Substance Use and Abuse in Adolescents
Substance use in adolescents is a teen's use of alcohol, tobacco, and drugs (including prescription medicines without a prescription). Such use could be occasional experimenting or regular and ongoing.
Any substance use raises the risk of other problems. For example, adolescents who use substances are more likely to have car crashes, fights, unwise or unwanted sex, overdose, or other behavior problems. Substance use is considered substance abuse when adolescents continue to use substances even after these behavior problems happen.
Adolescents who abuse substances are at a higher risk of having long-term problems. These problems include mental health problems, poor grades in school, and substance use disorders such as addiction and overdose.
It’s common for adolescents to try alcohol or other substances, but regular use is rarer
Alcohol is the most common substance used by adolescents—they often drink heavily and binge drink, which raises the chance of fights, car crashes, and other causes of injury
Parents, peers, and the media influence an adolescent's attitude toward substance use
Adolescents use and abuse many substances, including over-the-counter medicines. The most common substances are:
Adolescents also abuse:
Tobacco use includes smoking cigarettes, pipes, or cigars, chewing tobacco, putting tobacco between the lower lip and gum, and inhaling it into the nose
Most adults who smoke started smoking as adolescents
Adolescents are more likely to smoke if they have parents who smoke
To prevent tobacco use, don’t use tobacco in front of your children and talk to them about the effects of tobacco
If your child already smokes or uses tobacco, encourage quitting and help him or her find support
Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes, vapes) don't burn tobacco. They heat up a liquid that contains nicotine, which is the active ingredient in tobacco. The "smoke" that comes off e-cigarettes is just water vapor that contains nicotine. Because it's the smoke from burning tobacco that causes lung cancer and chronic lung disease (COPD), e-cigarettes have been promoted as a safer alternative to cigarettes. However, they aren't necessarily safe:
Talk to your child and your child's doctor about substance abuse if you notice:
Your child's doctor will:
Treatment for substance use disorders in adolescents is like treatment in adults. But adolescents should be treated by those who specialize in that age group and their needs.