Teenage Drug Addiction

A teenager or adolescent is in the middle of an extremely influential period in his or her life. A young body is undergoing a number of profound changes. The central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) is still developing. So is the reproductive system, and with that a teenager experiences a wide range of hormonal changes. They are factually at the middle point between childhood and adulthood. Along with the physical transition, a wide range of mental, familial, social, environmental, and even spiritual factors can impact young people for the rest of their lives, including teenage drug addiction.

Let’s say, for the sake of example, that you are no longer a teenager and haven’t been for quite some time. Now think back and recall some of your teenage years. Chances are you look back at that time with a combination of deep nostalgia and some resonant pangs of regret. If you only had the knowledge and experience then that you have now, and if you only now had the energy and exuberance that you had then… In your youth, you were influenced by your environment and you reacted (good or bad) in ways you aren’t likely to forget. When you heard a certain song for the first time, you felt it so deeply at that moment that you can still be flooded with emotion when you hear it years later.

Teenage Drug Addiction Problems

A teenager has a lot of problems that an adult doesn’t always see as being particularly consequential. For example, a teenager can be very self-conscious about how they come across to their peers. The clothes they wear; how they act; are they a member of the “in crowd”? They can also feel so much disdain for the “in crowd” that they look and act the polar opposite. If the “cool” kids wear bright colors, they wear black. A teenager is very often trying on various clothes – literally and figuratively – in order to find out who or what they are.

When their problems get a little too much for them (which is almost certain to happen) they may look around at what other kids are using as “solutions.” In all too many cases this involves drug and alcohol use. They see their peers smoking, drinking, and using. They conclude this could be a workable answer to their problems and start experimenting with drugs. Their continued drug abuse can lead to teenage drug addiction and affect them for the entirety of their adult life. They can also venture into drug abuse and literally never return.

How else does drug abuse and addiction affect teens?

Physiological Effects

The adolescent brain is still developing and can be affected more severely by drug and alcohol use, as a study from the National Institute of Health (NIH) indicates:

“Adolescence is a unique period in neurodevelopment. Alcohol and marijuana use are common. Recent research has indicated that adolescent substance users show abnormalities on measures of brain functioning, which is linked to changes in neurocognition over time. Abnormalities have been seen in brain structure volume, white matter [brain tissue] quality, and activation to cognitive tasks…”

The same study on the subject of Marijuana use by teens:

“While it has often been assumed that marijuana use is not linked to long-term cognitive deficits, recent data suggest that even after four weeks of monitored abstinence, adolescents who regularly smoke marijuana performed poorer on performance tests of learning, cognitive flexibility, visual scanning, error commission, and working memory.”

A teen who abuses drugs or alcohol is at risk of impairing their cognitive functions. An example of this is a young man who smokes a lot of marijuana. This youth gets referred to as a “pothead” because – among other reasons – he appears to be “out of it” a lot of the time, even when he isn’t high. One reason for this is that THC – the active psychoactive ingredient in marijuana – remains in the body tissues for an extended period of time – weeks or even months.

The Heavy Toll of Teenage Drug Addiction

Teenage drug addiction causes degeneration of the internal organs of their bodies, such as the liver, kidney, lungs, blood vessels, heart, and the brain. It can also lead to damaged nose tissue when snorted, respiratory damage when smoked, and infectious diseases when injected. A startling example is the before and after photographs of methamphetamine addicts, with their scarred, gaunt, and prematurely aged faces. This alone can act as effective deterrent for kids who are intensely concerned with how they look. The physical appearance of some addicts is of course only scratching the surface when it comes to the deadly toll of addiction.

Psychological Ramifications

A youth who becomes addicted tends to use drugs or alcohol as their “go to solution” to difficulties in life. If they do not become educated otherwise, they could carry these patterns into adulthood and indeed all their lives. Instead of real-world solutions, they seek the instant chemical escape. Getting drunk or high is simply a way of life.

Feelings of guilt, social alienation, depression, anxiety, and even aggression can all play a role in a drug problem that has existed since a person was young. The first step is obviously detoxification from drugs. But even after getting clean and sober, they must be oriented to a new way of dealing with things. When one has used drugs as a crutch since childhood, it can be a delicate process. Nonetheless, the process must be done for the sake of the individual.

Addiction in the Family

Alcoholism and addiction in the household has a profoundly negative effect upon a child or teenager. A child who grows up in a battle zone is likely to emerge more than a little rattled. A substantial amount of childhood trauma can be traced to parents who are addicted to drugs or alcohol. For one thing, a child can look to that behavior as being normal, start using drugs at a young age and become addicted. They look up to their parents or siblings as role models and act accordingly. They can also become subject to neglect and abuse. A parent who is addicted can have as their sole aim the obtaining and using of their drug of choice, and subsequently neglect the basic duties of raising a family. That is not to say all addicts neglect their families, but the two can be commonly linked.

Answers to Teen Drug Addiction

The solution to teenage drug addiction and abuse is twofold:

  1. Education
  2. Rehabilitation


Drug education means letting youth know the truth about drugs. Suffice it to say, the truth is not pretty. Along with effective education, one must help youth raise their ability to stand on their own and not succumb to peer pressure to use drugs or alcohol. Establishing a support network of family and friends plays a significant role in this equation. You don’t want your son or daughter getting into a car with a driver who is drunk. Setting up fail safes for these scenarios is one way to avoid catastrophe.


For a young person unfortunate enough to have gotten addicted to drugs or alcohol, the answer will normally be a rehab program – ideally in an inpatient setting. Such should consist of a medical detoxification procedure, followed by addressing the root sources behind their addictive behavior. It’s not always an easy proposition, but rehab doesn’t have to be hell either. It can be a very enlightening experience. For a young person educated the wrong way (through drug abuse) it can mean the beginning of a new life!


National Institute of Health (NIH)

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