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Teen addiction is a growing concern in America. Teenagers and young adults have an increased risk of abusing drugs, alcohol, or prescription medications. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), in 2021, “753,000 adolescents ages 12 to 17 (2.9% of this age group) had [alcohol use disorder] AUD.” Parents of young people diagnosed with AUD often struggle to understand how the condition developed and what steps they can take to prevent future substance abuse. West Coast Recovery Centers ensures families with teenagers who have a history of abusing drugs have the support needed to heal and move forward.

Factors Contributing to Teenagers Abusing Drugs

Many potential factors affect how a teenager develops substance use disorder (SUD). Family and social relationships impact how teens think about substance abuse and their own self-worth. Peer pressure and other factors may cause some children to misuse substances as a way to fit in with their social groups or to manage anxiety. 

Additional factors contributing to teen substance abuse include: 

  • Low self-esteem  
  • Stress at home, school, or work 
  • Lack of essential communication skills 
  • Difficulty identifying or managing emotions 
  • Lack of social support 

Normalizing conversations about mental health, substance abuse, and physical safety may act as a preventative measure against future substance abuse. Parental figures protect teens from addictive behaviors and help them heal from SUD by creating a nurturing and supportive home environment. Checking in with teens and how they feel can keep parents informed of their child’s health and well-being. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Increasing screening opportunities whenever a teen receives any medical care can increase the chances of identifying risky substance use.” Regular mental health screenings and physical check-ups during adolescence and young adulthood improve overall wellness and reduce the risk of substance abuse. 

Common Causes and Risk Factors

Young people have one of the highest rates of substance abuse. Teens and young adults often experience significant stressors and may have difficulty accessing support resources. 

Common causes and risk factors for teen substance abuse include: 

  • Peer pressure or rejection
  • Lack of social support 
  • Environmental factors 
  • Chronic health issues 
  • Unhealthy family dynamics 
  • Abuse or neglect
  • Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)
  • Undiagnosed or untreated mental health disorders 

According to, “Risk factors that occur during early childhood further increase the risk of youth substance abuse.” Some parents may not be aware if their children experience bullying, peer harassment, or other stressors outside the home. Frequently checking in with adolescents and teens about their daily lives reduces the risk of substance use or mental health disorders.

How to Prevent and Address Teenagers Abusing Drugs

Preventing teen addiction requires parental figures and other adults, including teachers and community leaders, to monitor potential risk factors for addiction. Teenagers may not always recognize when they experience or develop unhealthy behaviors. According to Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, “One of the most consistent findings in research on the etiology of adolescent substance use is that social influences are central, powerful factors that promote experimentation or initiation of use.” Parental figures protect teens from drug and alcohol abuse by observing their social interactions and ensuring they have the skills necessary to avoid peer pressure and prioritize personal safety. 

Some community-based and family prevention initiatives focused on adolescents and teens include: 

  • Mental health and substance abuse education 
  • Basic life skills development 
  • Parenting classes to teach adults how to effectively monitor their children and address topics related to substance abuse 
  • Establishing family rules regarding drugs and alcohol
  • Community-based preventative programs aimed at young people 

Adults have an obligation to safeguard young people and educate them on the realities of substance abuse. Setting clear rules and being open about discussing mental health and substance abuse with adolescents and teens can prevent addiction. 

Seeking Help for Teenagers Abusing Drugs

Parents often feel helpless or uncertain of how to get help when a teen develops substance abuse. Professional addiction recovery programs provide the best long-term outcomes for teens experiencing SUD. Resources are available to help families navigate treatment and recovery. 

Some reliable resources for preventing or addressing substance abuse include:

  • Local health clinics
  • School counselors 
  • Community centers 
  • Private or community-based rehabilitation programs 
  • Online government sites dedicated to teen health

Treatment programs at West Coast Recovery Centers provide tailored care and support to teens over 18. The care team also provides information and referrals to local programs servicing younger individuals struggling with substance abuse. Clinicians collaborate with families to ensure they know how best to support teens during recovery. 

Family Dynamics and Teen Recovery

Healthy family dynamics play an essential role in preventing and treating substance abuse in young people. Parental figures, siblings, and extended family members often provide critical support to teens participating in treatment programs. West Coast Recovery Centers offers family therapy and other services to facilitate family healing and ensure teens have a nurturing home environment. 

Teenagers abuse drugs and alcohol for many reasons. Often, multiple underlying causes and factors contribute to the development of substance use disorder in young people. The effects of teen substance abuse can be devastating if left untreated. Parents protect their children by regularly screening them for signs of substance abuse, normalizing conversations about mental health, and providing a safe space where teens feel comfortable seeking help for health concerns. West Coast Recovery Centers treats young adults and educates parents on how best to support their child’s recovery. Family involvement in treatment often increases the effectiveness of therapy. To learn more about our programs and services, call us today at (760) 492-6509