3 Risk Factors for Teen Alcohol and Drug Abuse

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Do you know the risk factors for teen alcohol and drug abuse? One of the biggest questions parents ask is how they can spare teens from addiction. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there are factors that can put a teenager at a higher risk. There are also ways caregivers can protect the child.

Risk Factors for Teen Alcohol and Drug Abuse

There are risk factors for teen alcohol and drug abuse. Yet, what forms a risk factor for one teen may not endanger another. Everyone is unique. According to NIH, some risk factors include:

  • Early aggressive behavior This risk factor is usually seen in early childhood
  • Little parental supervision
  • Peer drug and alcohol abuse
  • Availability of drugs
  • Low income

The risk factors are increased when you consider how drug abuse affects the teenage brain. Once initial risk factors open the door, the biological dangers of drug use on the growing adolescent brain keeps many teens in the danger zone. They remain caught in the trap of teen drug use and abuse.

Teenage Drug Abuse Changes the Brain

Per the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), drug abuse greatly changes the human brain. In fact, drugs and alcohol affect the teenage brain even more than the adult brain. Teen brains are still in development. Thus, the neural patterns are more vulnerable to the dangers of alcohol abuse and drug abuse.

This is another major reason why teens use drugs beyond the initial experimentation phase. As addictive agents, many drugs activate the brain’s pleasure circuit. Once a teen’s pleasure circuit has been activated, the teen is compelled to repeat the same negative behaviors.

Once a teen tries a drug, the risk factors skyrocket. This proven fact is true even if the teen is just experimenting.  Experimentation leads to drug abuse and possibly addiction.

Teenagers Need to be Safeguarded

Given the risks involved, teens need to be safeguarded. Once drugs are introduced into the teenage brain, the brain functioning alters.

In truth, almost all drugs change the way the brain works, including alcohol. This change is described by scientists as chemical neurotransmission damage. Once a teen’s brain is altered in this manner, the risk factors for ongoing teen drug and alcohol use increase greatly.

Parents need to catch teen drug use early. In most cases, the initial changes in neural transmission can be healed. In cases of prolonged drug use, the changes become more fundamental. These long-lasting changes are a major component of the disease of addiction. It is one reason why addiction is now referred to as a brain disease.

Do you know how to lower the risk factors and protect your teen?

Protective Factors

Parents who see one or more risk factors for drug abuse and addiction in the lives of their teen should not panic. There are ways to help teens avoid the pitfalls of dependence.

However, there are steps you can take to reduce the danger. For example, treat early childhood aggression with parental and teacher support. Parents must make an effort to be active in their children’s lives. Knowing your teen’s friends can help ensure that they are choosing positive peers.

If your teen is experimenting with drugs and alcohol, provide early intervention and treatment. Indeed, the risk factors for teen alcohol and drug use need to be heeded. Without question, teen drug use is serious from day one.

Teach them how to handle peer and environmental pressures and give them the tools they need to make positive choices.

Image courtesy of iStock.