Teen and Addiction Rates on the Rise 

 In Addiction

Addiction and drug abuse are tragic situations that affect people of all demographics, from all kinds of backgrounds. But while much of modern research and addiction treatment developments are focused on adults, increasing studies are showing that focus should be turned towards younger individuals. Adolescents and substance abuse is nothing new, but many may be shocked to find out that teen addiction rates are on the rise. 

Why Is Substance Abuse Rising Among Teens?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, today’s adolescents are more willing to experiment with drug abuse thanks to products like vape pens and relaxing societal norms around certain substances (like marijuana). The National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics goes further to report that 47 percent of teens will have used an illicit (illegal) substance by the time they graduate from high school, and an estimated 863,000 adolescents are in need of substance abuse / addiction treatment but do not receive it.

Drinking among teens is also very common, with the CDC reporting that teens account for 11 percent of all alcohol consumed in the United States. Even more concerning is the fact that more than 90 percent of this alcohol is consumed in the form of binge drinking.  

In addition to drug prevalence and relaxing attitudes, there are a lot of reasons today’s adolescents may engage in substance abuse:

  • To try new things – Many view it as just “experimenting”, even if the user has crossed over from occasional to frequent.
  • To be competitive – Pressures on teens to perform well academically and/or athletically are often intense. Not only can drug abuse be an outlet, but some see using stimulants or prescription pills as a means of getting ahead. 
  • To self-medicate – A lot of teens do not yet know how to effectively express their feelings or when to ask for help. Depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders often affect adolescents just as they do adults, but those who are younger may find turning to substance abuse easier than trying to actually get help. Many may not even be aware that they are suffering from a mental health disorder.
  • To fit in with the crowd – Being a teen comes with the natural desire to want to fit in with classmates and “be cool”. When others around them are engaging in substance abuse, it can be extremely difficult for teens to turn the other way. Some may even go out of their way to introduce a new substance to their friends in order to achieve a better status. 

Signs of Drug Abuse and Addiction in Teens

It can be very stressful when you think your teen may be engaging in drug abuse. However, the earlier you recognize the problem, the faster you can do something about it. Even though they may say otherwise, your teen needs you to be an active participant and caregiver in their life. Here are some signs of drug abuse and addiction in teens that you should be aware of:

  • Changes in behavior (being overly excited or jittery, acting depressed, etc.)
  • Frequent irritability or violent outbursts
  • Disappearing often / spending long periods of time away from home without saying where they are going
  • Frequent sweating, red eyes, runny nose, etc.
  • Changes in physical appearance (no longer taking care in personal appearance)
  • Slipping grades
  • Disinterest in activities they used to enjoy
  • Acting secretive / suddenly demanding privacy
  • Suddenly hanging out with new people
  • Criminal behavior / new disregard for authority

What Parents and Schools Can Do to Help

Parents and schools are the first line of defense against teen addiction and drug abuse. It is important for adolescents to feel like they are supported, and with this comes the responsibility to help curb substance abuse rates among today’s youth. The good news is that there are a lot of things parents and schools can do to spread awareness and teach teens to stay away from drugs and alcohol:

  • Teach teens the importance of good mental health – Mental health is just as important as physical health. Disorders like anxiety and depression have long been linked to drug abuse, but early recognition and treatment can help prevent this. 
  • Take an interest in teens’ lives – Parents do not need to be overbearing, but maintaining a healthy interest in their child’s life is crucial. 
  • Spread truth, not fear – Many adolescents do not respond well to fear tactics or exaggerations about the effects of drugs and alcohol. It is best to be honest with them and show that certain (not all) substances may be okay in moderation once they are of legal age. Finding and sharing real-life stories about the dangers will also show real consequences.
  • Keep teens active – Participation in clubs and sports is often good for teens. Part-time jobs and volunteer service are great alternative options (just make sure they are not taking on too much and becoming stressed).
  • Talk one-on-one with teens – Sometimes the best method of all is for parents to sit down with their teen and have a heart-to-heart.
  • Lead by example – Teens should always be able to come home to a healthy, safe household. They will also be more likely to listen to adults who practice what they preach. 

We Can Help Your Teen

If you think your teen may have an addiction or substance abuse problem, don’t wait to seek help. At Adolescent Wellness Academy (offered by Principles Recovery Center), we offer a treatment program for substance abuse and mental illness just for teens. Our after-school IOP program includes transportation from schools across South Florida, ensuring your teen gets the care they need without it taking a toll on their education. We invite you to get in touch with us today to learn more. 


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