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Teens and Drugs: What You Need to Know as Summer Approaches

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Did you know that half of all new drug users are under the age of 18? Or that, during the summer months, teenagers are most likely to drink and try drugs for the first time? With the first of summer right around the corner, Turnbridge experts cover just what parents should know when it comes to teens and drugs.

When Are Teens Most Likely to Try Drugs?

Recent national surveys show that the average age of initiation for illicit drugs has increased to about 19 years old. The average age a person will start drinking, however, is around age 17. Depending on the circumstances, however, teens will often try alcohol or drugs much sooner than their senior year in high school. Statistics show that two-thirds of teens have consumed alcohol by the end of high school, and 27 percent of adolescents have had a drink by the end of 8th grade, before their freshman year.

Adolescence the period most teens will try substances, and they are more likely to do so during summer vacation, away from adult supervision. Teens, in their impulsive and fun-loving youth, want a “summer to remember.” Oftentimes, these summers involve parties, drinking, and drug use.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), adolescents and full-time college students are most likely to try substances for the first time during June or July, when school gets out and the warm summer days strike. As a parent, it is important to talk to your teen now and remind him/her about the dangers of drug use at a young age.

The Dangers of Teen Drug Use

Adolescence is the most critical window for brain development. The brain is especially malleable during this period, making it especially susceptible to the learned disease of addiction. The brain does not fully develop until age 25. When addictive substances are introduced before that time, they can change a person’s chemical makeup and leave long-lasting consequences for teens.

Expert sources report that almost 70 percent of adolescents who misuse an addictive drug before age 13 will develop a substance use disorder within seven years. Teens who use an addictive substance before their 18th birthday are also 6.5 times more likely to develop a chronic drug addiction in their later lives.

Why Teens Do Drugs?

There are many reasons why teens will turn to drugs. Even if you’ve talked to your teen about saying “no” to drugs, other factors can influence whether he or she makes that choice. First, it’s important to understand that teenagers’ brains are not fully wired to make informed decisions. Biologically, they are more likely to act on impulse and do things to please their friends. This makes them more prone to use drugs. In addition, teenagers use drugs in efforts to:

  • Fit in with their peers
  • Feel good (recreational use, at a party, for example)
  • Escape or cope with mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety
  • Cope with stress, such as academic and athletic performance, and other pressures
  • Get attention from adults

Other reasons teens use drugs are peer pressure, curiosity and experimentation, and environmental factors, like home/family life. Research shows that teens are more likely to use drugs and drink alcohol if it is already present at home. Genetics also play a role in whether an individual might become addicted.

Which Drugs Do Teens Use?

The most popular drugs abused among teens are not much different from those used by adults. Alcohol, for example, is the most widely used substance abuse among both age groups – largely due to its ease-of-access and acceptance in our culture. The problem is that, teens and first-time drinkers do not how much alcohol they can intake. Teenagers are more likely to drink excessive amounts of alcohol because they do not know its dangerous effects on the body. As a result, they often face negative effects such as alcohol poisoning, or get involved with risky behaviors like sex, fights, and driving under the influence.

Marijuana is the most widely used illicit drug among adolescents in the United States. According to the most recent Monitoring the Future Survey, 24 percent of surveyed teens in 2017 used marijuana in the last year. 6 percent of high school seniors use marijuana on a daily basis, and 71 percent of them do not perceive smoking marijuana as very harmful.

Following alcohol and marijuana, other commonly abused substances by teens and young adults include inhalants, prescription stimulants (e.g. Adderall), and other medications. One in every five teens have abused prescription drugs, according to the CDC, and as reported in a recent Turnbridge article, 62 percent of teens say drugs are easy to get from their parents’ medicine cabinet.

The Signs of Teen Drug Use

There are many signs of drug use in teenagers, though it can be difficult for parents to tell the difference between the hormonal changes of adolescence and actual substance use. As a parent, the best thing you can do is communicate with your teen if you suspect drinking or drug use. Ask questions. Stay involved. Look for some of the common signs of drug use in teens, including:

  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Avoidance of eye contact
  • Changes in friend groups
  • Loss of interest in once-loved hobbies and activities
  • Dropping grades and loss of interest in school
  • Poor hygiene or diminished physical appearance
  • Secretive behavior, lying, and hiding where he/she has been
  • Constant asking for money, but you’re unsure of where it goes
  • Missing curfew
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Random laughing or hunger (“munchies”)
  • Unusual tiredness

If you suspect your teen has been drinking or using drugs, don’t be afraid to ask straightforward questions. Use a calm and welcoming voice and ask, “Have you been using drugs or alcohol?” or “Has anyone offered you drugs recently?” to get the conversation started. You may also start researching reputable teen rehab centers, that understand how drug addiction affects growing teenagers.

What Parents Should Do If You Catch Your Teen Using

Talking to your kids about drugs is a great start to preventing long-term drug use. However, if you believe your son or daughter has a drug problem, or if your teen is exhibiting any of the signs listed above, know who to call or where to go for help.

Rest assured that Turnbridge is only one call away. We are a recognized adolescent and young adult drug rehab center in Connecticut, with tailored programs for young men and women struggling with drug use and mental health. Call 877-581-1793 today to learn about our teen programs.