Why Are Teens Vulnerable to Illicit Drug Abuse?

Illicit drug use among teenagers is one of the major public health concerns in America. People who initiate drug use at younger age are more likely to get addicted than those who use drugs later in their life. According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA), 90 percent of American addicts start smoking, drinking or using drugs before the age of 18 years. It also states that 25 percent of those people become addicts to some or the other drug.

These alarming statistics clearly state that drug use during teen years is very dangerous. We need to recognize this health problem and respond to it. But first, we need to know the reasons for teens getting into drug abuse. Understanding the reasons for their susceptibility may help us.

Statistics of tobacco, drug and alcohol abuse among teens
The number of teens exposed to tobacco, alcohol or illicit drugs in the United States is very disturbing. As per the National Survey on Drug Use and Health,
• More than 10 percent of youth aged between 12 and 17 were illicit drug users in 2010
• More than 8 percent of them used cigarettes
• More than 10 percent of them used tobacco products
• About 10 million persons aged 12 to 20 years (more than 26 percent of this age group) reported drinking alcohol

Reasons for their vulnerability to these unhealthy habits
Teens try drugs for various reasons. Some of the major ones include
• Curiosity
• Socializing with friends
• Peer pressure
• Perceived relaxation and fun
• To escape from psychological pain

Some other reasons include:

Partial development of brain: Several studies have already found that the brain is still developing during the teen years. According to scientists at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the greatest changes to the parts of the brain that are responsible for functions such as judgment, emotions, self-control, and organization occur during teen years. So, their behavior is often mystifying – poor decision-making, emotional outbursts, irresponsibility, etc.

Adding to this, some teens also engage in impulsive and risk-taking behavior. These things make them vulnerable to unhealthy habits like smoking, alcohol or illicit drug abuse.

Peer pressure
The internal pressure to do the things that their peers are doing is common among teens. Since teens feel more independent, their peers naturally play a greater role in their life. They develop close friendships with some peers and treat them as extended family members. They turn to such peers for support and guidance.

Peer pressure to some extent is acceptable. But many times it is very dangerous. Teens generally face peer pressure when it comes to smoking (cigarettes) and drinking. Since marijuana is inexpensive and easily available, many teens are abusing this harmful drug perceiving it to be harmless. They often don’t realize that it is the gateway to other illicit drugs like heroin, cocaine, etc.

Problems at school and other family issues
Poor academic performance and other problems at school cause stress and depression in teens. Even, family issues at home with respect to parents may disturb them. In order to cope up with these problems, they may resort to these unhealthy habits.

Passive parenting
Passive parenting is one of the major risk factors for teenage illicit drug and alcohol abuse. When teens are raised themselves with little supervision or when parents are not involved in their lives, they are more likely to get into these unhealthy habits.

Responsible parents show love and affection, monitor their teens’ activities and set rules against unhealthy habits. Passive parenting, on the other hand, is less organized and allows teens to take decisions. Due lack of proper parental supervision and guidance, they take decisions on their own (most of the times they are destructive).

Now that you got an idea on why teens are vulnerable to illicit drug or alcohol abuse, communicate properly and help them in planning and decision-making. Suggest tips to avoid peer pressure. Also, help them with their problems at school. Showing concern and helping them take right decisions can make them stay away from these unhealthy habits.