What Risk Factors Increase a Teen’s Likelihood of Substance Abuse?

Substance abuse is a prevalent problem for many teens in the United States. Certain life experiences and problems at home can increase a teen’s risk of turning to drugs or alcohol. These risk factors include issues with the teenager’s family dynamic and also personal problems.

Some risk factors are caused by a teen’s home life and upbringing. These factors might be difficult to overcome or fix. Other issues can be addressed using education and therapy. School resources and family intervention are essential in helping teens overcome the following risk factors.

School and Family-Related Risk Factors

A child’s family history sometimes puts him or her at risk for developing a substance abuse problem. For instance, if a teen grows up in a home where parents abuse drugs, the teen might learn to think of substance abuse as normal. This is especially true when parents don’t show disapproval of drug use. In many cases, teens learn to abuse drugs from their peer group.

In some families, parents aren’t involved in a child’s life. The parent may work frequently or simply show little interest in the child. In such households there is little monitoring from parents, which makes teens more likely to abuse drugs or engage in risky behaviors.

Risk Factors Related to Mental Health and Social Health

Teens who have mental health or behavioral health issues are at risk for developing a substance abuse problem. Some conditions that increase a child’s likelihood of using drugs are:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorder
  • ADHD

Some children may turn to substance abuse as a result of experiencing certain life events, such as the following:

  • Being the victim of physical or sexual abuse
  • Experiencing a traumatic event, such as a death or car accident
  • Social rejection

Certain behaviors also increase the risk of substance abuse. People who display risk-taking behavior, such as dangerous stunts or life-threatening behavior, are at a higher risk for abusing substances. People who have low self-esteem are high-risk too.

Because so many teens begin abusing substances in social situations, a teen’s social life can also play a factor. People tend to want to fit in with their social group, especially during the teen years. Therefore, a teen may feel pressure to take drugs or drink in order to be socially accepted.

Prevention Methods

Being involved in a child’s life is one of the best preventative measures a parent can take. Spending family togetherness time and showing an interest in the child’s activities are important. Parents should also do the following:

  • Discuss drug use with the child in a calm, supportive way.
  • Express disapproval of the drug use.
  • Speak with a school counselor or substance abuse counselor, if necessary.
  • Discuss the negative impact of drug use with the child.
  • Be familiar with the child’s friends and his or her daily activities.

Parents should also strive to set a good example for their children. Parents who use drugs or alcohol should address their own substance abuse problems. Some common signs of drug or alcohol abuse are changes in eating habits or sleep patters. Parents should also be alarmed if a child’s physical appearance changes. Track marks on the arms or weight loss are both red flags. Parents should also monitor a child’s use of prescription drugs.

A teen who uses drugs will typically display poor school performance. The drug-abusing student will show irresponsible behavior and a lack of interest in school or other activities. Substance abusing children will often withdraw from family and friends. In many cases, the drug abusing child will spend more time alone than he or she did previously. Parents may notice drug paraphernalia in the child’s room.

Parents who notice the above issues should conference with the child’s teachers. Parents should ask teachers and school administrators to help the family explore school and community resources for the child.

Teen substance abuse is a prevalent problem in the U.S. Most risk factors are related to social issues and family and behavioral problems. However, early intervention from families and schools can help children overcome a substance abuse disorder. If you or someone you know struggles with addiction, act now. Call us today at 833-762-3739.