There are several reasons teens use drugs; many of them are easy to identify, others require a deep understanding of the mental health of the teen. Parents of drug-addicted adolescents often look back and ask themselves, “why?” Why did their child get involved with substance abuse while other members of his or her age group did not?
Causes of Drug Abuse Among Teenagers
The several risk factors outlined below make a child more likely to experiment with drugs or drug-related behavior:
- Peer pressure. It is an adage so old that it now seems clichéd, but your child’s peer group has a very real effect on their alcohol or drug use. In groups where this behavior is accepted, there is a greater chance of drug or alcohol use in the individual. In those where it is not, the drug abuse rates can fall dramatically.
- Conflict at home. Parents who fight regularly – or have recently separated or divorced can cause young people to escape into drug and alcohol use. Some will take drugs to self-medicate their pain, while others will do it as an act of rebellion against the parents who are causing them stress.
- Physical or sexual abuse. Many young people begin taking drugs to numb the pain of physical or sexual abuse. This is a very serious situation, as the isolation only pushes them further down the spiral of addiction.
- Poor performance at school. Kids who have high academic expectations placed on them may turn to cocaine or other stimulants in an effort to keep their grades from slipping.
- Genetic links. Countless studies have now proven the genetic link in terms of addiction. Teenagers with parents, grandparents or other relatives who had a drinking problem are more likely to develop alcoholism themselves.
- Self-image issues. Many young women will begin taking stimulants in an effort to lose weight. This is part of the damaging pursuit of an unrealistic body type that causes millions of young women to develop eating disorders every year. In addition to stimulant use, the desire to lose weight can lead to more drinking and tobacco use
Recent Study Highlights Genetics and Environment
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), scientists have proposed various explanations concerning the reasons teens use drugs. There is no absolute reason why some individuals become involved with drugs and then escalate to abuse. It also is not known why other teens are not threatened by this dangerous behavior and manage to avoid the pitfalls of drug abuse.
Among everything outlined above, NIDA highlights two explanations in particular. Hence, one popular scientific explanation points to a biological cause, such as having a family history of drug or alcohol abuse. Indeed, many scientists favor this explanation in the majority of cases. However, another explanation is that abusing drugs can lead to affiliation with drug-abusing peers. Such an affiliation exposes a teen to other negative behaviors and more kinds of drugs. Also, gender, race, and geographic location can play a role in how and when teen drug use begins. Still, there is no magic eight ball to reveal what will happen to parents.
For more about one teen’s personal experience with low self-esteem and destructive behavior, watch the video below.