Is Teen Substance Use Normal? Partnership to End Addiction

In one way or another, peer pressure is involved in around half of first-time substance use. This doesn’t imply that teens are being backed into walls and forced to use. It’s a blanket term to describe any influence from friends or classmates. Keeping up with peers and “fitting in” are subtle and often subconscious ways that teens wind up entangled with drugs and alcohol.

The prefrontal cortex is a part of the brain responsible for functions such as decision-making, impulse control, problem-solving, and reasoning. An adolescent’s brain is also not fully developed, which can impact their decision-making and lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms. This high level of dopamine causes the brain to send out intense motivation to seek the drug again and again. Drug use at a young age can alter brain maturation and lead to long-term cognitive impairment.

Effects of Drugs on The Developing Brain

Once the brain adjusts to new levels, it seeks out the drug that initially caused these imbalances. An adolescent’s brain is wired to take risks and seek stimulation and rewards. It can help teens meet new people who may be going through similar challenges, have people to hold them accountable, and know that they aren’t alone. Support groups can be beneficial in offering ongoing support and encouragement throughout the recovery process. Drugs and the developing brain lead to even more impaired judgment and more impaired risk-reward benefit.

Teens are constantly trying to figure out how they fit into their world. As they work to find their place, they can be strongly influenced by peer pressure. If young people spend time with other teens who are engaged in risky, unhealthy behaviors, they are more likely to engage in those behaviors themselves. One of the most challenging aspects of addiction is that it is a progressive disease.

Does My Child Need Professional Treatment?

An identifying point of substance abuse is when the use of substances interferes with your daily life. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, many drugs such as cocaine, marijuana, and nicotine affect the brain’s “reward” circuit. Drugs take over this system and release large amounts teen drug abuse of dopamine. Many teens begin to use drugs because they are trying to cope with difficult emotions. As a way to cope, adolescents may turn to drugs to numb the pain or feel happy again. Transitioning between adolescence and the teenage years can come with feelings of self-consciousness.

  • Teens and young adults make up a large number of Americans who struggle with a substance use disorder.
  • The majority of adults with an addiction first experimented with drugs before they turned 21.
  • Unfortunately, teenagers often don’t see the link between their actions today and the consequences tomorrow.
  • Rates of AIDS diagnoses currently are relatively low among teenagers, compared with most other age groups.
  • Through the efforts of thousands of parents and teenagers who have struggled ahead of you, there are many options for successful treatment going forward.

Many adolescents’ motivation for using drugs can also be to feel accepted and fit in. Even if teens begin to use drugs to experiment, it can quickly become a problem. Different types of prescription drugs include stimulants, opioids, and depressants. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported more than 5,700 youth in 2014 misusing prescription drugs. They may be trying to deal with stress, painful emotions, or lessen social anxiety. Adolescent alcohol or drug use accelerates very quickly when an untreated mental health disorder is present.