Teens & Addiction


Drug & alcohol addiction among teens is a growing problem. Know the signs and how to get treatment help.

Substance abuse among teens is a delicate and serious issue. Many parents are afraid to talk to their children about the dangerous abuse of addictive drugs, but one of the best things you can do is to have these discussions early and often. Understanding the relationship between teens & addiction, and helping your teen avoid substance abuse is something you can get involved in, and though it can be difficult, the results are worth it.

If you need help talking to your teen about substance abuse, consider some of the tips below. If you are worried, however, that your child has already started misusing dangerous substances, it is important to get them help as soon as possible. We can assist you in finding the safest, most effective treatment options for your teens today. Just call 800-996-6135(Who Answers?) to speak with a treatment advisor.

Teens and Addiction: How and Why It Happens

Drug abuse among teens has been well documented for many years, and according to a study published in the medical journal Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience, teens as young as 11 and 12-years-old are beginning to use drugs. This is much younger than most parents suspect, so talking to your preteens could be an effective—and potentially necessary—choice for preventing substance abuse in your family.

There are many reasons why teens begin abusing drugs and alcohol.

Some children and young adults start abusing substances because they have friends who do so. This is an environmental factor that is just as likely to lead to addiction as many others. Peer pressure could also potentially play a part in one’s foray into drug use.

  • Kids who live in neighborhoods where drug abuse is more common and easier to obtain may also lean toward this outcome. It is even more important for parents to be aware of this issue if they are living in this type of environment.

Teens often abuse drugs or alcohol because it seems cool or because they think they will be cooler if they do it. This is a factor that cannot be overlooked because, even though there are many programs implemented into schools to help kids avoid substance abuse, many messages still tell them it’s the choice the popular students are making.

Teens may also abuse drugs to make themselves feel better, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Many adolescents start using substances to cope with feelings of depression or anxiety, which may or may not be associated with a full-blown mental disorder.

  • Some teens also want to do better in school or perform better in sports, which could cause them to turn to substance abuse. The high records of stimulant abuse are associated with this problem.
  • Finally, many teens abuse drugs simply from the impulse to experiment with something new. There is a strong desire among many young adults to become involved in dangerous or risky behaviors just to see what the outcome will be.

There are some risk factors that also make a teen who does use drugs or alcohol more susceptible to addiction. For example, if you have a history of substance abuse in your family, addiction is a stronger likelihood, as it is if you or other family members use drugs or alcohol in front of your child. In addition, the NIDA states that the earlier drug abuse begins, the more likely it is to turn into a complete addiction, due to the developmental factors of the brain. This is another reason to discuss the issue with your adolescent child.

Contact Detox.com now to find detox centers specifically for teens.

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How Do I Talk to My Teen About Substance Abuse?

Helping your teen avoid addiction isn’t simple, but one of the best tools you have at your disposal is your relationship with them. Talk to your child using a few simple tips.

  • Stay calm. Your teen might become upset or angry, which is why you must keep cool under every circumstance.
  • Be honest. If you abused drugs in the past, it may be a good learning tool to discuss this with your child and to tell them about the problems it might have caused you.
  • Answer their questions. Be open, but don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.” You can always find the answers together.
  • Show them your support. No matter what, remind your teen that you love them and that you want them to be safe and happy.

If you make sure to keep these tips in mind, your conversation with your child should be effective and helpful for both of you.

Recognizing Addiction in Teens

There are many different signs of addiction that you can look for if you are unsure whether or not your child is abusing drugs. Some of these are universal signs, but some are specific to adolescents.

  • They have a sudden change in their peer group, including the friends they hang out with (NIDA).
  • They will care much less about grooming, hygiene, and the other ways in which they present themselves.
  • They will experience sudden changes in appetite and sleep patterns.
  • They will stop taking part in activities that used to matter to them.
  • They will spend lots of time alone.
  • Their performance in school will start to decline.
  • They will miss classes consistently or get into trouble in school.
  • They will lie, steal money in order to obtain more drugs, and act out in other dangerous ways.
  • They will become irritable and/or experience mood swings without any understandable cause.
  • They will not be able to stop abusing drugs, even if they realize the severity the issue has brought on.

The last sign is the most telling that an addiction has officially set in and that your teen is in danger. Of course, some of these signs could be associated with other issues, such as mental illness or simply the discomfort and anger many teenagers feel without turning to drug abuse. The only way to be certain, though, is to talk to your child.

If they are using drugs, they will likely become angry when you bring it up, which is normal even for adults (National Library of Medicine). No matter what, though, you must try to remain calm as you discuss the issue with your child.

What Treatment Options Are Available for Teens Addicted to Drugs?

Fortunately, there are many treatment options for adolescents who are addicted to drugs. This population does require specialized care, but many individuals have been able to build safe, effective recoveries and go on to live lives free of substance abuse in the future once they attended treatment.

  • According to the NIDA, adolescent substance abuse often occurs with other health problems, especially mental illnesses. This issue, known as dual diagnosis, requires treatment for both conditions simultaneously. There are many adolescent addiction treatment centers that offer just this type of care.
  • Behavioral therapy is one of the best, most effective options for teens suffering from substance use disorders. These programs can help teens learn better coping skills for the future as well as the reasons behind their substance abuse. As a result, patients are able to avoid further use and understand their past use.
  • Medications are usually not prescribed to treat teens with substance use disorders in the way they are used to treat adults. This is partially because more research is needed in this population to determine if the use of these medications is safe (NIDA). However, some doctors may use drugs approved to treat alcohol or opioid addiction in certain adolescents, a practice known as off-label use.
  • Sometimes, 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous can be effective for adolescents seeking addiction treatment. While these programs are normally created for adults, they can add a much-needed community reinforcement to the patient’s recovery, as long as their time in the group is safely monitored. Still, 12-step groups must not be used in place of traditional treatment options.
  • Most adolescents benefit greatly from family therapy. This is because the support of a patient’s loved ones is extremely helpful during rehab, but this is most true for teens. Showing your child that you support their recovery and are willing to become involved will go a long way toward keeping them in treatment, and family therapy can help remove certain problematic interactions as well.

Every patient is different, and as such, may require different treatment options for a safe recovery. For example, teens from diverse ethnic backgrounds, who identify as LGBTQ, or who are female may have different needs. It can often be helpful to find a detox or rehab center that allows your child to be surrounded by other teens and especially individuals with similar characteristics to their own.

Whatever you choose for treatment, make sure it will make your teen feel comfortable and safe. After all, choosing a program that suits the needs of the patient is the most important part of finding effective care.

Getting Help for Teens with Substance Use Disorders

We want to help you find the best detox and rehab facilities in your area for the needs of your child. Call 800-996-6135(Who Answers?) now, and we will match you with safe, effective programs that will help your teen put an end to their substance abuse as soon as possible.


  1. Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience. (2011). Early Detection of Illicit Drug Use in Teenagers.
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). Principles of Adolescent Substance Use Disorder Treatment: A Research-Based Guide- Why Do Adolescents Take Drugs?
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Understanding Drug Use and Addiction.
  4. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). What to Do If Your Teen or Young Adult Has a Problem with Drugs.
  5. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2018). Substance Use Disorder.
  6. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition)- What are the Unique Needs of Adolescents with Substance Use Disorders?
  7. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). Principles of Adolescent Substance Use Disorder Treatment: A Research-Based Guide- Are There Medication to Treat Adolescent Substance Abuse?
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