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Teenage Drug Addiction

80% of adult addicts began experimentation with drugs and alcohol before the age of 15. If you fear that your teenager is abusing drugs or alcohol, it is important to understand the facts.

Teenage Drug Addiction Overview

Approximately 4% of high school students report that they needed but did not receive treatment for substance abuse.  

“If you’re reading this it is possible that you are concerned about your teenager’s use of drugs or alcohol.”

The good news is, catching teenage drug addiction early gives you the best chance of curving the addiction so that it does not continue into adulthood. 90% of adult drug addicts started abusing drugs and alcohol in their teenage years.

Drugs Teenagers Choose 

Here is a graphical representation of teenage drug addiction:

Home Treatment Strategies

If you want to help your teenager beat drug and alcohol addiction it is important to get as much information as possible and work together as a family using proven techniques. There is no guaranteed method for curing drug addiction. However,  there are many steps you can take to help understand the disease and set your teenager up on a stable road to recovery.

  • Act quickly
  • Invade privacy in a controlled manner
  • Abandon priorities in the short term
  • Consider inpatient rehab at a residential facility

Parents need to react quickly and decisively once they recognize that there teen has a drug problem. Waiting for a teenager to hit rock bottom is not a recommended strategy because teens are more fragile and do not have the resources to handle extended drug abuse. Their bodies have not built a high tolerance and as such overdoses can be more frequent.

Parents might have to invade the privacy of their addicted teen in order to find proof of drug abuse. They cannot be manipulated and give their teens the benefit of the doubt. 

It may also be prudent to abandon priorities like school, athletics or social appearances in order to fight the addiction head-on. Nothing can be more important than the health and well being of your child. Missing a week or even a month of school may be necessary in order to combat the addiction early. Severe drug addiction can affect a teenagers life for decades and may even get to a point where it is unfixable.

If you feel your teen has a drug problem you should consult your family physician. The doctor may recommend a residential (inpatient) rehab facility for treatment. Here they can get the proper mental and physical training required to correct the issues. There are many rehab facilities across the country that focus specifically on teenage addiction.

How Substance Abuse goes From Experimentation to Addiction

Most parents understand that experimentation with drugs and alcohol is very common. It is actually important for teens at some age to be exposed to drug and alcohol use in a controlled environment. This way when put in social situations where parents are not present and influences are very high they will understand how to control themselves.

So when does experimentation become a problem and lead to addiction? 

If experimentation continues and results in negative consequences such as; arrest, expulsion or serious relationship troubles than that is an indication that experimentation is bordering on addiction.

In extreme cases, the teenager becomes dependent on drugs and alcohol to function. The teenager has now managed to build up a tolerance and is using more and more. This is extremely dangerous at such a young age. Look out for changes in your child’s behavior, physical appearance, and daily routine. If they have a dependence on drugs or alcohol the signs will be very clear.

Why do teens use drugs and alcohol?


Teenage drug addiction occurs because using drugs and alcohol is typically a way for teenagers to rebel against their parents. Defying parents is a way teenagers transition from childhood to adulthood. They have reached a point that they feel they no longer need their parent’s guidance and are ready to make their own decisions.

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“Everyone does it”

What parent or adult has not heard this term before? It does not relate solely to drug abuse but is still a common justification for teenagers who are addicted to drugs. With societal pressures around doing drugs to be cool, many teenagers abuse drugs as a means to fit in with their social circles. Saying, everyone does it is a denial tactic. Ask your teen; “What’s good about substance abuse?”, “Has anyone been better off in the long run from doing drugs?”.

Cover for Friends

Loyalty to friends is very important. However, sometimes it goes too far. Teenagers often cover their friend’s drug use because they do not want their parents to know they do it. They fear they will not be allowed to hang out with them as a result. 

If you are lucky enough to have your child come clean about their friend’s drug use, try to remain calm when they tell you. Accept the news and use it to your advantage. Share it with the friends family and explain to them how harmful and dangerous it can be.

How Parents Should React

Don’t criticize

Start with constructive dialogue. Here is an example of a conversation around marijuana use:

Parent: Son, we are worried about our smoking week.

Teenager: I don’t get it. I’m not hurting anybody it’s natural and helps me relax

Parent: Well we have seen a change in you over the last few months. The weed has not helped you avoid failing your English class. You’re putting yourself in danger when you buy it illegally and can be arrested since you are a minor.

Teenage: That’s not fair, weed is way safer than booze.

Parent: You might be right but your daily routine is being affected and you could face serious legal problems. If there is another issue that’s fine, but we are worried about you today.

The parent in this example does not give in to the teenagers attempt to deflect the conversation. They stay focused on the concrete issues and do not recognize the defiance. Those issues are not important, the teenager’s drug abuse is.     

More Talking Points

Here are some important points to remember when discussing teenage drug addiction with your child:

  • Give them a clear definition of alcohol and drug addiction
  • Use the definition to help them recognize when substance abuse has become a problem
  • Deal with health effects from drug and alcohol abuse as early as possible
  • Turn troubles in your teen’s life like issues at school or arrest into opportunities to help them recognize how serious the addiction is

Parents might recognize that their teenager’s drug abuse has become a problem before they do. It is important to approach the teenager with bluntness and honesty but understand that they may not fully realize they are addicted. So while parents may think that their teenager is lying purposefully, it is common that teens do not understand the magnitude of their addiction and the severe effect that it has on their health and future.

Teenage drug addicts need even more professional help than adults as they do not fully understand how to control their emotions and feelings so early in life. They may not understand how their upbringing or certain experiences have led to the addiction.

If your teenager is struggling with drug addiction, don’t be scared there are many options for treatment