Teenage Substance Abuse

It seems that just yesterday they were getting on the bus for the first time or finger painting on the wall. Now they’re these grumbling, shambling creatures that eat everything in the fridge and play strange music at unnecessary decibels. Teens don’t understand themselves any more than you do and are pretty good at letting their hormones and growing pains get them into trouble. It’s an awkward stage for everyone involved. We've all been through it, but when it comes to teenage drug abuse, there’s nothing to laugh about.

Teenagers are getting into more than Nana’s liquor cabinet these days.

Teenagers are getting into more than Nana’s liquor cabinet these days. Commonly abused drugs include alcohol, cigarettes, cold medications, prescription pills, inhalants, marijuana, hallucinogens, and club drugs like ecstacy. In severe cases, often in impoverished areas, teens also have access to more harmful drugs like Methamphetamines and Crack cocaine. These things often start out innocent and gradually develop into much larger, more serious problems.

Signs and symptoms of teenage drug abuse include:

  • Disappearance of money or valuables
  • Loss of interest in family activities (more so than typical teen angst)
  • Verbally or physically abusive behavior
  • Dramatic increase or decrease in appetite
  • Significant drop in grades or performance
  • Lying, refusing to disclose whereabouts, and coming home late

Additionally, you may also notice your teen hanging out with a new group of friends, typically a crowd that is more approving of their drug use. With teenagers, nothing happens in a vacuum. If you’re a parent who is concerned about your teen’s possible drug use, there are steps you can take to help them come to grips with their destructive behavior and move them in the right direction.

Recovery Process

Teenage drug abuse is particularly damaging and dangerous because the body is still young and learning to cope with new hormones and the mind is impressionable, setting up patterns and habits in the teen years the will carry on throughout adulthood. If there is a problem with drugs or alcohol in adolescence, it’s very likely that the behavior will continue and get worse when they leave the nest. For these reasons, it’s critical that you get professional help for your child if you suspect or discover that they are investing in heavy drug use. 

Talk to them and see what’s going on.

The first step is pay attention to the signs. Sometimes it’s nothing. Teens are awkward, evolving, scary creatures anyway, right? They’re always finding new ways to “express themselves” and surprise you. 

Sometimes it’s just an awkwardly place pimple or a broken heart. Gauging the severity of the issue is your first move, followed by a good old-fashioned talk. Studies continually show that parents who are active in their teenager’s life and openly communicate, setting limits and rules to be followed, foster a healthier, more balanced young person. Talk to them and see what’s going on.

Thankfully there are some incredible teen rehab programs all over the world.

If there is a serious dependency problem, it’s critical that you get your teenager checked into a professional rehabilitation and treatment center to ensure that no lasting damage is done. More importantly, stay actively engaged in the recovery process. Thankfully there are some incredible teen rehab programs all over the world and often include 12-step programs, relapse prevention, cognitive behavioral therapy, and family counseling.

Jumping to conclusions will only drive a wedge. Ask your teen directly if he or she is using drugs.
Get Help
Don’t let a small problem turn into a big one. Seek professional addiction recovery before it’s too late.
Stay Involved
Parents are the best anti-drug. Talk to your kids. Be honest about the world. It’s your job to prepare them.

Open & Honest

In many ways, adolescence is a strange middle ground between childhood and adulthood. Teenagers need the guidance and support of adult role models in order to develop into healthy, productive adults. We all try stupid stuff in our teen years as we stumble along figuring it all out. But drugs can quickly stunt and ruin that developmental process, creating destructive patterns that will haunt them their whole lives. It’s up to parents and caring adults to steer teens away from things they aren’t yet prepared to handle, like drugs and alcohol, and toward more enriching and encouraging activities.

Treatment's Over...
Now What?

Once your teenager has received the necessary treatment to recover from drug abuse or addiction, it becomes more critical than ever to stay involved in his or her life. Talk frequently and help them understand what they’re growing into and how the world works. They’re always going to rebel but there are healthier ways than others to do so.

They’re always going to rebel but there are healthier ways than others to do so.

The weeks and months after treatment will test and tempt the recovering addict like no other. During this time it’s important to fill their time with family, good friends, and positive extra-curricular activities that can focus their restless and wild energy toward growth.

As a parent, take steps to stay close to your teenage son or daughter by meeting them halfway.

Ways to engage them include:

  • Go to a movie or concert together
  • Join a club or recreational league and enjoy the sports or activities they love
  • Exchange books and talk about the ideas
  • Start a project together like fixing a car or making a family scrap book

It’s important to remember that drug abuse doesn’t just pounce on unsuspecting teenagers. The majority of studies reveal that teen drug addiction is directly tied to a lack of satisfactory adult supervision, often left instead to their own devices and often marginalized to fringe groups where drug use is prevalent. Keeping an eye on their behavior is the best way to see a teenager through a harmful addiction and on to recovery. Monitor behavior and engage.

Youth By The Numbers
22.7% of

High School Seniors tried ecstasy

16% of

High School Seniors smoke cigarettes

28% of

Adolescents who've drank alcohol

29 states

Where ODs exceed car accidents


“I used to think drugs were the only way to make me fly... But now I'm clean and sober I'm soaring to heights i never knew existed.”
Roxanne Kenton

“When I decided to clean up I was in a bad place but because God loves us so much he sent people in my life that opened my eyes to recovery, the journey still continues.”
Elizabeth N Charles

For years I wanted to stop, and kept falling short. It amazes me each and every day what sobriety can bring... most importantly, self respect and dignity. I love life today”
Ryan Seely

“Addictions no longer rule me. I have become the person I've always wanted to be. Free from my prison and able to enjoy life.”
Kelly Griffith

“I accepted that yes i am an addict and that i am powerless, and i surrender to my higher power. To live a better life! 2 and half years clean.”
Trudy Potts

“4 yrs sober and i can look in the mirror and not detest what i see.. Life continues to have its struggles but i'm able to deal with the pain without a bottle.”
Rene’e Bellett

“I'm proud and grateful to be called a mom, wife, and feel blessed to have the chance to start this new and exciting journey.”
Rachelle Perry Buhle

“After 33 years of drinking I found Celebrate Recovery and it completely changed my life. Sober now 18 months and loving every day as a new day.”
Terry Caudle

“I'm glad I became sober because as I am now 18, I have my whole life ahead of me. I did not think i'd live to see 18, but now I can chase my dreams and not my drinks!”
Sandra Beckett

“Crystal Meth was my 'diet drug' of choice, but was killing me until the day I fell to my knees, cried out to Jesus; He set me free and gave me new abundant life-24 years ago!”
Gina Michelle Welker