girl with pink hair holding pills

By NCADD Staff

Even though schools across the country take a strong stance on drug and alcohol use, there are various types of drugs available to high school and college students. Whether students are actively seeking out drugs and alcohol or not, they will likely be introduced to them at some point by their peers. Educating your teen about risk factors and consequences can be a simple yet effective way to prevent substance abuse. Here’s how to discourage drug and alcohol use in your teen. 

Drugs commonly misused by students

Some of the most common drugs misused by students and teens today include:

  • Marijuana: Marijuana is a psychoactive drug derived from the cannabis plant, and abusing it can lead to issues with brain development into adulthood. Marijuana use can also lead to difficulties with concentration, memory, and coordination. 
  • Adderall: Adderall is a stimulant drug prescribed to people with ADHD that is used recreationally to achieve a euphoric high. Negative side effects of Adderall abuse include depression, difficulty concentrating, increased alcohol use, panic attacks, paranoia and suicidal thoughts. 
  • Inhalants: Inhalants are chemical vapors often found in household products that are inhaled to achieve an instant high. Negative effects of inhalant abuse include weight loss, depression, liver or kidney disorders, and even sudden death.
  • Synthetic marijuana: Synthetic marijuana is made of dried herbs sprayed with human-made synthetic chemicals. Negative effects of synthetic marijuana use include irritability, hallucinations or delusions, suicidal thoughts, seizures, heart attack, and kidney failure, among others. 
  • Cough medicine: Cough medicine is sometimes used recreationally, and abuse of this drug can cause hallucinations, nausea and vomiting, panic attacks, seizures, high blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, and paranoia, among others. 
  • Alcohol: Negative effects of alcohol abuse include problems at school, memory issues, difficulty concentrating, use of other substances, and alcohol poisoning, among others. 

Risk factors of drug and alcohol abuse

While anyone can develop an issue with drugs and alcohol, here are some common risk factors of drug and alcohol use and abuse in teens: 

  • Family history of substance abuse
  • Parental figures modeling a positive attitude toward drug/alcohol use 
  • Lack of parental monitoring
  • Sexual orientation or gender identity struggles
  • Association with peers who participate in drug use 
  • Lack of academic achievement or involvement in extracurricular activities 
  • Pre-existing traumas or mental health conditions 

Consequences of substance abuse in teens

The physical health consequences of drug and alcohol abuse in teens can be severe and long-lasting. Substance abuse during these formative years can significantly disrupt normal growth and brain development, leading to potential long-term cognitive impairments. For instance, alcohol use can damage the liver and cause heart problems, while drugs like marijuana may affect lung health. Moreover, the use of stimulants like Adderall can increase the risk of heart complications. Understanding these risks can help teens make more informed choices about their health.

Some consequences of substance abuse in teens include:

  • Drug dependence
  • Poor judgment in social and personal interactions
  • Increased unsafe sexual activity
  • New or worsened mental health conditions
  • Driving under the influence 
  • Decrease in quality of school performance
  • Negative physical health effects

The role of peer pressure and social dynamics

Peer pressure and the desire for social acceptance are powerful forces in a teen’s life, and they can significantly influence attitudes and decisions regarding drug and alcohol use. Teens may feel compelled to experiment with substances to fit in or gain approval from their peers. This dynamic is particularly challenging to navigate, as the desire to belong is a fundamental aspect of adolescent development. Open conversations about the impact of peer pressure and the importance of making individual choices can empower teens to resist these influences and make healthier decisions.

Here are some ways peer pressure can negatively influence teens:

  • Altered perceptions of normal behavior: Peer pressure can skew a teen’s understanding of what behaviors are considered ‘normal,’ including drug and alcohol use.
  • Compromised personal values: Teens might go against their own values or better judgment to fit in or gain approval from their peer group.
  • Heightened vulnerability to risky behaviors: The desire to belong can lead teens to engage in risky behaviors they would typically avoid.
  • Suppressed individually: Peer pressure can stifle a teen’s ability to make independent choices, affecting their personal growth and decision-making skills.

Preventing long-term drug and alcohol issues from a young age

Here are some tips for preventing drug and alcohol use in your teen: 

  • Talk to your teen openly about drugs: Instead of lecturing your teen, be open to having a receptive conversation with them in which you listen to their views, discuss reasons why it’s harmful to use drugs, and share ways that they can resist peer pressure. 
  • Establish rules and consequences: Without getting angry with your teen, establish and enforce rules and consequences regarding drugs and alcohol. For example, expect them to decline a ride from a friend who is under the influence. 
  • Get to know your teen’s friends: This is a simple way to determine whether or not your teen’s friends are using drugs and alcohol, therefore exposing your teen to them as well. 
  • Keep track of your medications: Take inventory of all medications in the house. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medications. 
  • Provide support: Create a supportive relationship with your teen in which you acknowledge their success. 
  • Understand the signs of drug use: Be aware of any sudden changes in your teens’ friend groups, school performance, and behaviors. These could be warning signs that something is going on with your teen you don’t know about, such as drug and alcohol use.

If you need resources to use when planning a conversation with your children about drug use and abuse, visit Wellspring Center for Prevention for more information and guidance.

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