs like marijuana, cocaine, and ecstasy are popular.
Teens may start out by getting pressured with gateway drugs. Nicotine, alcohol, and marijuana are often seen as being less high risk by teens.
Yet, this can sometimes lead to using more illicit drugs, like cocaine and heroin. These drugs pose extreme health risks and often lead to dependence and addiction.
2. Unstable Mental Health
The age of adolescence can be a fragile and emotional time. Many teens struggle with mood swings and changing hormones as their bodies develop.
Some teens also have mental health disorders, which drugs and alcohol can make much worse. Here is more on the connection between depression and alcohol abuse and how it can affect a teen.
During teen development, they often experience an imbalance of hormones. This lets in feelings of anxiety and depression. So teens may turn to drugs and alcohol to help them relax and control stress triggers.
Using drugs can also affect an adolescent’s brain functions and development. An even scarier effect is that using drugs and alcohol can also lead to an increased risk of suicide.
In these cases, a teen may need professional counseling or rehab. As this may reduce their risk of turning to drugs and alcohol.
3. An Enabling Environment
A teen’s environment can also impact the likelihood of them trying drugs and alcohol. Teens look to older siblings and parents as the people who help to shape their lives. This has a big effect on how the teen will view drugs and alcohol.
An enabling environment also happens when teens don’t get reprimanded for their actions. This includes skipping classes or letting their grades slip. Engaging in risky behaviors is another sign that a teen may be acting out.
Teens with missing parental guidance or a mentor may be more at risk. Problems at home, abuse, and neglect can also turn the teen towards substance abuse. Parents may also ignore or fail to notice the warning signs of alcoholism or drug abuse in their teen.
4. A Family History of Addiction
Genetics often comes into play for increasing one’s drug and alcohol addiction risk. Teens with addicted families are more likely to develop problems with substance abuse.
This can happen with one alcoholic parent or both parents struggling with addiction. The teen may also have an addictive personality that runs in the family. This can lead them to substance abuse problems.
5. Having Easy Access to Drugs
Teens that have drugs available to them can also get influenced in their decision to use. The type of neighborhood or community they live in can increase their exposure.
This also includes which school they go to and the school’s control over and policy on drugs. Some communities have a high amount of opioid abusers. This can increase prescription drugs getting sold in schools.
If parents have controlled substances in the home, it helps to keep an eye on the medicine cabinet. Internet browser controls are also important. As some teens even turn to the internet to buy illegal drugs.
6. An Experimental or High-Risk Personality
Teenager personality characteristics can make them more likely to try drugs. Some teens go through an experimental stage or use drugs to relieve boredom.
These type of teens who use drugs are often chasing a dopamine release. Using drugs and alcohol will also affect the teen’s decision-making process.
These teens may also exhibit risky, curious, or thrill-seeking behaviors. This includes drinking and driving and having unprotected sex. Teens may also mix drugs and alcohol to enhance the effects.
Those who drink energy drinks also have a higher chance of using drugs and alcohol. This is due to their personality traits and behavior patterns.
7. Going Through a Tough Transition
Some teens turn to drugs to help them deal with a big life transition or trauma. This often starts as a situational habit that turns to a coping mechanism. This is how addiction and dependence form in young adulthood.
A personal loss, like the death of a loved one, can spur this. Changing schools or having parents go through a divorce are also hard on teens.
Bullying and social media pressure may also be to blame for a teen who chooses to use drugs. Some teens may also be having a hard time figuring out their sexual identity. This can cause them to use drugs as an escape or a means to cope.
The stress of getting into college may also cause the teen to turn to substance abuse. The teen may also show signs that their grades are slipping. They may also show a loss of interest in academic and extracurricular activities.
A teen going through a difficult time does not always guarantee drug use. But it may involve a combination of different factors, including struggling with change.
Teenagers on Drugs, Getting Them the Help They Need
These 7 situations are the most common reasons that cause teenagers to begin using drugs. Remember that teenagers on drugs will often display some warning signs. It helps to pay attention to the symptoms and encourage support.
There are also many options to take to begin the recovery process for yourself or a loved one. Counseling services and professional treatment programs have helped many teens struggling with addiction.
Learn more about how 1st Step Behavioral Health can help with the road to recovery.