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Substance Abuse and Addiction Health Center

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Teen Alcohol and Drug Abuse - Why Some Teens Abuse Alcohol and Drugs

Personal, family, and community factors increase a teen's risk for using substances and possibly developing a problem.

Personal risk factors

These include:

  • Genetics. People with alcohol and drug abuse problems often have a family history of substance abuse.
  • Temperament and personality. Rebelliousness, resisting authority, feelings of failure, and not having close relationships may lead a teen to use substances.
  • Certain health problems. Teens who have untreated attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), conduct disorder, depression or long-term depressed feelings (dysthymia), post-traumatic stress disorder, or an anxiety disorder are more likely to use alcohol or drugs. Alcohol and drugs may make these conditions worse.
  • Drug expectations. Teens often have the wrong ideas about the harmful effects of substances. And they often think that "everybody does it" and so should they.
  • Early age at first use. Using alcohol or other drugs at a young age greatly increases a teen's risk for having an abuse problem.

Family risk factors

Teens are more likely to use alcohol or drugs if:

  • A parent uses or abuses alcohol or other substances.
  • A parent or teen has depression, anxiety or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  • They think their parents believe that teens experimenting with alcohol and drugs is expected and normal.
  • Their family has frequent conflict, physical or sexual abuse, or stress.
  • Parents aren't involved enough with their teens and don't supervise them. Harsh or inconsistent punishment or being too lax also can increase the risk of alcohol and drug abuse.

Community risk factors

These include:

  • Access to substances in the home and community.
  • Peer influence. A teen may want to fit in with a group of peers, and those peers use substances.
  • Promotion of alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs by the media. The entertainment and other media show alcohol and cigarette use as "cool" and as a way to gain popularity, success, and sex appeal.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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