The Danger Hiding in Your Cabinets
What harm can prescription drugs pose to teens?Read Article
As teens grow into their bodies, they can also grow into substance misuse.
Adolescents aged 12 to 17 accounted for over 40% of first-time alcohol users reported in the 2020 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) survey. That age group also accounted for nearly 36% of reported first-time marijuana users and about 30% of reported first-time cigarette smokers.
This popularity can make substance misuse seem like a rite of passage for teens, even when illegal under U.S. law. But students’ misuse of substances in their formative years carries serious health risks that can follow them into adulthood.
Teens try drugs or alcohol for different reasons, including peer pressure, stress, or to show their independence. But all types of users share increased threats to their immediate and long-term health.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), underage drinking poses several dangers:
Drug use among adolescents shares these dangers and, as the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) explains, can also interfere with family and peer relationships and school performance. The wide range of risks means the dangers of substance misuse can stretch to all aspects of students’ lives.
For teens, experimenting with substances often escalates to serious misuse later in life.
In 2020, SAMHSA found nearly 5 percent (1.2 million) of adolescents aged 12 to 17 had at least one illicit drug use disorder in the past year. About 3 percent (712,000) of adolescents in the age group had alcohol use disorder (AUD) during that time. This connects to teens’ status as major binge drinkers. Cases rose significantly among those aged 18 to 25 surveyed. About 15 percent (4.9 million) in the age group had at least one illicit drug use disorder during the previous year, while about 16 percent (5.2 million) had AUD in the period.
Teen substance abuse can bring life-altering outcomes, including injuries or death. Underage drinking, for example, contributes to alcohol overdoses, motor vehicles crashes, homicides, and other forms of death among youth under the age of 21 each year.
The severe consequences surrounding students’ substance misuse make it crucial to spot the warning signs early on.
While some behavior changes are normal for teens to display as they grow up, others can serve as signs of substance misuse. The NIAAA names several signs of underage drinking:
Many of today’s teen users are misusing more than one substance concurrently. According to NIDA, symptoms of overlapping drug and alcohol use are often more pronounced in adolescents and include:
These signs can present themselves at any adolescent age and in any environment. Parents and teachers alike can help spot when students’ behavior changes start pointing to drug or alcohol use.
Precautions taken during the COVID-19 pandemic have limited the spread of the coronavirus nationwide. Some have also helped to restrict substance misuse among teens.
The 2021 Monitoring the Future survey showed no significant increases in drug use from 2020 among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders. Instead, they found the students’ combined drug use in their lifetime and the last 12 months declined by more than 20% from the previous year in many drug categories. Alcohol and tobacco use also dropped across the grade levels.
How have COVID-19 precautions affected these changes? By making students see substances as less available to them. With lockdown came fewer parties or other social events and more time spent with parents at home.
But with many social activities resuming nationwide as COVID-19 cases decline, the return to normalcy could also lead to increased adolescent exposure to drugs and alcohol. Growing social outlets, such as parties or other events where teens can mingle unsupervised, should be watched as potential sources of substances for your teen.
A new normal amidst COVID-19 doesn’t have to bring new surges in teen substance misuse.
As a parent, you can take an active role in preventing your teen from using substances that could harm their health. This can start with recognizing the myths surrounding adolescents using alcohol or drugs.
The NIAAA shares several practices parents can use to have a positive or negative influence on students, such as acting as role models. When parents engage in substance misuse, their children are more likely to repeat the behavior.
It’s never too late to encourage healthy habits in your teen, including avoiding substance misuse.
Even seemingly minor experimentation with drugs and alcohol by students can lay the foundation for addiction. It's crucial to involve a certified health care provider in managing your teen's substance misuse.
Treatment programs offer comprehensive care tailored to assessments of each adolescent’s intervention needs. Programs are available in outpatient, inpatient, and partial hospitalization treatment settings.
What harm can prescription drugs pose to teens?Read Article
Learn about nitrous oxide and its popularity with teens.Read Article
Vaping paves the pathway to other addictions for young nicotine users.Read Article
Substance misuse is growing among teens. Learn some of the factors, and what you can do about them.Read Article
Learn about the dangers of the wide-spread drug, cannabisRead Article
Learn why parents have been easing up on alcohol rules, and the consequences they don't know they're bringing on.Read Article
Learn about the various types of impaired driving and the dangers they create.Read Article
Read about the ways language around addiction is changing.Read Article
Learn why alcohol impaired driving has been on the rise, and what you can do to stop it.Read Article
A look at how alcohol affects the developing brains of teenagers.Watch Video
A new generation of nicotine addicts have easy access to vaping, and they don't know the risks.Read Article
This product was supported by SAMHSA grant funding.Watch Video
Real talk from real teens on avoiding alcohol in high school.Watch Video
An all-too-familiar story of prescribed medications leading to deadly addiction.Watch Video
We break down the science and social factors of nicotine addiction.Watch Video
Parents share their perspectives on teen drinkingWatch Video
Nicotine is a chemical you don't want to wrestle with.Watch Video
Law enforcement officers talk about their experiences with underage drinkers.Watch Video
Healthline's Carly Vandergriendt shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about alcohol.Read Article
Watch this video to learn how alcohol reacts in the bodyWatch Video
Real talk on a tough topicWatch Video
The story of one young life cut short by a dangerous decision and tragic circumstances.Watch Video
Bro! For the first time ever, teenage girls now consume more alcohol than their male peers. Read why this flip of the alcohol gender gap has serious implications.Read Article
Alcohol & Social MediaRead Article
Why binge drinking is a prevalent issue among teens, and how you can prevent itRead Article
Healthy Ways to Cope with a Changed WorldRead Article
Pandemic Disruptions Continue for Students and FamiliesRead Article
America's opioid crisis: From TV shows to real-life tragediesRead Article
The decision to drink and drive can impact your future and put lives in danger. Choose to say no.Watch Video
For your family. For your friends. For your future. For you.Watch Video
Watch the 2021 Safe and Sober PSAWatch Video
Many teens are still struggling with emotional challenges as the world moves on from COVID-19. Our featured guest contributor breaks down some of the warning signs.Read Article
Opioid prescriptions are often misused. Safety is a top priority.Read Article
Middle and high school students have been in the center of a mental health crisis for years, but the COVID-19 pandemic brought the situation into sharp focus.Read Article
It's not safe, no matter how you spin it.Read Article
Start the conversation about mental health with your teen.Read Article
Your choices now impact your future. Don't drink and drive.Watch Video
The earlier you can start the conversation, the better.Read Article