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What causes teen drug abuse?

Updated: Feb 16, 2023

The teen years are a time of growing independence and experimentation. However, drug abuse can be a serious problem for young people, especially if it becomes an ongoing habit.

There are many reasons why a teen might start using drugs, including peer pressure and the desire for attention. But there are other factors that may contribute to their decision to experiment with drugs – such as mental illness or family issues.

In this blog post, we'll look at some common causes of teen drug abuse and how you can help your child avoid them by learning how to be a parent smarter!

Peer pressure

Peer pressure is a strong influence on teens. Your teen's friends can encourage them to do things that are good for their health, like getting more exercise or eating healthier foods. They may also try to convince your teen to do things that aren't good for their health, such as smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol.

You want to help your child make good decisions in the face of peer pressure. Talk with your child about how they feel when they're pressured by their friends, and how they deal with it. Encourage them to think before they react in social situations, so they don't do anything impulsively that might hurt them later on down the road.

If you notice that other kids at school are pressuring your child into doing something illegal or dangerous (like drinking alcohol), talk with an adult who can help you figure out what steps need to be taken next!


It's important to understand that teens are naturally curious and want to experiment. That's why they'll try drugs, even if they don't think they will like them or become addicted.

Teen drug abuse often starts with curiosity or peer pressure, but it can also be about feeling grown up, fitting in with friends, being cool and popular (or rebellious), getting attention from friends or parents, or feeling good—even though there are safer ways of doing these things.


Boredom is a big reason why teens turn to drugs. They just need something to do, and drug use starts looking like an attractive option.

This isn't meant to be a lecture about how you should let your kids entertain themselves: You've got enough on your plate already! But it's important to keep boredom in mind when thinking about how you can prevent teen drug abuse.

Teens have lots of time on their hands, and many parents aren't always aware of what they're doing with it. They may think that their kids are just hanging out with friends or spending too much time online—but actually, those activities can lead right into the trap of boredom.

So what can you do?

Make sure that there's always something interesting going on in your home (or at least somewhere nearby). Don't leave them alone for long periods of time—especially if they don't have anything else structured in their schedule for those hours!

And finally: Get involved yourself! If your kid wants someone around who will talk about things other than schoolwork or chores then offer up some stimulating conversation topics from time to time so he doesn't feel like his life revolves entirely around work/school/hobbies.

Other mental health disorders

Other mental health disorders can also lead to teen drug abuse. Here are some examples:

Depression and anxiety

Teens who struggle with depression or anxiety may turn to drugs or alcohol as a way of coping with their feelings. These substances can make them feel better in the short term, but they can also cause unwanted side effects that make things worse in the long run. If your child seems depressed, you should talk to him about it and help him find healthy ways (like talking to friends) to deal with his emotions.

Bipolar disorder (also known as manic-depressive disorder)

This condition causes unusual shifts in energy levels and moods, making it difficult for people—including teens—to have stable relationships with others or keep up at school or work. Bipolar disorder often starts during adolescence, so if you think your child might have this condition, talk to her doctor right away so she gets help before things get worse!


Trauma is another common cause of teen drug abuse. Trauma can include things like the death of a loved one, sexual or physical abuse, the loss of a parent or family member, exposure to violence in their home environment, and war crimes (e.g., genocide).

This type of trauma can lead to substance abuse as teens try to cope with their feelings by escaping from drugs and alcohol.

Poverty, neglect, and abuse

If a child comes from an impoverished background and has little parental supervision or love from their guardians, they may be more likely to turn to drugs as a way of escaping the harsh reality around them.

Similarly, if a child is neglected by their parents—for example through physical and emotional abuse—they will often seek out something else that can fill the void left by the lack of loving care that should have been provided at home. Drug use is one way for teens who have endured such circumstances to cope with what they've experienced and help them escape reality in some way.

Performance improvement

You and your child may think that drugs are bad for performance, but the truth is that there are some substances that can actually improve it. Some of them include:

  • Marijuana: This drug has been shown to improve concentration and memory, which means it might be helpful for students who are studying for an exam or taking a test. It also increases creativity, making it useful for artists who want to create new artwork. However, marijuana use can reduce motivation levels and make people less focused on their goals. The effects of marijuana vary depending on the amount taken and how often it's used, so one person could feel energized by smoking pot while another gets tired from smoking too much weed!

Cultural influences

Social media is a big part of every teen's life. It has become the primary way for young people to communicate with each other, so it's not surprising that social media can influence teens' drug use. Social media also drives many teenagers to want to look like celebrities or their friends, and those influences could lead them to try drugs.

Many parents worry about the effect of their own parenting on teen drug abuse, but you have many other influences in your life that may play an even bigger role in influencing your child's behavior than you do:

  • The community where you live and work - this includes all aspects of your environment like schools, local businesses/organizations, and youth programs.

  • Your family members (including extended family).


The good news is that we can help our teens avoid drug abuse by listening to them and taking an active interest in their lives. We can be aware of the potential causes of addiction and intervene when we see signs of addiction. We can also support them in getting treatment as soon as possible so they don’t have to suffer alone.

If you need additional help with your teen, please don't hesitate to reach out to our team. If you’re feeling exhausted and not sure what to do next, we can help. We work in the home with families to help remedy problematic behaviors and create better habits long-term.


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