Top 10 Ways to Prevent Substance Abuse in Teens

Substance abuse in teens is a significant concern for parents, educators, and healthcare professionals. It can lead to serious health problems, including addiction, mental illness, and even death. Prevention is crucial to combat this issue, and fortunately, there are several effective ways to prevent substance abuse among teens. These include strategies implemented both in and out of the home, including promoting open communication, establishing healthy coping mechanisms, setting clear rules and boundaries, being a positive role model, and encouraging involvement in extracurricular activities. Better Addiction Care shares 10 helpful strategies that parents and educators can use to help teenagers make healthy choices and avoid the harmful effects of substance abuse.

Teen Substance Abuse Statistics

Teen substance abuse refers to the abuse of drugs or alcohol by adolescents in a manner that’s harmful and disruptive to their lives. Substance abuse can have serious repercussions for teenagers, including impaired brain development, poor academic performance, increased risky behaviors, legal problems, and addiction.

The most common substances abused among teens include alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, prescription drugs, and illicit drugs like cocaine and heroin. There are various risk factors that can contribute to substance abuse in teens, including biological, environmental, and social factors.

Some individuals may have a genetic predisposition or a history of mental illness like anxiety or depression, which can increase their risk of drug and alcohol use. Environmental factors like exposure to substance abuse, poverty, lack of parental supervision, and history of trauma can all contribute to substance abuse. There are also factors such as a lack of access to healthcare, education, and other resources, which can also increase a teen’s risk of engaging in drug or alcohol abuse.

Unfortunately, teen substance abuse is a growing problem that affects many young girls and boys. Below are some humbling statistics: 

  • 14% of students reported misusing prescription opioids in 2019.1
  • 15% of high school students reported having ever used select illicit or injection drugs (i.e., cocaine, inhalants, heroin, methamphetamines, hallucinogens, or ecstasy) in a 2019 study.1
  • Students who report ever using prescription drugs without a doctor’s prescription are more likely than other students to have been the victim of physical or sexual dating violence.2
  • Youth opioid use is directly linked to risky sexual behaviors, which increases the risk of HIV and STDs.3
  • In 2021, 80.2% of high school students and 74.6% of middle school students who used tobacco products in the past 30 days reported using a flavored tobacco product.4
  • In 2022, 85.5% of high school students and 81.5% of middle school students who used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days reported using a flavored e-cigarette.4
  • Teen alcoholism is among the most serious forms of substance use in this demographic. In 2011, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) found that 20.9% of youth ages 14 to 15 reported having at least 1 drink in their lifetime.5
  • In 2021, 5.9 million youth ages 12 to 20 reported drinking more than “just a few sips” of alcohol in the past month.5
  • In 2022, 4.9% of eighth graders, 5.7% of 10th graders, and 8.0% of 12th graders reported illicit drug use (aside from marijuana), including the use of cocaine, heroin, amphetamines, and nonmedical use of prescription drugs.6
  • Use of prescription narcotics (including Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet, etc.) was 1.7% among 12th graders in 2022.6

As substance abuse often becomes more severe in higher grade levels and college, it’s important to address the problem as soon as possible. Our national rehab directory can help you find treatment for a teen struggling with drug or alcohol abuse that makes long-term sobriety possible.

10 Simple Ways to Prevent Teen Drug Use & Drinking

While substance use in teens is a common issue, below are ten ways that parents, educators, and healthcare providers can prevent it:

  • Address underlying mental health problems: Address underlying mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression, that may contribute to drug or alcohol abuse.
  • Advocate for policies that encourage prevention: Support policies that promote prevention, such as school-based prevention programs, and advocate for increased funding for substance abuse prevention and treatment.
  • Be a positive role model: Model healthy behaviors and attitudes towards drug and alcohol use, and avoid engaging in substance use around teenagers.
  • Educate teenagers on the dangers of substance abuse: Provide accurate information about the risks and consequences of drug and alcohol abuse and emphasize the importance of making positive choices.
  • Encourage involvement in extracurricular activities: Encourage teenagers to participate in extracurricular activities, such as sports, clubs, or volunteer work, which can provide a sense of purpose and connection and prevent risk factors like loneliness.
  • Foster open communication: Establish open lines of communication with teenagers to help them feel comfortable discussing their struggles. This can make it easier for parents and educators to provide guidance and support.
  • Monitor prescription drug use: Monitor and secure prescription medications that your teen may be taking, and educate them on the dangers of misusing prescription drugs.
  • Promote healthy coping mechanisms: Encourage teenagers to develop healthy coping mechanisms for stress, such as exercise, meditation, or talking to a trusted loved one.
  • Provide access to resources and support: Make sure teenagers have access to resources and support, such as counseling, support groups, or treatment programs, if they’re struggling with drug or alcohol use.
  • Set clear rules and boundaries: Establish clear rules and consequences in your home regarding substance use and consistently enforce them.

If you’re the parent, educator, or healthcare provider of a teen struggling with addiction, our drug rehab directory can help you find the best form of care to help them regain their health and sobriety. With the help of our experts and free online resources, BAC can support you in your search for effective and comprehensive substance abuse programs for teens.

To get started on your search, call Better Addiction Care today at 800-429-7690 or visit our national directory of drug and alcohol abuse treatment facilities online to verify your insurance for addiction treatment.


  1. CDC – Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance—United States, 2019.
  2. NIH – Physical and Sexual Dating Violence and Nonmedical Use of Prescription Drugs
  3. CDC – Youth Risk Behavior Survey: Data Summary & Trends Report 2009-2019
  4. CDC – Smoking & Tobacco Use
  5. NIH – Underage Drinking
  6. NIH – Most reported substance use among adolescents held steady in 2022
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