The Importance Of Teen Substance Abuse Prevention
Teenage substance abuse prevention is of paramount importance for several reasons. Teens are still developing important life skills, their identity, likes, and dislikes. If teens begin experimenting with drugs to fit in or gain friends, they can unknowingly set themselves up for a potentially life-threatening habit; prevention is therefore critical. In 2018, 27.1% of 8th to 12th graders used an illicit drug; in the same year, 29.3% used illicit drugs and suffered a depressive episode. 18.7% of 8th to 12th graders drank alcohol in the last month of 2018, with 12% binge drinking.
Providing a firm foundation and clear message on the damage addiction can cause is critical to teenage substance abuse prevention efforts. The goal of prevention is to attempt to stop someone from partaking in a harmful action that has substantial consequences before those consequences occur. In the case of teenage substance abuse prevention, this can range from stopping teens from taking drinks of alcohol to restricting access to more dangerous drugs like Cocaine or Fentanyl.
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Harmful Consequences Of Teenage Substance Abuse
Teens abusing harmful substances may decide to do so in order to cope with distressing mental and emotional conditions. Although some of these conditions may be temporary, the effects of substance abuse can last a lifetime. Such conditions include but are not limited to:
- Depression and anxiety
- Broken relationships (family, friends, and romantic relationships)
- Poor or declining health
- Difficulty maintaining self-esteem
- Grief, loss, or trauma
- Problems making friends and feeling isolated
Teens may also use illicit substances because of peer pressure or to the need to belong. Unfortunately, substance abuse can have devastating effects on individuals and their loved ones. Consequences of teen drug abuse can include legal trouble, drug addiction, poly drug use, and unwanted pregnancy.
Which Teens Are More At Risk For Addiction?
Although teens from all backgrounds abuse harsh and addictive chemicals, some teenagers are more at risk for addiction than others. Teens who struggle with depression or anxiety are more likely to dabble with chemicals for a sense of relief. Teens who are moving or transitioning between different schools may feel stressed and isolated. In turn, they may resort to a substance to distract themselves from their emotions.
The earlier drug abuse is begun, the greater the likelihood of the abuser developing a Substance Use Disorder (SUD) later in life. For example, a teen experimenting with prescription Opioids at age 16 can easily develop a tolerance. A tolerance often leads to a dependency within as little as a few weeks or months. Once the teen has developed a dependency, they may develop a full-blown SUD by the age of 20.
If the prescription Opioid of abuse has lost its luster, the teen abusing the substance may transition to a stronger, deadlier drug like Heroin. Teens who have chronic pain may also be at risk. Teens with chronic pain may have to take prescription Opioids for relief and can become addicted. Other risk factors for addiction include having a prior personal history of substance abuse or having a family history of substance abuse.
Preventative Measures For Teenage Substance Abuse
Prevention of drug and alcohol abuse can start at home. Parents can talk to their children and explain the consequences of drug and alcohol abuse. Talking to children while they are young can create a strong foundation for awareness of drug use. This helps parents positively influence their children while also teaching their children about boundaries.
Parents help children to understand when to deny something that can hurt them. Prevention talks also create deeper bonds between children and parents. Parents can establish consistency in communication along with guidance that can be followed for years. Preventative conversations can facilitate trust between the parent and the child and lead to wise decisions when it comes to habits, friends, interests, and influences.
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There are government agencies, community leaders, and school personnel that attempt to teach children about living a drug-free life. Much of this is to prevent teen drug abuse before teens reach adulthood or go into the “real world.” As a result of these educational tools, teen drug abuse has significantly decreased from previous decades.
Educating teens on the effects of drug abuse is important. There are presently various educational programs in place for this very reason, including universal, selective, and indicated programs. Universal programs function to teach social, personal, and drug resistance techniques on a weekly basis. Selective programs are interventions for teens who may be more at risk and have unstable home lives or other risk factors. Indicated educational programs are geared toward teens showing problematic behavior.
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Stop Addiction Before It Gets Worse
Teenage substance abuse prevention can help stop teens from developing an SUD; however, treatment is recommended for teens who already have a problem. Treatment puts teens in the care of medical professionals with tools for recovery. For instance, teens may not realize that there are underlying conditions that may encourage substance abuse; these are known as co-occurring disorders. Cutting-edge medications and therapies can be used to treat co-occurring disorders. Detox is completed under the watchful eye of a medical professional. Perhaps most importantly, therapies and peer groups encourage a feeling of health and belonging. Contact a treatment provider to locate facilities that offer teen-related treatment today.
Ashish Bhatt, MD, MRO
Doctor of Addiction Medicine
Learn about Dr. Ashish Bhatt
Dr. Bhatt has been Addiction Center's Medical Content Director for more than three years, providing his expertise to ensure quality and accuracy.
Doctor of Addiction Medicine
Expert in adult and child psychiatry
Over 20 years of professional experience