The Most Commonly Abused Substances by Teens

Substance abuse isn’t just an adult problem—many families throughout the nation are struggling with adolescent or teen substance abuse and addiction. In one year alone, between 2014 and 2015, teen overdose deaths increased by 19 percent.

Some of the most commonly abused substances, like alcohol and marijuana, have been culturally associated with teenage substance abuse for decades. However, addiction rates for other substances like prescription stimulants and depressants are demonstrating that the trend toward prescription drug abuse is affecting teens.

Most Commonly Abused Substances

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, prescription drug abuse is increasing among teens. Part of the problem with teenage prescription drug abuse is that many kids have the mistaken idea that these drugs are safer because they were prescribed by a doctor. Teens are getting these drugs from their parents’ medicine cabinets, their friends, or dealers pedaling them illegally.

When it comes to prescription drugs, the most commonly abused substances are stimulants like Adderall and opioids like Vicodin or OxyContin. Depressants like Ambien are also increasingly being abused by teens. The National Institute on Drug Abuse maintains that while alcohol abuse has decreased among teens, the increase in prescription drug abuse appears to be taking its place.

Illegal Drugs Abused by Teens

Marijuana is the most commonly abused substance by teens. Although marijuana use has been legalized in some states, laws specifically sanction recreational use of this substance for adults, not minors. While increasing numbers of states are opting to legalize this drug, the National Institute on Drug Abuse has not altered its position that marijuana can permanently impair developing brains, negatively affecting short-term memory and the ability to focus. Marijuana use can also damage lungs and increase heart rate.

Other drugs that can be abused by teens include MDMA, LSD, bath salts, anabolic steroids, inhalants, methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin.

Focus on Recovery

People who begin to abuse drugs or alcohol as teens are at increased risk for developing a substance addiction. The younger a person is when they first begin using a substance, the higher the likelihood that they will develop an addiction at some point in their life.

If teen drug abuse is proven or even just strongly suspected, parents should seek professional counseling and therapy for their child immediately. Addiction treatment for the most commonly abused substances can help teens to stop using drugs and begin living a full, sober life. Therapists can help families learn more about factors associated with teen drug use as well as how to cope with their teen’s abuse problem and help them on their recovery journey.

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