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The warm weather and lively culture of South Florida make it distinctive and undeniably appealing. However, one challenge this region shares with the rest of the country is that South Florida teens can be susceptible to drug and alcohol abuse, which may eventually result in addiction. Teen drug addiction presents some unique challenges, but recovery is possible for every teen who struggles with drug or alcohol abuse.
Teens Experiment With Drugs
By the time they graduate from high school, the majority of teenagers have tried at least one drug. Experimentation with drugs may stem from:
- A naturally increased curiosity about the world
- Living in a home where drug use is present
- Early exposure to drug or alcohol use from family or friends
- Peer pressure, or having friends who use drugs or alcohol
- An inability to cope with unpleasant feelings or a traumatizing experience
Commonly Abused Drugs Teens Use
Teen drug abuse and addiction have become significant public health concerns in the past several years, especially with the increased availability of designer and synthetic drugs, the ongoing opioid crisis and the widespread popularity of vaping, or using an electronic drug delivery system.
More attention to the health care challenges of teen addiction has led to a better understanding of how teens use drugs and which drugs they use. The more accessible a drug is, the more likely it is that a teen will consider trying it.
Alcohol is one of the most readily available of all commonly abused substances. Most homes contain access to alcohol, and it is legally available for sale to those over the age of 21, requiring comparatively little effort to obtain it.
Teen alcohol addiction is a significant issue in America. According to data from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 60 percent of teens have had at least one alcoholic drink by age 18, and alcohol is used more frequently than cigarettes or marijuana among adolescents.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens, marijuana is the illegal drug most frequently used by teens, and vaping nicotine and marijuana has increased across all school grades of teenagers in recent years. Vaping marijuana, or using marijuana with a vaping device, has become one of the most popular ways of consuming the drug, in part because this method can be harder to detect.
As the country tends toward increasing legalization of medical and recreational marijuana, researchers have noted that the numbers of teenagers who use marijuana has increased dramatically. Florida began allowing medical marijuana use in 2017, and ballot measures for recreational marijuana legalization are active.
There is much evidence in the scientific literature about the effect of marijuana on the developing brains of teenagers. Daily, heavier marijuana usage can be particularly damaging, and teen marijuana addiction can develop.
Following alcohol and marijuana, prescription drugs are the most commonly abused substances among teens, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens.
Teens frequently try prescription drugs, especially stimulants, opioid painkillers, sedatives and muscle relaxers. Teens may be drawn to try prescription medications as they can produce euphoria or a high. Such drugs are often easily accessed, and their use can go relatively unnoticed.
Commonly abused prescription drugs among teens include:
- Amphetamine (Adderall)
- Methylphenidate (Ritalin)
- Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
- Oxycodone (OxyContin)
- Codeine/promethazine cough syrup
- Zolpidem (Ambien)
- Alprazolam (Xanax)
Inhalants are chemicals that are in ordinary household substances or products that teens may sniff, huff or inhale to get high. Common substances like gasoline, glue, paint thinner and other household items can be sniffed for a mind-altering effect.
Teens who use inhalants may use:
- Volatile solvents
Inhalants are often the first drugs that a teenager will try, and inhalant use is common among adolescents. Inhalants are one of the few types of drugs that are used more by young adolescents than teenagers or older adolescents.
Illicit, or illegal, drug use is common among teenagers. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, about 50 percent of adolescents try an illicit drug by the 12th grade. The most commonly used illegal drug among teens is marijuana.
In addition to marijuana, teens may also experiment with illegal drugs like:
- Crack cocaine
- Ecstasy or MDMA
- Bath salts
- Spice or K2
Additionally, teens may take illegally procured prescription medications, or combinations of illicit drugs and prescription medications.
When teens use illicit (street) drugs, getting access to these drugs often requires them to use a network of friends or acquaintances to get access to the drug. However, if other family members use illicit drugs, teenagers are more likely to do so as well.
Signs of Teen Drug Use
It is not always obvious when a teenager is using drugs. However, certain behaviors and activities can suggest that a teenager is using substances.
- Drug paraphernalia (pipes, needles, syringes)
- Hanging out with a new crowd
- Secretive behavior or lying
- Differences in basic hygiene
- Avoiding old friends
- Declining school performance
- Repeated school tardiness or absences
- Declining interest in sports, music or other activities
- Behavioral and emotional changes
The presence of just one of these signs may not indicate drug use, but if several signs are present, it may serve as a strong indicator that substance misuse may be present.
Statistics of Teen Drug Use
Teen addiction statistics give researchers and the public an idea of teen drug use trends. According to the government-sponsored teen drug use survey Monitoring the Future, teens are vaping marijuana in record numbers, with rates of consumption only second to alcohol. For other drugs, public awareness of the dangers of opioids, sedatives and stimulants has resulted in sharp decreases in their usage by teenagers.
Statistics on teen drug use from the Monitoring the Future survey in 2018 vary depending on the specific substances used, including:
- Opioids: 1 in 3 high schools seniors reported that prescription opioids were easily accessible
- Marijuana: among 12th-grade students, 1 in 4 report that regular marijuana use is highly risky, yet rates of vaping of marijuana have increased significantly in recent years
- Alcohol: past-month use of alcohol was reported by 30 percent of high school seniors in the 2018 survey
- Nicotine and tobacco: rates of past-year vaping of these substances increased by one-third across all grades, and vaping is the second most common route of substance use in 8th-, 10th- and 12th-grade students
Talking to Your Teen About Drug Use
Most researchers and mental health professionals believe that it is best to discuss drug use with children early, before they are teenagers, and at a level that they can understand.
Unfortunately, sometimes parents and teens have their first meaningful conversations about drug use directly after teenage drug use has been suspected or discovered. Such conversations can lead to confrontational and emotionally tense scenarios that are less productive.
If a Teen Admitted to Drug Use
Teens who admit to drug use without prompting are likely to do well in recovery programs, as making such an admission takes courage and a willingness to be honest.
Additionally, teenagers who admit to drug use after being asked by a loved one or teacher can be praised for their ability to tell the truth when called upon.
If a Teen Denies Drug Use
When teens deny their drug use, parents or educators may face a difficult choice as to whether or not to believe the denial. As a parent, you could ask for a confirmatory drug test, but that may result in a decrease in trust and communication between you and your teen. In these instances, if drug use is suspected despite the denial, it is best to seek professional consultation.
An intervention strategy organized by a professional interventionist may be useful in helping smooth communications between parents and teens who struggle with drug addiction. A successful intervention often leads to enrollment at a rehab center.
Teen Drug Addiction Treatment
Teen drug addiction treatment can help any teen overcome drug or alcohol addiction. When you see signs of drug use in a teenager, it is important to communicate right away with him or her, as well as with a professional.
Early intervention helps decrease rates of drug addiction, especially in teens and young adults. The initial steps will consist of a consultation with a recovery or medical professional, who can help you determine whether or not your teen has an unhealthy usage of drugs or alcohol. If your teen is indeed struggling with an addictive disorder, a professional can help you explore proper treatment options.
If you are a teenager who has been struggling with drug use, or if you love a teen who seems to have lost control over their substance use, our facility in Palm Beach County can be an excellent resource for you. Although we do not currently accept any clients under the age of 18, we can connect you with resources for healing if you are not yet 18. Give us a call today to learn more.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Monitoring the Future Survey: High School and Youth Trends.” December 17, 2018. Accessed April 22, 2019
Florida Department of Health. “Office of Medical Marijuana.” 2019. Accessed, April 22, 2019.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Talking to Kids: Communicating the Risk.” 2019. Accessed April 22, 2019.
National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens. “Marijuana.” Last updated on April 9, 2019. Accessed April 26, 2019.
National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens. “Prescription Drugs.” Last updated on April 9, 2019. Accessed April 26, 2019.
National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens. “Inhalants.” Last updated on April 9, 2019. Accessed April 26, 2019.
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Underage Drinking.” February 2017. Accessed April 2019.
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. “Drug Use in Adolescence.” Content last reviewed on March 29, 2019. Accessed April 2019.