Substance Abuse in Adolescence

Ashley Carver

They are not children anymore.....

You would think as a parent of a child that you would never think your child would ever think of trying alcohol or any kind of illegal substance. But according to a recent survey if U.S. high school students , by tenth grade, 40% of young people have tried cigarettes and 63% have tried drinking while 38% have tried one illegal drug. At this age, it is very common to hear of adolescents trying and abusing substances and what some parents are unaware of is that they can play a key part in stopping and preventing this type of behavior and therefore avoiding long term consequences (Berk, 2010).

Adolescent experimentation

Adolescent experimentation regarding illegal substances and cigarettes should never be taken lightly. Most substances can cause impairment of perception and thought processes, one single dose can lead to permanent injury and death. A huge minority of teenagers go from substance use to abuse which can lead to the lacking in their ability to meet their daily responsibilities such as going to school ( Berk, 2010).

Causes of Substance Abuse

According to an article written by Segal and Stewart in 1996, according to some questionnaires done from 1970 to 1992 indicate that some causes for adolescent alcohol use was to have a good time with friends, to relieve tension and stress, to get high, or to cheer up and to get rid of the sense of boredom. Regarding parents, adolescents who engage in alcohol or drug use their mothers tend to be or have been overprotective whereas the dad was more distant and laid back. Heredity can also be a cause of adolescents participating in substance and alcohol abuse. Adolescents whose parents have abused substances or alcohol are at a higher risk for doing it themselves than adolescents who come from parents that do not abuse substances or alcohol (Segal, 1996).

Consequences of Substance Abuse

In early childhood, children displaying impulsive, disruptive, and hostile behavior can be linked to future substance abuse during adolescence. Abusers can be from families with low income and mental problems but also from physical or sexual abuse can cause them to engage on substance abuse. But one of the most prevalent that we see in our society today is teens get pressured and encouraged by other peers to first engage in substance use but what they do not know is that this can lead to substance abuse (Berk, 2010)

More long term consequnces of teenagers that engage in substance abuse are failing to learn responsible decision-making skills and other coping techniques when dealing with the problems in life because they are so dependent on alcohol and hard drugs and they think and feel that this is the only way to deal with daily stresses (Berk, 2010).

Teens can suffer from chronic anxiety, depression, and antisocial behavior that can both be a cause and consequence of heavy drug taking and they are known to enter marriage and childbearing prematurely but end up failing at it (Berk, 2010).

Treatment and Prevention of Substance Abuse

For parents, it can sometimes be hard to know what to do when trying to prevent their child from engaging in substance use and abuse but luckily, there are school and community programs that reduce drug experimentation in adolescents (Berk, 2010).

These programs combine the components of effective parenting, teaching skills for resisting peer pressure, reducing social acceptability of drug taking by emphasizing health and safety risks, and lastly they get adolescents to commit to not using drugs (Berk, 2010).

However, you as parents cannot prevent all drug use from happening no matter how bad you want to using easy techniques and in some cases you have to have severe interventions with your child to make them realize that you care and that they do indeed need help.


Substance Abuse in adolescence is a prevailing problem in our society. IN some cases, parents do not have the knowledge of causes, consequences, and possible treatments for substance abuse and therefore do not think it is a serious problem and they do not treat it as such. Substance abuse can cause permanent damage to an adolescent both physically and mentally but hopefully with this new information, you as parents can make this less of a problem in your family.


Berk, L. E. (2010). Development Through The Lifespan.

Segal, B. M. (1996). Substance Use and Abuse in Adolescence: An Overview. Child Psychiatry And Human Development.