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What Drugs Do Teens Use?

Many parents worry at some point that their teen might be experimenting with drugs or alcohol. The world seems to be growing ever more pharmacologically diverse, with the local news frequently warning the public about the dangerous new drug they’ve never heard of. What drugs are currently popular among teens?

For the most part, teens are doing the same drugs teens have always done. Alcohol and tobacco are the most commonly used drugs by a wide margin, followed by marijuana. More than a third of high school seniors have used marijuana in the past year. By comparison, fewer than nine percent have used the next most common drug, amphetamines. Adderall probably accounts for much of that use. After those come synthetic marijuana and prescription painkillers. Many of the drugs teens abuse are prescription or over-the-counter drugs. Younger teens especially tend to go for cough medicine and inhalants because they are more readily available.

The reasons teens use drugs are not terribly surprising–to fit in, curiosity, to feel good, to study intensely for many hours, and to stop feeling bad. Although using for any reason is cause for concern and can lead to addiction, using to stop feeling bad is especially troubling because it might point to some deeper problem. A teen might experiment with a drug and be totally indifferent to it and never bother with it again, but a teen who is using to deal with depression, anxiety, abuse, or social isolation is in real danger of serious addiction. If you can identify the issue early on and get her help, it can save her a lot of trouble down the road.

Although teen drug use is common and will probably never go away entirely, there are some real problems associated with it. The earlier someone starts using drugs or alcohol, the more likely she will become addicted later on. This is particularly true if someone in her immediate family has struggled with addiction. Early use of drugs and alcohol can also impair cognitive development. Human brains don’t finish developing until people are in their mid twenties. The earlier someone uses drugs or alcohol, the more permanent the cognitive effects.

Some degree of reckless behavior among teenagers is inevitable due to their developing brain structure and vulnerability to impulsivity. The best way to keep them from trying something really dangerous is to talk to them about drugs when they are young, much younger than you might expect–ideally around eight or nine, or even younger. Once they enter adolescence, they care more about what their friends think than what their parents do and it’s hard to get through to them.

If your teen is struggling with addiction, Gardens Wellness Center can help him or her detox and decide on a treatment strategy. Call us today at 844-828-1050 or email us at to learn more.