Teenage Substance Abuse: How Teens Become Addicted


Addiction is a difficult aspect of human behavior that is often problematic to define. Factor in the rollercoaster of emotions called adolescence and the task becomes nearly impossible. When it comes to substance abuse, modern-day teenagers face a variety of struggles.

Normalization of Drugs

The use of marijuana in modern culture is becoming normal or acceptable, even though there are, and always have been, serious health concerns regarding the substance. As usage continues to become more normal and acceptable, the prevalence of problems begins to manifest itself earlier and earlier. Add accessibility and frequency of negative moods (discussed below), and a clearer picture of teenage substance abuse begins to emerge.

Accessibility of Drugs

Addictive substances have become easily accessible. Research indicates that approximately 20 percent of adolescents, or one in every five, struggle with and meet criteria for substance dependence.

Frequency of Negative Moods

Some believe that adolescents engage in risky behavior or substance use to compensate for negative moods. For instance, teenagers often struggle with self-esteem issues, which may cause them to find ways to feel better or not think about feeling down on themselves.

Desire for Instant Gratification

This age group also finds ways to do things instantly, and many drugs, unfortunately, give an instant solution to negative thoughts.

Importance of Peer Relationships

Teens are greatly influenced and defined by their peer relationships. When these peer relationships are unhealthy, often these adolescents will willingly pursue problematic behavior, including criminal activity and substance abuse.

Modeling Adult Behavior

A different theory proposed for possible contributing factors of addiction is a form of replicating and romanticizing adult behavior. Teens may participate in unhealthy behaviors as a way to mimic or forge a connection with their parents or with other adults.

Are you concerned that your teen may be suffering from substance abuse? Contact us today. We have specialists on staff ready to address your concerns and find the help you need.

Contributed by Joseph Campasino, BA
Drug & Alcohol SAP Counselor – Erie Outpatient

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