It is a well-known fact that substance abuse among teens can result in many negative health effects. The dangers of substance abuse among teens are such that it should be the focus of attention for every parent and educator.
The article will explore the various risks associated with substance abuse among teens as well as what we can do to help reduce them to ensure a healthy future for your teenager.
The Health Risks of Substance Abuse Among Teens
Substance abuse can cause serious health risks for everyone. However, substance abuse among teens can result in even greater health risks because substance abuse can interfere with the development of a teen’s brain. This means that substance abuse among teens has the potential to prevent healthy brain growth and function, which can have an impact on overall physical as well as mental health.
In addition to developmental issues, substance abuse can also result in substance use disorders and addiction, substance withdrawal symptoms, and substance overdose.
All of these substance abuse risks can adversely affect a teen’s ability to lead a healthy and productive life.
While substance abuse among teens has decreased overall for this generation, there’s still been an upward trend among teens in the last few years. Today’s youth might be less inclined to drink or smoke than their parents, but the numbers aren’t anything to sneeze at either, with vaping, cigarette use, alcohol, and all illicit drugs seeing a major rise in usage between 2019 and 2020.
Over two-thirds have reportedly had a drink by the 12th grade, and up to half of the students between grades 9 and 12 have tried marijuana before graduation. Even more egregious is prescription medication misuse, which roughly every two in ten 12th graders admit to.
But we know that trying a drug out and struggling with substance abuse are two very different situations. Nevertheless, teens are more susceptible to the effects of addictive drugs and are statistically more likely to develop a substance use disorder after early first use than older adults – making even simple experimentation a very risky thing.
Regardless of age and substance, drug use is a scary topic for many parents and caregivers.
It isn’t enough to demonize drugs or repeat the same talking points to teens when trying to prevent drug use, though. There are clear ways to reduce the harm and likelihood of a substance use disorder in most cases and educating teens on the real effects of substance abuse is just one of these ways.
How Common is Substance Abuse Among Teens?
It’s very difficult to gauge substance abuse on a statistical level, versus illegal substance use. Teens, in general, aren’t allowed to smoke or drink and illicit prescription drug use applies to all ages. But the line between trying a drug and becoming addicted is blurry and individual.
The methodology used to gather data on teenage drug use doesn’t always allow for a clear picture of whether a surveyed teen is struggling with a substance use disorder, either.
But what we can gather from the information pooled over decades of research is that teen drug use is rising following the beginning of the pandemic and that teens are struggling with other mental health issues more than ever.
Our youth are greatly at risk as a result of these increases and continue to struggle in the absence of the necessary psychiatric healthcare resources needed to address these issues.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t take matters into your own hands. There are ways to seek help for your teen, including inpatient and outpatient treatment programs, long-term recovery plans, medication, and therapy. Understanding the factors that might have contributed to a person’s drug use also goes a long way towards helping them in recovery.
Increased Risk for Mental Health Issues
Teenagers who abuse drugs or alcohol have a higher risk of developing mental health issues, including substance use disorders and substance addiction.
According to substanceabuse.com substance abuse can lead to substance use disorders in teens if substance abuse continues over time. This means that substance abuse among teens poses the risk of substance addiction, which is characterized by long-term substance cravings even after substance dependence has been diagnosed.
Many teenagers who are addicted to substance abuse go on to develop substance use disorders. This means that substance addiction among teens can result in substance use disorders if substance abuse continues over time.
If a teenager is turning to substance abuse as a means of self-medication for an existing mental health disorder, including depression or anxiety, the teen is at risk of developing a co-occurring disorder.
Substance abuse can lead not only to substance use disorders and substance addiction but also to behavioral problems, including lack of motivation, acts of violence, and mood disorders.
In fact, substance abuse among teens can increase their risk of substance-related problems in adulthood by up to five times. In addition, substance abuse has been linked with an increased risk for antisocial personality disorder or other substance use disorders by up to ten times.
Higher Risk for Physical Injuries and Violence
Substance abuse among teens can result in a higher risk of physical injuries and violence. Substance abuse can lead to an increased risk of substance-related injuries, including motor vehicle accidents, falls and unintentional injuries, burns, and substance-related violence.
This is particularly dangerous for teens learning to operate a motor vehicle and teens entering the workforce.
Increased substance abuse among teens has not only been linked with substance-related injuries but also an increased risk for physical fighting, both inside and outside the home. Substance abuse can result in substance-related violent behavior, which includes acts of violence aimed at oneself or others that are typically caused by substance use or withdrawal effects or to get access to substances.
Higher Risk of Unsafe Sexual Behavior
Substance abuse among teens has been linked with an increased risk of unsafe sexual behavior, including unprotected sex, teen pregnancy, and substance-related sexual assault.
Substance abuse can lead to poor decision-making abilities, so substance abusers may be more likely to engage in unprotected sex because they are not thinking about the potential dangers of substance use.
Increased substance abuse among teens has been linked with a higher risk of teen pregnancy before the age of 18. In fact, substance abuse is associated with up to half of all teen pregnancies.
Greater Likelihood of Drug Addiction as an Adult
Teenagers who abuse substances are more likely to develop substance addictions even after substance abuse stops. Substance addiction is characterized by substance cravings and compulsive substance use, even in the face of substance-related health issues or negative consequences associated with substance use.
Substance abuse among teens has been linked not only with an increased risk of substance addiction but also biological changes that make it harder for substance abusers to stop substance use even after substance addiction has been diagnosed.
Substance abuse during adolescence increases the risk of substance addiction and substance use disorders in adulthood.
Peer Pressure: Myth or Fact?
Peer pressure plays less of a role for younger teens than it does for older adults. Studies show that parental influence is a stronger factor in the risk of substance abuse than peer influence, and that upbringing and predisposition play a larger role in peer selection, to begin with.
It’s only once children reach a point of maturity where they begin to move out of the house and develop ties to other people in other places that their attachment to home is greatly reduced, and peer influence takes on a greater role.
That doesn’t mean that peer pressure doesn’t exist. It’s one of many possible factors that influence a teen’s decision-making. The more the people around them use drugs, the more likely a teen is to try drugs as well. But parents should know that their general attitude and history with drugs is likely to be reflected in the behavior of their kids, even more so than the behavior of the popular kids in class. Especially if the bond between a parent and their child is reinforced through care and good parenting.
Why Addressing Substance Abuse in Teens is Crucial
The earlier a person is exposed to an addictive drug, the more likely they are to struggle with substance abuse as they get older. This suggests that children and teens are generally more susceptible to the addictive qualities of drugs like nicotine, alcohol, and certain prescription medication, as well as illicit substances.
Using drugs at an early age also has a much greater impact on the physical and mental development of a person. The brain is a very fragile thing, and it’s even more fragile in adolescence than in adulthood. Developing brains may be stunted cognitively even by low amounts of illegal drug use, so helping minimize a teen’s substance use and treat their condition immediately is important.
What Parents Can Do to Reduce the Health Risks of Substance Abuse Among Teens?
As a parent, there are several things you can do to reduce the health risks of substance abuse among teens. It is important to set a good example and not engage in substance use or substance-related behaviors around your teen and instead be an active substance-free role model for them.
It is also critical that you talk to your teen about substance abuse early on, at the beginning of adolescence when substance abuse rates tend to be higher.
You should also make substance-free activities available to your teen, like substance-free social events or substance-free recreational activities. You can also monitor your teen’s substance use by looking out for substance cravings and withdrawal effects, both of which are telltale signs that substance abuse is taking place.
It is important to keep the lines of communication open with your teen, so they know that substance abuse is not okay and there are risks associated with substance abuse. You should also ensure that you have a good relationship with your teen by spending time together outside of substance-related events, keeping substance use out of conversation, and being supportive in general.
Teen Substance Abuse Treatment
Substance abuse treatment is widely available around the country. However, if you are interested in helping your teen, you may be interested in teen treatment programs.
Teen substance abuse treatment can help teens overcome substance abuse issues by developing substance-free coping skills, helping teens better manage their emotions, and encouraging healthy communication with family members.
Teen substance abuse treatment also helps to increase the likelihood that substance abusers will avoid relapse in the future.