Drug and Alcohol Use Among Teens
Teens today are at risk of destructive choices like drugs and alcohol due to the many pressures they face daily. The hopeful reality is: A USA TODAY online article recently reported drug and alcohol use among U.S. teens saw a record decline in 2021 as the COVID-19 pandemic endured, according to a nationwide survey by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
“We have never seen such dramatic decreases in drug use among teens in just a one-year period,” the institute’s director, Nora Volkow, said in a statement.
Richard Miech, principal investigator of the study, told USA TODAY, “A lot of kids were at home learning remotely, so they weren’t exposed to peer pressure at school. Schools are often a source for many kids to get their drugs, so they couldn’t have that either. And then there were fewer parties, fewer opportunities to hang out with peers unsupervised by parents. All those things together really led to a drop in availability of drugs and opportunities.”
The survey called, “Monitoring the Future”, tracks substance use among 8th, 10th and 12th graders in public and private schools. Between February and June of 2021, researchers surveyed over 32,000 students. The survey found that from 2020 to 2021:
- Alcohol use fell from 21% to 17% among 8th graders, from 41% to 29% among 10th graders, and from 55% to 47% among 12th graders
- Marijuana use declined from 11% to 7% among 8th graders, from 28% to 17% among 10th graders, and from 35% to 31% among 12th graders
- Students who reported vaping nicotine dropped from 17% to 12% among 8th graders, from 31% to 20% among 10th graders, and from 35% to 27% among 12th graders
- The percentage of teens who had ever used any illicit drug other than marijuana dropped by more than 25% in 2021
- There were also significant declines in the use of drugs including cocaine, hallucinogens, tranquilizers, and prescription opioids
Why Teens Use or Misuse Drugs & Alcohol
While the decline of drug and alcohol use among U.S. teens is hopeful, it’s still critical to have conversations with teens about the consequences of using drugs and alcohol, and the importance of making healthy choices.
According to Mayoclinic.org, “Various factors can contribute to teen drug use and misuse. First-time use often occurs in social settings with easily accessible substances, such as alcohol and cigarettes. Continued use might be a result of insecurities or a desire for social acceptance. Teens may feel indestructible and might not consider the consequences of their actions, leading them to take dangerous risks with drugs.”
Common risk factors for teen drug and alcohol use include:
- A family history of substance abuse
- A mental or behavioral health condition, such as depression, anxiety or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Impulsive or risk-taking behavior
- A history of traumatic events, such as experiencing a car accident or being a victim of abuse
- Low self-esteem or feelings of social rejection
Consequences of Teen Drug and Alcohol Use
The effects of substance abuse on the developing minds and bodies of young people can have a lasting negative impact on their lives. According to Mayoclinic.org, risks of substance abuse can do the following:
- Drug dependence: Teens who misuse drugs are at increased risk of serious drug use later in life
- Poor judgment: Teenage drug use is associated with poor judgment in social and personal interactions
- Sexual activity: Drug use is associated with high-risk sexual activity, unsafe sex and unplanned pregnancy
- Mental health disorders: Drug use can complicate or increase the risk of mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety
- Impaired driving: Driving under the influence of any drug can impair a driver’s motor skills, putting the driver, passengers, and others on the road at risk
- Changes in school performance: Substance use can result in a decline in academic performance
How to Help Prevent Teen Drug and Alcohol Use
Parents play a critical role in their children’s lives. Here are some ways you can have an open and honest conversation with your teen about drugs and alcohol:
- Discuss healthy ways to alleviate pressures: Today’s students are faced with immense pressure from academics to peer and social pressures, sports, and stress at home. Brainstorm with your teen on how they can alleviate these pressures using positive and healthy strategies, instead of turning to harmful and dangerous substances.
- Ask your teen their views: Avoid lectures. Instead, create a safe space for both of you to have an ongoing dialogue, and encourage them to ask questions. Assure your teen that they can be honest with you.
- Provide support: Offer praise and encouragement when your teen succeeds. A strong bond between you and your teen might help prevent your teen from using drugs.
Book a YES Drug and Alcohol Prevention Program!
YES drug and alcohol prevention programs educate students on the dangers associated with nicotine (including vaping and dabbing), alcohol, marijuana, synthetic drugs, and misuse or sharing of prescription drugs. Students learn about the impact that substance abuse and addiction can have on their health, family, and future goals when it comes to their education and career. Programs are given by grade level for content relevance.
Want to learn more about our student drug and alcohol prevention programs? Please send us a message through our Book Now page, and someone from our YES team will be in touch with you within one business day.