According to a 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 1.4 million teens needed treatment for an illicit drug problem. With teens, their developing brains are more prone to addiction and abuse as teenage brains adapt more quickly to repeated drug use, leading to cravings and dependence. Addiction most commonly begins during the teenage years and continues into adulthood.
Virtually every drug that is abused by adults is also abused by teenagers. The most common types of drugs that are abused include the following:
Marijuana, also known as “pot,” “weed,” “bud,” “flower,” “ganja,” and many other nicknames, is an extremely popular drug sought out for its sedative effects on the mind and body, popularly referred to as “getting high.” 38% of high school students report using marijuana. Marijuana is combined with alcohol or other drugs to create a longer or more intense high.
Common side effects of marijuana use include:
- Relaxed mood
- Poor memory
- Declining school performance
- Loss of motivation
- Impaired driving
- Increased appetite
Not only is the physical form of the marijuana plant popular among teens, but forms of marijuana like wax concentrate have been becoming abused by teens who smoke out of wax pens because of their convenience. These wax pens can get individuals high very quickly and very easily and they are easier to hide as they do not smell.
Alcohol is still the most used drug in America among teens. In 2017, more than 33 percent of 12th-graders, 19.7 percent of 10th-graders and 8 percent of eighth-graders had used alcohol in the previous month. Overall, about 20 percent of these teens had used alcohol in the previous 30 days.
Flavored alcoholic drinks, such as Smirnoff, Four Loko, and White Claw have been particularly popular among adolescents in recent years. In 2017, about one in five high school seniors had tried a flavored alcoholic beverage in the previous month. Binge drinking, consuming an excessive amount of alcohol in a short period of time, is also common among teens today. About 4 percent of eighth-graders, 10 percent of 10th-graders and 17 percent of 12th-graders engaged in binge drinking in 2017.
Alcohol use has many devastating consequences for teens. Overall, it can lead to poor decision-making, risky behavior, and learning problems. Drinking among teens can also increase their risk for alcohol addiction. Teen drinking may also result in legal trouble due to underage drinking and drunk driving being illegal. On average, alcohol contributes to the deaths of 4,358 people under age 21 each year. Many of these alcohol-related deaths involve car crashes, which is another major issue.
Cigarettes are another commonly known form of substance abuse within teens, however, their popularity has been declining in recent years. Since teen cigarette use peaked in the mid-1990s, its lifetime prevalence has decreased by 71 percent, 30-day prevalence by 81 percent and daily prevalence by 86 percent.
Today, fewer teens are using cigarettes than ever before. Less than 1 percent of eighth- and 10th-grade students smoked half a pack of cigarettes per day in 2017. That year, 5.4 percent of students among all three grades included in the study reported having used cigarettes in the previous 30 days.
However, it is still crucial to be aware that in addition to cancer, smoking cigarettes can lead to lung problems, heart disease, and many more health issues.
Nicotine (Vaping Products)
Many new forms of nicotine abuse have been prevalent in vaping devices like the Juul or Suorin which are devices that use e-liquids that contain high amounts of nicotine. These devices are very common in teens today and are regularly abused and shared. Many teens can become addicted to these products as the high doses of nicotine can make users become addicted and abuse the drug even more.
Nicotine can lead to addiction, which puts teens at risk of becoming a lifelong smoker and exposes them to the many harmful chemicals in tobacco. These chemicals cause cancer and harm almost every organ in your body. Teens are especially sensitive to nicotine’s addictive effects because their brains are still developing and this makes it easier to get hooked. Using nicotine at such a young age can also rewire the brain to become more easily addicted to other drugs.
Teens turn to popular drugs for an assortment of reasons. They may be influenced by messages from media, be pressured by friends, or have a genuine desire to try a certain substance. However, the threatening health effects of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco products are real and many more teens need to realize that. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, seek treatment today.