Resources & Education

March 7th, 2015

Factors that influence teen substance abuse

Teen drug useQ: Are some teens more likely than others to try drugs and/or alcohol?

A: Great question. Although you can’t quite predict which teens and young adults will use and abuse drugs with 100% certainty, there are a few factors that can lead a teen to trying and abusing drugs and alcohol.

Here are a few of the factors that increase the risk:

  1. Family History. Addiction is a disease and it runs in families. If a parent or other close family member has a history of drug or alcohol abuse, it can mean that the teen is at a higher risk.
  2. Relationships and environment. If a teen is around drug and alcohol use and/or is close to someone who is abusing substances, he/she may be more susceptible to experimenting him/herself.
  3. Mental Health Disorders. When a teen is diagnosed or undiagnosed or shows signs of a mental health or behavioral health condition (such as depression, anxiety or ADHD), they may be medicated which can lead to prescription drug abuse. Some teens will also try to “self-medicate” with street drugs and/or alcohol to control symptoms.
  4. Rx Pills. Being prescribed pain pills for medical conditions or post surgery can increase risk for abuse.
  5. Personal skills. Low self-esteem, poor social skills and other insecurities can also lead a teen to “self-medicate” with drugs or alcohol in order to cope.
  6. Availability. When drugs and alcohol are easy to get, it increases the chance that a teen will experiment.
  7. Trauma or abuse. Any type of major life event, such as the death of a parent, physical, sexual or emotional abuse, can increase the risk of drug abuse.

It’s important to note that not all teens will develop substance abuse problems, even if they have experienced one or more of these risk factors. Protective factors such as parental involvement may help to keep them from using substances.

More articles about this topic:
Understanding why teens use drugs 
What to do when you suspect your teen is using drugs

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