Throughout time, young people have been curious about the world. Experimentation and exploration are normal for teenagers. However, teen drug abuse is not something that can be overlooked or ignored. It is a growing problem that can have devastating, lifelong effects for teens and their loved ones.
Teens and Self Esteem
One of the major reasons that teenagers are most susceptible to drug use and abuse is self esteem. Traditionally, self esteem is lowest during the teenage years. Puberty, the beginning of romantic relationships, and uncertainty about the future can lead to a lack of confidence.
For some teens, drugs are a way to boost self esteem. After taking drugs, teens may feel more like they wish they could when sober. Stimulants, for example, may make it easier to stay awake all night and be sociable.
In other cases, using drugs helps teens feel more confident and cool. If others are using drugs, then it becomes more difficult to abstain. Peer pressure is so much more common among teens because of the lack of self esteem at this particular age.
The Desire to Appear and Feel Grownup
Teens often want to feel more mature and adult. This is normal, and it is an expression of personal independence. Unfortunately, one of the ways that teens manifest this desire is by trying or abusing drugs.
Drugs, of course, are not the mature choice. Despite this, teens might be under the impression that older, more mature individuals are more likely to use drugs. Some teens use drugs to prove to themselves that they are adults. Others use drugs around their friends to appear more mature.
Teens who abuse drugs in an effort to look more grown up might be doing the opposite. During recovery, many adults wish that they could have their teens years back. Struggling with addiction at any age is challenging, but it is especially difficult for teens.
Curiosity and Experimentation
Young people are often the demographic most likely to try new things. Change comes from the young and teens are often curious about what else is out there in the world. A curiosity for new cultures, new cuisines and new people may be fantastic. Unfortunately, a curiosity about drugs can be deadly.
Teens are more likely than any other age bracket to try drugs just to experiment. Since some teens have an innate desire to try things and experience new sensations, they can be drawn to illegal or prescription drugs.
One single drug use, however, can have devastating effects. A single use can cause an overdose, leading to permanent brain damage, organ failure or even death. Trying drugs just once can also lead to an addiction, causing a lifelong struggle.
Boredom’s Link to Substance Abuse
Every parent of a teen has dealt with complaints about boredom. Long summers and weekends without structured activities can be relaxing, but they can also lead to drug use. Boredom is one of the common factors among teen drug users.
One way to combat this is by encouraging teens to take part in activities. Joining a sports team or a school club is a great option. In the summer, part-time jobs can ensure that teens have structure for their days. Boredom might seem like an innocuous element, but it absolutely can play a role in encouraging drug use among young people.
Pushing Boundaries as a Teenager
If there was any age group most prone to rebellion, it would be teens. From fashion to music, teens enjoy pushing boundaries. One way to push boundaries is by trying drugs.
Teens may try drugs not just for the experience, but because they know their parents wouldn’t approve. It can be challenging to combat this and parents who express anger may actually be perpetuating the cycle.
Communication is often the best course of action in these cases. Parents need to clearly explain that their frustration over drug use isn’t about breaking the rules. Getting specific about health risks and addiction awareness can be helpful. Separating drug use from other infractions like breaking curfew or failing a test can help teens understand how important this issue truly is.
Societal Acceptance of Certain Drugs
With teen drug use growing, it is necessary to look at exterior factors that could be influencing the trend. A big factor at play is overall societal acceptance of drug use. In the past, drug use was widely regarded as something those on the fringes of society participated in. Today, that isn’t necessarily the case.
Many teens have grown up seeing drug use depicted in films and on television. In many states, marijuana is legal for medicinal use. In others, it is legal for recreational use.
The rise of prescription medication use and abuse also means that teens are less concerned with taking pills. If their parents and siblings are on one or more prescription medications, it might seem normal to try them or experiment with them as well.
On college campuses, certain stimulants are used as study aids. This points to the acceptance of drugs as aids for life rather than just a means of escape. This is incredibly dangerous, because it gives teens the idea that drug use is possible without risk. In reality, that could not be further from the truth.
Availability is a Big Part of Teen Drug Abuse
Teens are more likely to use drugs if drugs are available. That is a simple, undeniable fact. In environments where drug use is common, teens have greater access to them. If they aren’t accessible, they are far harder to use and abuse.
While many factors contribute to availability, drug use in the home is a big concern. Teens who see their family members use drugs will normalize the behavior. This can be dangerous, and it can set teens up for a lifelong substance abuse disorder.
Teen drug use is a rising issue, and it is one that may be hard to combat. Fortunately, there are many ways to take action. Awareness and prevention are key, and treatment is also available for teens who need help.