Overview Of Teen Alcohol And Drug Abuse
Teen alcohol and drug abuse is, quite simply, when those in their teenage years abuse alcohol, drugs, or both. Older teens are more likely to use drugs or alcohol than younger teens, but in many cases that isn’t always true.
Prescription drug abuse is on the rise as of late, and the dangers of opioids such as fentanyl should not be underestimated. Other common drugs teens use include marijuana (in many varieties of forms), Adderall, ecstasy, prescription pain medications, and various inhalants (some of which are not meant for that purpose.) Of course, drugs like heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, and PCP are also an issue. Which type of drug is more likely for the teen to use depends on a variety of complex factors.
Alcohol, while legal for those over the age of 21, is still a dangerous substance. Binge drinking is often quite common for teens, and can be deadly.
Why Teen Alcohol And Drug Abuse Occurs
Common reasons for teen alcohol and drug abuse could include:
- Attempts to fit in with their peers: Social status is often critical for those in their teen years, and some may feel the need to drink alcohol or use drugs to fit in with new friend groups or impress others
- Social uses: Some teens may use drugs or alcohol because they feel those substances help them succeed in social situations, or to keep relaxed/increase their enjoyment of socializing
- Helping cope with major life changes: Teens often begin drinking alcohol or abusing drugs to help them deal with major changes to their lives, such as moving to a new town, starting at a new school, hormonal shifts of puberty, divorce of parents, or death of a family member
- Self-medicating for pain, anxiety, or depression: Many teens end up using drugs or alcohol in an effort to self-medicate, often due to problems with family, friends, school, self-esteem, or their mental health
Prevention Of Teen Alcohol And Drug Abuse
Common tips for parents to help prevent teen alcohol and drug abuse include:
- Involvement in their teen’s life, such as showing support for their interests in order to build a strong relationship
- Being a good role model – for example, do not abuse alcohol and drugs as a parent, especially in front of children/teens. This sets a terrible example, and may lead to problems with addiction for them in the future
- Knowing their teen’s friends, and what kinds of activities they get up to on a regular basis
- Being clear with rules pertaining to alcohol and drug use
- Supervising children and teens as often as possible, and be sure to know who they’re with and what they’re doing.
- Encouraging healthy habits, such as hobbies, sports, clubs, and part-time jobs. Busy teens often have less time to get involved with alcohol or drug use
Common physical symptoms of teen alcohol and drug abuse often include:
- Persistent cough
- Rapid, explosive speech (due to use of uppers)
- Listlessness, sluggishness, or constant sleeping (often due to opiate drugs such as heroin or codeine, or after the use of stimulant drugs)
- Noticeable loss of appetite (occurs with methamphetamine, amphetamine, or cocaine use)
- Nystagmus (rapid eye movements) which can be a sign of PCP use
- Unsteady gait
- Hyperactivity (often as a result of uppers, such as cocaine and methamphetamine)
- Slurred or slow speech (from using downers and depressants, such as alcohol)
- Bloodshot eyes
- Unusual breath odor (often due to inhalant drugs)
- Dilated (extremely big) or pinpoint (extremely small) pupils
- Increased appetite over the short-term (with marijuana use)
Common behavior changes for teens abusing alcohol or drugs often include:
- Lying or stealing
- Secretive activities
- Not taking part in their usual activities
- Missed school days and poor grades in school
- Recent change in friend group
If parents suspect that their teen is abusing drugs or alcohol, they should speak to their family health care provider as soon as possible. That provider can then either recommend treatment themselves or refer the teen to a drug specialist or treatment center.
Also, community resources exist, such as local hospitals or community centers.
Make sure to get help as soon as possible for the teen, as the longer the substance abuse goes on, the harder it will be to treat.