Understanding Why Teens Abuse Drugs and Alcohol

Did you know that the rate of drug overdose deaths among the teens in the United States increased by 19% from 2014 to 2015? Indeed, drug and alcohol abuse among teens continues to be a major issue worldwide. But what is the reason behind these alarming numbers?

Adolescence is the most vulnerable time of life as one tries to navigate the precarious road to adulthood. It is the age of self-exploration, and therefore many teens going through adolescence are inclined towards trying new things. However, not being prepared to make difficult choices and a lack of life experience can sometimes lead a person onto the wrong path. With that being said, the curiosity to try new things isn’t the only reason why teenagers use drugs or alcohol.

Understanding the cause of why teens try drugs and alcohol is an imperative step towards preventing this distressing challenge or addressing it if it comes up in your teen’s life. In this post, we have listed some of the core issues and reasons why teenagers tend to abuse drugs and alcohol.

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  1. Social Pressure

Insecurities are fierce during the teenage years. At the same time, most teenagers struggle to fit in and have a strong desire to be accepted by their peers. As such, when one of the popular kids comes up and says, “C’mon drink up! No one will know!” the desire to gain acceptance overtakes better judgment, and denying becomes incredibly difficult.

Peer pressure plays a key role in influencing the actions and decisions of children. According to a study funded by NIDA, peer pressure carries immense weight in the decisions made by teenagers. Teens can poorly assess both the risks and rewards of their actions and behavior, tending. to consider impressing their friends as a reward while the risks of their actions are often ignored in the favor of rewards.

  1. Family Bond

Parents and family are the strongest influence on a child. They have a major impact on a child’s decision whether or not to use drugs or alcohol. Children tend to notice how their parents use alcohol or drugs as well as their triggers. This also includes the way parents react to stress, strong feelings and emotions or how they deal with minor aches and pains. As such, if a teenager grows up with parents who often consume alcohol or use drugs then he/she is very much likely to follow suit. Modeling parents’ behavior and the availability of drugs in such cases become a prime reason a teen begins using drugs.

  1. Childhood Abuse/Trauma

According to the latest research, psychological trauma – especially domestic violence and abuse, tends to increase the likelihood of an adolescent getting involved with drugs. Childhood stress or trauma plays a huge role in addiction. Often, teens that have been through a lot of emotional pain use drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism. Physical abuse, sexual abuse, or emotional abuse during the childhood days cause significant trauma, causing teens to use drugs and alcohol to numb the pain.

  1. Self-medication

Teenage life can be a roller -coaster ride filled with plenty of ups and downs. It is a phase of rapid physical and cognitive changes. There are several problems and new challenges a teen has to deal with. From physical appearance or dating to self-esteem and sometimes bullying, there are a plethora of new issues a teenager experiences for the first time in life. But sometimes, these problems get out of hand, causing them to seek an escape. Alcohol and drugs temporarily ease the pain and provide teens a means of escape when dealing with teenage problems become too difficult. Self-medicating to deal with the common stressors by using drugs and alcohol allows them to shut out the world for a while.

  1. Rebellious nature

“I am not a kid anymore.” This is a phrase you often hears from a teenager. Teenagers are keen to be treated like adults and are curious to enjoy the privileges of an adult life. They might try to assert their budding maturity by indulging in drinking or drugs, which are often considered as adult privileges. Apart from that, teenagers who grow up in an, overprotective and strict environment also tend to show their disapproval by engaging in activities that make their parents embarrassed or angry. They lash out in a rebellious manner by using drugs or alcohol, which becomes a way of flaunting their independence and making the parents furious.

  1. Popular Media

Popular media significantly contributes to the risk of teenagers abusing alcohol and drug. Media in all forms is evolving and is an important contributor in creating an impression that intoxication is a glamorous experience. Teens are exposed to the pictures of their peers and favorite music/ movie star drinking, using drugs and passing out. Moreover, pop music and several famous TV series these days also tend to make marijuana seem cool. When the idea of using drugs and alcohol is normalized by social media, teenagers do not hesitate in experimenting with them.

  1. Thrill-seeking Tendencies

Getting high with friends can seem like a fun thing to do for teenagers. The silly behavior, bizarre actions, slurred speech seem very entertaining in the moment and also make up for great stories for the next day. Seeking thrills and an adrenaline rush is also a part of the teenage lifestyle. Drugs provide an instant rush of feel-good chemicals and the drug-induced euphoria causes them to indulge again despite knowing the negative consequences. Teenagers with a tendency to seek thrills are at much higher risk of abusing drugs as they constantly seek that instant euphoric effect and the fun adventures with friends soon turn into an addiction.

There is an endless list of factors that explain why teenagers abuse drugs and alcohol. Looking out for the factors mentioned above can help parents and interested adults identify any potentially risky behavior at an early stage. When prevention doesn’t work, drug and alcohol addiction treatment can help teenagers recover and lead a normal life. Remember, confronting the problem correctly plays a key role in fighting drug abuse.


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