If you have a high schooler, chances are he or she has experimented with drugs or alcohol at least once. Does it make them “a bad kid”? Of course not. Trying alcohol and drugs for the first time can be part of growing up. We all have this friend in high school who started drinking and doing drugs as a teen and turned out just fine. Maybe, that teen was you. However, early experimenting can also be a sign of some deeper issues.
The following topics are 10 reasons why teens use drugs.
1. They Are Curious
Drugs and alcohol are everywhere… on television, in conversation with their peers, on social media. They are often presented as not being a big deal or cool. It’s natural for teens to want to know what alcohol tastes like, what being drunk feels like, or what being high is really like. Adolescence is often a time of firsts and hopefully experimenting episodically with “soft” drugs or alcohol will go no further than that.
2. They Want to Feel Like They Belong
Teenagers love to feel like they belong to a group. Their friends are the most important people in their lives. So, they are particularly likely to succumb to peer pressure if their friends are drinking or smoking marijuana around them. They’ll probably want to join in so they’ll feel accepted.
3. They Want to Feel Grown-up
Using drugs and alcohol is often depicted as a rite of passage into adulthood. They might see older relatives they admire, an older friend (or even yourself), indulge into a glass of wine, a cigarette, or a joint and want to mimic it.
4. They Are Looking for Heightened Sensations
It’s a well-known fact that teenagers are not always the best decision makers, especially in the spur of the moment. Drugs and alcohol work quickly, giving them instant gratification.
Inherently, teens are risk seekers. Sometimes they’ll engage in forbidden behaviors like underage drinking or illegal drug consumption just for fun. If their peers join in, it gives them an extra incentive to indulge.
5. They Have Low Self-esteem
Alcohol and drugs have a reputation for loosening inhibitions. Its effects can incentivize a teenager to use them if they’re going through a socially awkward stage due to puberty. This is also true for teenagers who outwardly maintain a confident attitude on a regular basis.
6. They’ve Got Access to Drugs or Alcohol
Teens are more likely to start drinking or consuming drugs if they are easily accessible. Be aware of the unlocked family liquor cabinet or prescription drugs sitting in a relative’s medicine cabinet.
7. They Are Stressed Out
According to a 2007 study conducted by Partnership for a Drug-Free America, stress is the main reason why teens drink or use drugs. With SATs and college applications looming, teenagers see drug consumption as a form of self-medication, which is something only 7% of parents are aware of.
8. They Are Depressed
Depression is the most common mental disorder in the United States, and it is not always diagnosed properly. Teenagers who are depressed and whose symptoms are dismissed as typical sulky teenage behavior are more likely to turn to drugs and alcohol as a form of self-medication.
9. They Want to Rebel
Engaging in prohibited behavior is a way for teenagers to rebel against their parents’ authority if they see it as too oppressive or, on the contrary, too permissive.
10. They Are Genetically Predisposed
Not everyone is created equal when it comes to drugs and alcohol: studies have shown that there is a strong genetic component to addiction. If there is a history of addiction in your family, your teenager needs to be aware of it before engaging in risky behaviors.
The only person who knows why your teenager might be consuming drugs or alcohol is your child. It’s crucial to maintain an open and honest conversation with them as you help them navigate some of the most turbulent years in the human experience.