Drugs and Alcohol

  1. Article SummaryPrint
  2. Teen Influences on Drug and Alcohol Use
  3. Using Drugs and Peer Pressure
  4. Parental Examples for Alcohol and Drug Use
  5. Drug and Alcohol Addiction
  6. Effects on Health
  7. Crime and Drug Abuse
  8. Prevention and Treatment (Rehabilitation)

The teenage years are a prime time for experimenting and asserting independence. As teens transition into adulthood, they often become tempted by adult activities. They want to follow their parents' lead, try the activities already done by their friends and establish their own identities. Drugs and alcohol frequently become involved in this mix.

Many teens turn to marijuana, prescription drugs, club drugs, alcohol or other substances during their teenage years. Seventy percent of high school students have had at least one alcoholic beverage, and they are often with their friends when they drink. In 2009, nearly a quarter of surveyed students in grades nine through 12 had been "offered, sold or given an illegal drug by someone on school property," reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Teenagers and young adults get involved with alcohol and drugs for many reasons. Some examples include:

  • Curiosity: They want to know what it feels like to get high or be drunk.
  • Peer pressure: Their friends are doing it.
  • Acceptance: Their parents or role models are doing it.
  • Defiance: They want to rebel against societal rules.
  • Risk-taking behaviors: They need to send out a call for help.
  • Thrill-seeking activities: They want to experience something other than numbness.
  • Boredom: They feel they have done everything else exciting.
  • Independence: They want to make their own decisions.
  • Pleasure: They want to feel good.

"Seventy percent of high school students have had at least one alcoholic beverage, and they are often with their friends when they drink. "The first few instances of drug use may be fun, but the behavior can quickly turn into substance abuse and addiction, and ultimately may necessitate an intervention or even rehab. Teenagers rarely consider the long-term damage they can do to themselves, their families and their communities.

If you are a teen with a drinking problem or drug addiction, you need to keep reading. If you are a concerned friend or family member, you must continue also. You will begin to understand that substance abuse is not your fault, but you can take action to improve the situation. You will learn about the common teenage influences, including peers and parents. You will also learn about the negative effects of using drugs as a teenager, such as dependency, health deterioration and incarceration.

Teen Influences on Drug and Alcohol Use

Despite new laws, zero tolerance policies and stronger community education programs, teen exposure to drugs and alcohol is still on the rise. These substances are seen at social gatherings, at sporting events and at friends' homes. They play a role in television programs, video games and celebrity gossip magazines. Some of the most critical forms of influence, however, come from a teen's peer group and role models.

Using Drugs and Peer Pressure

At any age, individuals want to be liked and accepted by the people around them. They want to be part of the popular group. Teens especially crave this approval because it makes the difficult teenage years a little bit more bearable. This desire to fit in forms one of the key issues for teens.

Imagine you find yourself with someone you trust and admire. You are handed a bong, a bottle or a needle and offered a place in the crowd. Even the most upstanding student may be tempted to try, just this once. Teens give in to peer pressure for many reasons, including:

  • Fear of rejection
  • Not wanting to be made fun of
  • Not wanting to lose a friend
  • Not wanting to hurt someone's feelings
  • The desire to appear grown up
  • The desire to appear in control
  • Not having a clear picture of what they desire
  • Not understanding how to avoid or handle a situation

One study by the Virginia Commonwealth University found that girls are more likely to give into peer pressure than boys, but both genders are susceptible. Even if you have tried to stay sober before, peer pressure can send you back into old habits. To discover ways to handle difficult situations and discuss your addiction treatment options, call 1-800-928-9139. A trained advisor will listen to your story and guide you to a program that fits your needs.

Parental Examples for Alcohol and Drug Use

Parental pressure to try drugs and alcohol can be even more traumatic than peer pressure. Parents are your role models, whether or not they choose to be. Over eight million children live with at least one parent who abuses drugs or alcohol, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Few mothers and fathers hand their children illicit substances, but many make statements and take actions that insinuate using drugs is the grownup thing to do. Manufacturing, selling, possessing or taking drugs sends the message that drugs and alcohol are okay. Some parents try to hide their stash or use only when the children are not around. The effect is virtually the same as if they had become high or drunk out in the open.

At the same time, drinking is something that isn't often hidden. A few beers or a few glasses of wine are socially acceptable for adults. When these actions peak to the point of endangering a child or causing self-harm, they also send a loud message to the teenager in the house.

Some substance-abusing parents even get confused as to how their children can become addicts when they have warned them about the dangers. Kids find out about the highs of drugs or alcohol, and they experiment in an effort to achieve those highs. Moreover, teenagers living with addicted parents have direct access to substances kept in the home. Using drugs around a child has such an extreme impact that virtually all states include this offense in their child welfare codes.

Your parents want you to lead a better life. If your mom, dad, grandparent or guardian has a chemical dependence issue, you do not have to follow that example. Take back your future by talking to a professional before addiction takes its toll on your life. Call 1-800-928-9139 to develop a treatment plan that is right for you.

Drug and Alcohol Addiction

Teens who drink or do drugs can develop addictions. No one sets out wanting to become addicted or chemically dependent. Addiction is not a character flaw or the result of poor willpower. It is a true biological response that fools parts of the brain into acting abnormally.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse explains key aspects of addiction:

First, the chemicals in meth, cocaine, heroin, marijuana, hard liquor and other substances tap into the nerve center of the brain and destroy proper communications. They may activate nerve cells at the wrong time or send a neurological "shout" when a whisper would suffice.

Second, the different drugs and alcohol also flood the system with dopamine. This chemical creates feelings of pleasure and euphoria, which is the high. The first few instances cause a person to like the feeling and repeat behaviors to obtain it.

Teens and Drug Addiction

teen-drug-abuseDrug use is a common problem among teens and young adults in America. It is not uncommon for children to be exposed to those selling or using drugs, so it is important to make sure that teens understand the dangers of drug use. When teens and young adults start using drugs, many problems can arise, from poor grades and relationship problems to dangerous health situations and criminal behavior.Read More

Over time, the brain senses that it has too much dopamine, so it starts shutting down receptors and producing less of the chemical. Subsequent usage does not yield the same euphoria, so an addict begins using more and more of a particular substance in order to get the same high.

With repeated or extended drug exposure, the brain structure changes. The amount of damage depends on several factors, including what chemicals were abused, in what quantities and for how long. One of the newest and most devastating drugs is methamphetamine. The National Institute on Drug Abuse indicates that meth can impact brain functionality as long as 14 months after the last exposure.

The good news is that the teenage brain is resilient and can recover. By understanding the addiction and its consequences, any teen or adult can make the decision to move toward a healthier life.

Effects on Health

Abusing prescription drugs, illegal drugs or alcohol adds stress to the mind and body. The personal health risks of drug and alcohol abuse cannot be stressed enough. The Drug Abuse Warning Network estimates that illicit and prescription drug abuse contributes to over 1.7 million emergency department visits annually. In 2006, three out of 10 cases had been related to cocaine, another three had been due to marijuana or heroin, and another one out of 10 cases had been attributed to stimulants or club drugs.

The human body and brain are still developing throughout the teenage years. While even one beer or one joint can cause minor impairments, the most devastating consequences occur from repeat or extended usage. For instance, heavy alcohol drinking can damage the cerebellum, leading to poor coordination; reduce the size of the hippocampus, leading to memory loss; and damage the frontal cortex, leaving a cognitive deficiency throughout adulthood.

As reported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Department of Justice, other health impacts include:

  • Depression
  • Trouble remembering
  • Hallucinations
  • Blackouts
  • Nausea
  • Aggression
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Paranoia
  • Car crashes
  • Accidental injuries
  • Self-inflicted wounds
  • Diseases
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Suicide
  • Homicide

Teenagers who enter into treatment early have the best odds for detoxifying and limiting health risks. Even if you have been taking drugs or binge drinking for years, you have access to people who can help you through the recovery process.

Crime and Drug Abuse

As teenage substance abusers destroy their health, they also destroy their relationships and their communities. Few drug users start out stealing or harming people for their next fix. They just want to have some fun, belong to a group and exert some control over their lives. As occasional drug use morphs into abuse and dependence, the person may begin to buy extra drugs to maintain a personal stash and then sell the rest.

When money runs low, the addict may lift a few dollars out of mom's handbag or shoplift and sell the goods for cash. Finally, the addiction takes its full grip. The teen may be willing to break into homes, assault strangers or even kill to relieve the pain of withdrawal and get high once more.

These crimes are just examples of what a person might do to obtain drugs and alcohol. They do not include crimes that result from the actual usage. For example, an agitated or hallucinating person can lose their sense of right or wrong and turn to violence as an escape. Motor vehicle thefts, school violence, sexual assaults and rapes are all more common with drug-emboldened offenders, as recorded by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Drug abuse rarely begins with criminal activity. Parents and friends must look for warning signs, especially changes in behavior. Examples include a sudden drop in grades, truancy from school, dropping out of school, hanging out with a different crowd or dressing differently. These scenarios do not always relate to a drug or alcohol problem, but they need to be addressed. The Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention has found that teens who abuse drugs and alcohol have a greater likelihood of committing serious crimes later in life. In the prison population, severe offenders are more likely to be diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder than other criminals.

Prevention and Treatment (Rehabilitation)

Just a few poor decisions can harm the rest of your life. Instead of continuing down the current path, consider the consequences.

If you have not yet taken your first drug or tried a drop of alcohol, don't start. Talk with a trusted adult about ways to cope with peer pressure situations or just avoid them altogether.

If you have experimented with chemical highs, find a way to replace the feeling while you are still in control. Therapy can help you uncover your reasons for doing drugs and help you locate alternatives.

Finally, if you are dependent on drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with your daily life, consider the long-term impact. If you are stuck in the cycle of addiction, think about how great it would feel to break through and live a normal life.

A free consultation with a substance abuse professional may reveal the answers that are currently hidden from your view. Our specialists at 1-800-928-9139 are waiting to have a private, honest, informational chat with you today. Discuss your options for treatment, teen rehab centers, and long term recovery.