What is teen substance abuse?
Many teens try
alcohol, tobacco, or drugs. Some teens try these substances only a few times and stop. Others can't control
their urges or cravings for them. This is substance abuse.
may try a number of substances, including cigarettes, alcohol, household
chemicals (inhalants), prescription and
over-the-counter medicines, and illegal drugs.
Teens use alcohol more than any other substance. Marijuana is the illegal drug that teens use most often.
Why do teens abuse drugs and alcohol?
Teens may use
a substance for many reasons. They may do it because:
- They want to
fit in with friends or certain groups.
- They like the way it makes them feel.
- They believe
it makes them more grown up.
Teens tend to try new things and take risks, so
they may take drugs or drink alcohol because it seems exciting.
Teens with family members who have problems with alcohol or other drugs are
more likely to have serious substance abuse problems. Also, teens who feel that
they are not connected to or valued by their parents are at greater risk. Teens
with poor self-esteem or emotional or mental health problems, such as
depression, also are at increased risk.
What problems can teen substance abuse cause?
Substance abuse can lead to serious problems such as poor schoolwork,
loss of friends, problems at home, and lasting legal problems. Alcohol and drug
abuse is a leading cause of teen death or injury related to car crashes,
suicides, violence, and drowning. Substance abuse can increase the risk of
sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including
HIV, because of unprotected sex. Even occasional alcohol use by a teen increases the risk for future alcohol and drug problems.
casual use of certain drugs can cause severe health problems, such as an
overdose or brain damage. Many illegal drugs today are made in home labs, so
they can vary greatly in strength. These drugs also may contain bacteria,
dangerous chemicals, and other unsafe substances.
What are the signs of substance abuse?
important to be aware of the signs that your teen may be abusing alcohol,
drugs, or other substances. Some of the signs include:
- Red eyes and health complaints, such as being
overly tired. If your teen often uses over-the-counter eyedrops, he or she may
be trying to cover up red eyes caused by smoking marijuana.
interest in school, a drop in grades, and skipping classes or school.
- New friends who have little interest in their families
or school activities.
- Chemical-soaked rags or papers, which may mean that your teen
is inhaling vapors. Other signs of this are paint or other stains on
your teen's clothing, hands, or face.
What should you do if you find out that your teen is using alcohol, tobacco, or drugs?
If your teen is using alcohol,
tobacco, or drugs, take it seriously. One of the most important things you can
do is to talk openly with your teen about the problem. Urge him or her to do
the same. Try not to use harsh, judging words. Be as supportive as you can
during this time.