Substance Abuse in Adolescents & How to Help Your Teen

The rising rate of substance abuse in adolescents is becoming a bigger concern than ever for parents with teenagers. As these problems continue to grow, it is vital that parents are prepared to provide the support their children need.

Get all the most important information about substance abuse in teens, why teens turn to these habits, and ways to help them get past it.

Why Teens Struggle with Substance Abuse

There are many reasons why a teen may turn to substance abuse, ranging from using it as a coping mechanism to socializing with their friends. The more a parent can understand the potential causes of this behavior, the better chance they’ll have to help their child overcome substance abuse or avoid it altogether.


Over the years, scientists have proven that there is a strong genetic component to substance abuse in adolescents. As a teenager’s brain continues to develop, their genetics may lead them to make poor decisions or participate in risky behaviors like drinking, smoking, or doing drugs.

Peer Pressure

The old adage of “all the cool kids do it” is still alive and well, commonly being used as a tactic for teens to get others to participate in substance abuse. Many adolescents try alcohol, cigarettes, or other addictive substances because a friend entices them to it.


In some cases, teenagers simply become intrigued on their own and try harmful substances without any pressure from outside sources. They may see other people use them and decide they want to know what it’s like.

Stress Relief

Many adolescents feel overwhelmed by school, jobs, or other responsibilities in their lives. This could potentially lead to teen substance abuse as a way for them to overcome the stress or anxiety they feel.

Coping Mechanism

When teenagers suffer psychological trauma or deal with abuse, it’s possible they could turn to substance abuse as a way to numb the emotional pain.

Signs of Substance Abuse in Adolescents

As a parent, it’s essential to watch for the symptoms of substance abuse in teens so you can stop the behavior as quickly as possible. A few of the most common ways to tell if an adolescent is struggling with substance abuse are when they:

  • Get aggressive or anger easily
  • Break rules for no reason
  • Sleep more often
  • Switch to a different group of friends
  • Lose interest in their hobbies
  • Have rapid weight loss
  • Deal with regular nosebleeds
  • Get the shakes or tremors

Consequences of Adolescent Substance Abuse

When it comes to substance abuse in teens, there can be negative effects both mentally and physically. Since adolescent children are still going through brain development, harmful substances can impair their cognitive function in both the short and long term.

Along with their brain growth, substance abuse could affect a teenager’s cardiovascular health, causing high blood pressure or even heart disease.

Teens struggling with substance abuse may also have poor judgment, which leads them to make irrational decisions like driving under the influence or having unprotected sex. In extreme cases, adolescent substance abuse could even lead to diseases like Hepatitis B or C, AIDS, or HIV when they use drugs that involve needles.

How to Speak with Your Teen About Substance Abuse

It is always crucial to make sure you teenager feels that they have a safe space where they can share their thoughts and feelings. This becomes even more important when adolescent substance abuse comes into the picture. Some of the best tactics for speaking with your teenager about substance abuse include:

  • Making clear rules
  • Detailing the reasons for each rule
  • Listening to them
  • Maintaining an ongoing conversation
  • Offering a safe environment

Getting Treatment for Teens with Substance Abuse

There are many factors to consider when it comes to helping teens struggling with substance abuse. As parents learn why their adolescent child has turned to substance abuse, it will be easier for them to know the proper ways they can provide help.

If you are looking for the best substance abuse treatment for adolescents, look no further than OC Specialty Health & Hospitals. Learn more about how we can help by either giving us a call at 949-900-8426 or 877-467-2223.

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