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Being a teenager in the United States is difficult these days. Growing up in the digital era, they are exposed to a whole new set of problems that many parents, teachers, and other adults have difficulty understanding or relating to.
This can cause teenagers to experience intense feelings of isolation, loneliness, and confusion. These are just some of the many reasons teens use alcohol and other drugs. Others include:
Nearly half of all high schoolers have tried marijuana, and approximately two-thirds have consumed alcohol by the time they graduate.
The effects of teen drug abuse range from short term to long term and from mild to deadly. In many cases, it is difficult for teenagers to understand the consequences of their actions. That’s why education, from parents, teachers, and older friends is crucial to keeping the next generation safe.
Some effects of teen drug abuse include:
Drug and alcohol abuse disrupts the development of the brain. It impairs memory and teenagers’ abilities to respond to emotional and stressful situations. Therefore, substance abuse increases the chances that a young person will develop a mental health disorder.
While it’s difficult for scientists to prove that substance use disorder (SUD) causes mental health problems, the two have been linked in many studies. Teenagers who abuse substances are more likely to have mental health issues, and teenagers with mental health issues are more likely to lean on substances as a way to cope with their problems. This is a recurring process that makes it very difficult for teenagers to develop a healthy lifestyle without early intervention.
It is challenging to find unbiased scientific information on teen alcohol abuse. The majority of teens who experiment with alcohol in high school won’t go on to develop an addiction or even try “hard drugs.” While recent stats have shown that alcohol use in high schoolers has shown declines, it’s important that we continue preventative and educational efforts.
Alcohol is the most frequently abused substance among teenagers. Alcohol abuse has been proven to be extremely dangerous in many situations. For example, drunk driving accidents kill thousands of teens each year. Further, teenage brains are still developing, so the effects of alcohol and drug abuse can lead to other problems in the future.
Short term effects of teen alcohol abuse include:
Alcohol abuse during teenage years can also lead to serious long term effects, such as:
After alcohol and marijuana, prescription drugs are the most commonly abused substances among teens. When abused, they can become addictive and cause numerous short term and long term health problems.
Nearly 17 percent of high school students have taken prescription drugs without a doctor’s prescription.
Some of the most commonly abused prescription drugs include:
Using prescription drugs inconsistently to a doctor’s instructions creates several risks, including adverse drug interactions, seizures, addiction, overdose, and death. From 2014 to 2015, the number of overdose deaths increased by 19 percent to 770 teens, many of them from prescription medications.
Many teens that experiment with drugs and alcohol will turn out fine and live healthy lives. However, others will go on to develop long term addictions and other serious health issues. If you suspect that a teenager is abusing drugs or alcohol frequently, look for the following signs:
The majority of substance use disorders begin in the teenage years and continue throughout adulthood. It can be very difficult for teens to overcome addiction. Seeking help is the best way to increase the likelihood of recovery.
The best type of treatment for teen drug abuse is prevention. Education and honest communication go a long way in helping teenagers learn about the risks of drugs and alcohol. It’s important to teach them the power of saying no and how to enjoy life without relying on substances.
There are a variety of treatment options for teenagers suffering from substance abuse problems. Your school counselor is a great place to start looking for professional help. There are also treatment centers that focus specifically on helping teens. Teen-Anon, Alateen, and other communities provide support groups for teens. Some of the most effective treatment types for SUD and AUD include:
The most important thing to remember is that teens need support before, during, and after substance or alcohol abuse treatment.
NIDA. "Monitoring the Future Survey: High School and Youth Trends." National Institute on Drug Abuse, 18 Dec. 2019, https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/monitoring-future-survey-high-school-youth-trends.
Prescription for Disaster: How Teens Abuse Medicine. Drug Enforcement Administration, 2018.
“Brain and Addiction.” NIDA for Teens, National Institutes of Health, 1 June 2019, teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/brain-and-addiction.
“Alcohol.” NIDA for Teens, National Institutes of Health, 1 Jan. 2019, teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/alcohol.
“Teen Substance Use & Risks.” CDC 24/7, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 Feb. 2020, www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/fasd/features/teen-substance-use.html.