Why Teens Use

The Top Reasons Teens Try Drugs and Alcohol

Combatting teenage drug and alcohol abuse is a big concern for parents, educators and medical professionals. While teens who already struggle with abuse need treatment right away, equally concerning is how to prevent use and abuse in the first place. Investigating why teens use drugs and alcohol may point to ways that substance abuse can be prevented.

Curiosity and Boredom Can Lead to Experimental Substance Abuse

In many ways, modern teens are no different from every generation that came before. The teenage years are largely a time of self discovery and experimentation. Sometimes, curiosity and boredom are the motivating factors behind teen drug or alcohol abuse.

Every parent may be familiar with teenage complaints of boredom, so this is definitely a universal issue. Teenagers who have passions and hobbies are, by and large, less likely to be involved with substance abuse. That means that whenever possible, teens should be encouraged to belong to clubs, play sports and have active social lives.

Curiosity is natural, though, and many teens are very curious and excited to try new things. When this trait is recognized in teens, it helps to foster it in healthy, safe ways. For example, some teens may be eager to travel to new destinations around the world, explore rural areas closer to home or get a rush of adrenaline through things like mountain biking or downhill skiing. These exciting activities can be alternatives to substance abuse for many teens.

Drugs and Alcohol May be Forms of Teen Self-Medication

With the so-called growing pains that teenagers face also comes psychological and emotional challenges. Many teens struggle with anxiety, depression and even panic attacks, but they don’t know how to recognize or treat these conditions. Sadly, many teens try to self medicate mental health conditions with alcohol or drug use.

Since teenagers change so much over a short period of time, parents, teachers and medical professionals often don’t recognize the signs of mental health concerns. A teenager who appears moody or tired, for example, might actually be in need of antidepressant medication and regular therapy. Since teen conditions are harder to diagnose, many teens go without the right help or treatment.

When this happens, teens can feel frustrated and vulnerable. The temptation of mind-numbing or escapist substances like drugs and alcohol may be very tempting. Unfortunately, these addictive substances rarely help in the long term. In fact, they often make situations worse.

Teens May Abuse Substances to Better Handle Social Situations

It is normal for teens to be nervous or shy in new social situations. Between school, part-time jobs, clubs and dating, there are plenty of reasons to feel uncomfortable. Sadly, some teens turn to substances like drugs and alcohol as a way to feel more at ease in new situations.

It is important to remember that adults are just as likely to do this as teens. Many adults opt to have a drink before heading to a party, or they talk about drinking as a way to tolerate being around people they do not like. Teens pick up on this language and behavior, and they may try the same methods.

Teens may temporarily feel at ease with new friends or in dating environments after using drugs or alcohol. Afterwards, however, they are likely to feel worse. In addition, it only decreases confidence and social skills. This makes subsequent encounters harder still, and it ends up being a crutch for many teens.

Peer Pressure Remains a Common Factor for Teenage Substance Use

Peer pressure is a common reason that teens engage in substance abuse. It can be challenging for young adults to learn how to say no and resist offers of drugs and alcohol. Teens can’t become addicted if they never abuse these substances, so gaining self confidence and learning to resist peer pressure is key.

One of the ways to help teens overcome peer pressure is by reminding them that it is always okay to say no. In addition, remind them that popularity is fluid. One day, a popular teen may be encouraging them to drink alcohol. The next week, it may be someone else who is popular.

It can also be helpful to boost your teen’s self esteem. Teens should be praised for their convictions and for their willingness to make critical, independent decisions. It is this confidence that can help them avoid caving to peer pressure in the future.

Availability and Perspective on Drugs in Society

The substances that teens use change with every generation. Currently, two of the most widely abused substances include prescription medications and marijuana. Public perception, as well as availability, are two big factors at play.

For many teenagers, marijuana is regarded as harmless. This is largely because of how it is portrayed in the media as well as legislation surrounding its consumption. In many states, marijuana is legal for recreational purposes, and in others it is legal for medical purposes. This creates an environment where many teens see it as harmless.

Prescription medications, too, are widely used, and prescriptions for many drugs are on the rise. This means that more teens than ever before are being prescribed medications. In addition, there is greater access to things like prescription opioids, which may be found in bathroom cabinets across the country.

Lack of Education and Awareness

Finally, many teenagers simply aren’t aware of the addictive and destructive properties of drugs and alcohol. Some teens try these substances without realizing what long-term effects they can bring.

To counteract this, education and substance abuse awareness has to be a priority. Parents should take the time to discuss these risks with their children at a younger age. This can help prevent substance abuse before it begins. Schools and physicians can also spend more time discussing the dangers of substance abuse with teens.

Clearly, teens turn to substance abuse for a number of reasons. Greater awareness and information can prevent teens from experimenting with addictive substances, and it may also encourage treatment should addiction develop.