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How to Detect, Prevent, and Treat Teenage Drug Addiction

Teenagers are often driven by curiosity and peer pressure. At this time, when they try to “explore” and “experiment,” they are at greater risk of using illicit substances and eventually succumbing to teenage drug addiction.

10 Minutes Read | Published Jan 10 2024 | Updated Feb 26 2024 Expert Verified
Emma Collins
Written by
David Levin
Reviewed by
Emma Collins
Written by
David Levin
Reviewed by

Youth drug addiction is becoming more prevalent nowadays. A report from the CDC claimed that 15% of high school students had used meth, cocaine, hallucinogens, and other illegal substances. Statistics also show that from 2016 to 2020, there was a 61% increase in drug use among 8th graders.

It’s essential to keep the youth from teen substance abuse as it can cause physical and mental illnesses, neglect of academic and personal responsibilities, and extreme drug addiction later in life.

Read on to help save adolescents from the danger of teenage drug addiction. 

What are the Causes of Teenage drug addiction? 

Here are some of the risk factors that push teens and young adults to substance abuse:

Family History of Substance Abuse

Teenagers with parents or siblings suffering from addictive behavior will be more likely to use drugs post-puberty. It is also possible that the person lives in a community with a high tolerance to drug (and alcohol) use, reinforcing the belief in his/her mind that substance abuse is a common deed.

Genetics can also play a role in teen drug addiction. A youth from a family with a genetic predisposition to drugs is at higher risk of drug abuse.

Trauma Response

Some people have traumatic experiences early in life (i.e., death of a loved one, domestic abuse, vehicular accidents). Unfortunately, teenagers usually struggle to process their emotional responses to traumatic events. So, as a way to “escape” from the mental scars, some teenagers resort to drug use. 

Mental Issues

Teenager suffering from depression or anxiety might use illicit substances to keep their negative thoughts at bay. However, the effects of drug use are typically short-lived, so the user will crave higher drug doses to keep their mental issues “under control.”

Bullying and Low Self-Esteem

Victims of bullying in school often develop poor self-esteem. For this reason, some victims find solace in befriending people who are also drug users. 

It’s also common among teens from the LGBTQ community to use drugs because their family rejected their sexual and gender orientation. Teen gender minorities might also face discrimination and harassment at school, which can increase the risk of substance abuse.

Poor Parenting

Poor parenting is typically associated with a child’s lack of boundaries. Teenagers with parents who can’t limit their actions and discipline their wrongdoings are more vulnerable to experimenting with drug use and suffer from addiction. 

If a teenager also suffers from physical, emotional, or sexual abuse from their parents, they might resort to illegal drugs as a form of “escape” or self-medication.

Children among divorced parents also seem to be more vulnerable to substance abuse. A 2019 study posited that parental divorce is a risk factor for early substance use, especially in female children. Drug use might be the teen’s approach to coping with the emotional distress of seeing parents fighting or the fear of living with a broken family.

Peer Pressure 

The desire to fit in is common among teenagers. If someone saw their friends consume drugs, he might try it as well just to show he’s worthy to be part of the group. 

Drugs are also common in parties, clubs, and bars. So, a teenager attending social events with drugs involved may also end up using one just to fit into the crowd.


Young people might resort to drugs just to cope with the increasing personal stress in their lives. For instance, a teenager dealing with low grades and at risk of expulsion might turn to drug or alcohol abuse. 

It’s also common among young people to take breakups seriously. Some use illicit substances to comfort them from emotional stress.

Break Up From Romantic Relationship

It’s also common among young people to take breakups with their boyfriends or girlfriends seriously. To ease the “heartbreak,” some teens resort to using drugs or alcohol to “comfort themselves from emotional stress.

Teen drug addiction due to a “broken heart” is common among those who can’t share their pain because of embarrassment, so they turn to drugs to let loose and allow themselves to have an outburst of despair and sorrow.


Movies, TV shows, and songs sometimes feature drugs and alcohol. For this reason, it’s possible that entertainment media can spark curiosity in a teenager’s mind to try these substances. Without the guidance of their parents, teens might try using an illegal substance just to feed their curiosity.

What are the Dangers of Teen Drug Use and Addiction?

Drug use can negatively impact a teenager’s physical health, mental well-being, and social behaviors. They are also at higher risk of being involved with juvenile crimes and causing immense inconvenience to their family, friends, and community.

Here are the reasons why your child must be free from teen drug problems:

  • Health risks: Frequent consumption of illicit substances can lead to chronic health problems. For instance, opioids are known to cause cardiorespiratory ailments, cocaine can cause stroke, heart attack, and seizures, and ecstasy can cause heart and liver failure.

  • Mental Illnesses: Substance abuse is often linked to psychological problems. For instance, meth addiction can lead to hallucinations and psychotic behavior. Meanwhile, long-term marijuana use can damage one’s short-term memory and increase the risk of depression and suicide.

  • Academic neglect: Since drugs often worsen one’s cognitive and social skills, teenage drug addiction can lead to lower grades, absenteeism, or dropping out of classes. 

  • Unprotected sexual activity: Some illicit substances can boost one’s libido. For this reason, drug use might increase unprotected sex activities that can result in teenage pregnancy or, worse, the acquisition of sexually transmitted diseases.

  • Accidents and injuries: A teenager under the influence of drugs while driving a vehicle is more likely to be reckless. This can harm the person’s life and other people on the road.

  • Financial Problems: Drugs are costly, so teenagers suffering from substance abuse usually ask for loans to sustain their addiction. To pay their growing debts, the teen might steal, pawn house belongings, or even get money from their parents without their knowledge. The most desperate ones might resort to selling drugs on the streets or to their classmates at school.

  • Juvenile delinquency: Data shows that around 80% of minors in the juvenile justice system have used drugs (or alcohol) when they’ve committed the crime. Some juvenile crimes associated with drug use are burglary, assault, and selling of illicit substances.

  • Poor hygiene: Drug addiction can push people to neglect their responsibilities, including their hygiene. Some addicts just stop showering, brushing their teeth, or even changing their clothes, as they view hygiene as a “chore” irrelevant to the joy they get from drugs.

What are the Signs of Teenage Drug Addiction? 

Knowing if a person is suffering from drug addiction is not easy. Although some signs might hint at potential drug use, it’s also possible that the individual just has a mental disorder or is suffering from immense stress.

Nonetheless, some telltale signs can help you recognize if your child is dealing with teen drug abuse:

  • Sudden and drastic weight loss

  • Frequent mood swings

  • Violent or self-destructive behavior

  • Hyperactivity followed by long periods of rest or sleep

  • Poor school performance

  • Withdrawal from family and friends

  • Having “new” friends 

  • Being more secretive, lock themselves in the room

  • Loss of interest in hobbies

  • Slurred speech

  • Frequent exhaustion

  • Skin bruises or track marks

  • Increased interest in the “drug culture” and “drug terminologies”

  • Ownership of drug paraphernalia (e.g., syringe, cotton balls, lighter)

  • Frequent problems with the law

How to Prevent Teenage Drug Addiction?

Teenagers are more vulnerable to the long-term effects of adolescent drug addiction. Thus, family, school, and community must work together to keep young people from the dangers of substance abuse.

Check out some of our reliable teenage drug addiction prevention tips below:

  • Parents must maintain a solid support system for teenagers. This helps them cope with the emotional stress they face. Listen to the teen’s concerns, worries, and troubles so they won’t feel alone during challenging times. It’s also important to recognize your children’s achievements and success and make them feel appreciated. 

  • Parents must be attentive to their teen’s activities. Make sure to know their friends and acquaintances as well to ensure that they are far from bad influences. Be informed also of the activities they’re interested in and the social gatherings they attend. However, don’t be too strict. Maintain a good balance between supervising your teen and respecting their privacy.

  • Parents, guardians, and adults must be good role models. Hence, the local community must strive their anti-drug campaigns to stop the use of illegal substances around the teens’ environment. If the parents consume other harmful substances like alcohol or nicotine, they must do it in moderation.

  • Teenagers must learn how to resist peer pressure. To achieve this, parents must properly discuss with their kids the consequences of using drugs in a manner they’ll understand. In this way, they can resist using drugs even if their peers coerce them.

  • Consider songs and movies about teenage drug addiction. Young people can easily understand the dangers of drug abuse through entertainment media. You can also recommend books about teenage drug addiction to your child so he can have comprehensive knowledge about the consequences of drug addiction.

  • Build positive peer influence. Parents and school can encourage their teens to join activities that will foster growth and healthy living. Teens can participate in sports teams, interest clubs, and academic groups.

  • Keep track of medication pills at home. Parents must regularly check prescription pills at home to ensure that their children are not secretly using them, which may lead to substance abuse and addiction.

  • If you suspect that your teen is using drugs, encourage him to honestly admit it. Don’t be too harsh on them and make them feel that you’re coming from a place of concern. Assure him as well that doing drugs does not make him a “bad” person, but he must realize that he must get rid of the habit for his benefit.

  • Ask for professional help. If a teenager is experiencing mental disorders like depression, ADHD, or anxiety, the parent can encourage their teen to ask for professional help. This is to ensure that they will get proper medical care and not succumb to illegal drug use.

Wrap-Up: Ending Teenage Drug Addiction

Helping victims of teenage drug addiction is never too soon. We can still save their physical and mental well-being and lead them to a promising future. Many treatment and rehabilitation centers focus on teenage drug addiction that can help your child overcome their destructive habits. There are even gender-specific treatment approaches that fit the patient’s needs and circumstances, ensuring full recovery and getting their life back together.

If you suspect someone is dealing with a teen drug problem, contact 911 to get professional support as soon as possible.

You can also connect with Better Addiction Care to help you find rehabilitation and treatment centers that help young people overcome drug addiction. 


bullet Bureau of Justice Statistics
"Drug and Alcohol Use Reported by Youth in Juvenile Facilities, 2008–2018 – Statistical Tables"
Retrieved on January 31, 2024
bullet CDC
"High-Risk Substance Use Among Youth"
Retrieved on January 31, 2024
bullet National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics
"Drug Use Among Youth: Facts & Statistics"
Retrieved on January 31, 2024
bullet Taylor and Francis Online
"Paternal Death, Parental Divorce, and Timing of First Substance Use in an Ethnically Diverse Sample"
Retrieved on January 31, 2024
bullet Youth.gov
"Warning Signs"
Retrieved on January 31, 2024

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