Substance abuse is a major problem among teenagers in today’s society, with nearly one in four teens in the United States abusing drugs or alcohol in any given year. Despite this high prevalence, many young people remain unaware of the risks of engaging in substance use or the treatments available to those affected. When it comes to teenage substance abuse, education and awareness are of utmost importance. The following article will overview the epidemiology of substance abuse among teenagers, explore common signs to look out for, and provide guidance on how to get help.
Substance abuse is defined as the use of drugs or alcohol to a point that affects physical, psychological, and psychosocial functioning. When talking about substance abuse among teenagers, it is important to consider the individual, familial, and environmental risk factors that increase the likelihood of such behavior. Factors that might increase a teen’s risk for substance abuse include but are not limited to: family history of drug or alcohol use, easy access to substances, low academic performance, having friends or family members who use drugs or alcohol, dealing with high levels of stress, or having a low opinion of others who do not use drugs or alcohol. Additionally, teenagers who are exposed to negative social influences, such as media portrayals of drug and alcohol use, or spending time in an area with high levels of drug and alcohol consumption, can be at higher risk.
The signs of teenage substance abuse vary from individual to individual, and may not always be obvious. Parents, family members, and close friends can help by looking for the following common warning signs: changes in academic, social, and/or physical behavior, decreased or increased appetite, lying or stealing, hyperactivity, mood swings, and withdrawals from activities they once enjoyed. More severe signs of substance abuse may include: physical aggression, dangerous activities, involvement with criminal elements, and/or inability to go without using the substances.
If someone you know or care about is displaying these signs, it is important to get help as soon as possible. There are a variety of treatments available, including inpatient or outpatient treatment centers, counseling services, and 12-Step recovery programs. Additionally, parents and guardians can reach out to local support groups, such as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon, to help them manage their own emotions while their teen receives treatment.
There are also tactics parents and guardians can take to help prevent teenage substance abuse. These include: getting to know their teen’s friends, monitoring their activities and whereabouts, talking openly and honestly about the risks associated with substance use, and setting clear rules and expectations for household drug use. It is also critical to set a positive example and talk about how to better handle tough times without turning to drugs and alcohol.
By being aware of the signs of teenage substance abuse, knowing the risk factors, and understanding the treatments available, adults can help keep teens safe from the dangers of addiction. Education and awareness are the keys to reducing the prevalence of substance abuse among teen adults, and if you suspect someone you know is struggling, remember that help and support are available. Don’t be afraid to reach out and take the necessary steps to get them the help they need.