Why teens abuse drugs
The are many factors that can lead to teen drug abuse. These can be anything from insecurity to a desire for social acceptance. Indestructible feelings are common in teens and this attitude of invincibility leads to teens often not considering the consequences of their actions. These attitudes lead them to taking dangerous risks — such as abusing legal or illegal drugs.
Common risk factors for teen drug abuse include:
- A family history of substance abuse
- A mental or behavioral health condition, such as depression, anxiety or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Early aggressive or impulsive behavior
- A history of traumatic events, such as experiencing a car accident or being a victim of abuse
- Low self-esteem or poor social coping skills
- Feelings of social rejection
- Lack of nurturing by parents or caregivers
- Academic failure
- Relationships with peers who abuse drugs
- Drug availability or belief that drug abuse is OK
It’s important to remember that your teen’s risk factors might change over time. Set up a time to review the risk factors once a year, perhaps around your teen’s birthday.
Consequences of teen drug abuse
Negative consequences of teen drug abuse could include:
- Impaired driving. Driving under the influence of any drug can impair a driver’s motor skills, reaction time and judgment — putting the driver, his or her passengers, and others on the road at risk.
- Sexual activity. Teens who abuse drugs are more likely to have poor judgment, which can result in unplanned and unsafe sex.
- Drug dependence. Teens who abuse drugs are at increased risk of serious drug use later in life.
- Concentration problems. Use of drugs, such as marijuana, might affect a teen’s memory, motivation and ability to learn.
- Serious health problems. Ecstasy can cause liver damage and heart failure. High doses of or chronic use of methamphetamine can cause psychotic behavior. Chronic use of inhalants can harm the heart, lungs, liver and kidneys. Abuse of prescription or over-the-counter medications can cause respiratory distress and seizures.
Talking about teen drug abuse
Talking to your teen about drug abuse can be difficult. The best way to start is by approaching the subject at a comfortable time and setting when you it won’t be likely to be interrupted. Share your feelings of being anxious with your teen. It is also important to share the responsibility with a significant other or another important adult in your child’s life.
Here are some tips for talking with your teen about drugs:
- Ask your teen’s views. Long, boring lectures should be avoided. You should listen to your teen’s opinions and questions about drug use. Observe your child’s nonverbal responses to gauge how he or she feels about the subject. Encourage your teen to talk by making statements instead of asking questions. For example, saying, “I’m curious about your point of view” might work better than “What do you think?”
- Discuss reasons not to abuse drugs. Scare tactics should be avoided. Focus on the facts – that drug use can affect things important to your teen — such as sports, driving, health and appearance. Explain that even a teen can develop a drug problem.
- Consider media messages. Some television programs, movies, websites or songs glamorize or trivialize drug use. Talk about what your teen has seen or heard.
- Discuss ways to resist peer pressure. Come up with ideas with your teen about how to turn down offers of drugs.
- Be ready to discuss your own drug use. Think ahead about how you’ll respond if your teen asks about your own drug use. If you chose not to use drugs, explain why. If you did use drugs, share what the experience taught you.
Do not fear that approaching the subject of drug abuse will plant ideas in your teen’s head. Conversations about drugs won’t tempt your teen to try drugs. Instead, talking about drug abuse lets your teen know your views and understand what you expect of him or her.