Teenage drug use and abuse is a problem that affects anywhere from 4-34% of the high school aged teen population. Even though teen drug use has dropped by nearly 45% since 2010, teens are still prone to drinking, smoking marijuana, using prescription pills for recreational purposes, and even using illicit drugs such as heroin, and methamphetamine. With more than 1 in 100 students resorting to regular drug use during school years, parents are right to be concerned. While drug use affects an average of 14% of teenagers, many begin to use drugs for different reasons. In many cases, these reasons overlap, influence each other, and are caused by stimuli that the teen often has no control over.
1. Boredom – Everyone gets bored but teenagers have more reasons than older or younger age groups. Puberty and growth hormones in the brain like gonadal steroid hormones can result in symptoms including restlessness, anxiety, and boredom. In one study, 39% of a group over 22,000 students said that they were bored most of the time at school. Unfortunately, boredom leads to impulsive decisions and erratic behavior, which frequently involves drug use and abuse. Once teens realize that drugs can help them to not be bored, they can quickly become hooked.
2. Peer Pressure – Most people know that peer pressure is a large influencing factor in teen drug and substance abuse, but because of the popularity of the fact, few people take it seriously. However, teens are very conscious of what their peers think of them and how they act, and data shows that even the presence of friends is more likely to increase erratic behavior, even with mundane activities like driving. This increase in risk taking for ‘status’ is present in adolescents who feel that they must prove themselves, which translates into a higher likelihood to accept drugs in order to appear cool when peers are using them.
3. Rebellion – The same hormones that cause restless behavior and boredom push teens into rebellion. Teenage rebellion is natural and genetic, and is part of the process of children developing an identity separate from their parents. However, some teens take it to extremes, using drugs and alcohol as a means of rebelling against their parents and sometimes the law.
4. Modelling Adult Behavior – Children who grow up in households or in areas where drugs are used or abused are more likely to use drugs This becomes especially relevant during teenage years when turmoil, rebellion, hormones, and peer pressure combine, and teens often rebel by choosing the same substances their parents and close family members do, often even stealing those substances.
5. Escapism – Teens are stressed, bored, and often given large workloads, high expectations from family members, and increasing responsibility. Others grow up in poverty, are subject to online or physical bullying, are in a bad neighborhood, have lived through a traumatic experience, or even live in an abusive household. More importantly, even teens in otherwise well balanced households may be under heavy pressure. A poll of high schools across the U.S. showed that the average teen goes home with 5 hours of homework every day, or just over 17 hours per week. Teens who are exposed to stressors like poverty, abuse, trauma, and heavy workloads are more likely to use drugs to escape. This correlates to both heavy use and addiction and occasional recreational use, where students under heavy stress are more likely to want to use a substance to help get their mind off stresses.
6. Lack of Confidence or Self Esteem – Many teens naturally have an underdeveloped sense of self esteem, many are shy, and many haven’t yet built up the confidence to try or do the things they want. Just like adults will use alcohol as a social lubricant, many teens will use prescription and non-prescription drugs to ‘loosen up’ and feel more relaxed or confident in social situations. This is especially true at parties, where combinations of factors including peer pressure make it easier to rely on drugs as a solution than to choose a healthier alternative. It also ties into loneliness, and the effects of loneliness on addiction are well documented.
7. Misinformation – Television, movies, and friends are all constantly telling teens that drugs are safe, present a minimal risk, and that they are ‘cool’. The constant portrayal of addiction in the media, including drugs, alcohol, and prescription pills, typically leaves an impression on young minds. Whether that impression is good or bad, it often fuels many to try substances out of curiosity. In one study, 47% of teens suggested that most movies and TV shows make drugs and alcohol seem okay. Drug use affects personalities, school performance, grades, and eventually health, motivation, and the teen’s life. If your child, your loved one, or your friend is suffering from an addiction or substance use disorder, it is important that you get them professional help to give them the tools to get clean and move forward with their life. The Oceanfront Recovery Addiction Treatment Program can help you or your loved one through the process of recovery from substance abuse addiction or recovery from alcoholism. Our passionate clinicians focus on bringing the underlying causes of addiction to the surface with a modern and effective recovery program. Contact us at Oceanfront Recovery today for a confidential assessment with no obligation.