Substance Abuse In Teenagers: Facts, Signs, Treatment And Counseling

Substance abuse is a wide-ranging term that includes addictive behaviors that involve abusing harmful substances such as alcohol, marijuana, heroin, prescription medications, and stimulants (cocaine, methamphetamines, amphetamines, etc.)

Teen substance abuse has become epidemic throughout the globe - including most parts of the US. and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. Below is a statistical analysis conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

The following snapshot of analysis serves as an eye-opening look into just how severe America's teenage substance abuse epidemic has become:

  • Alcohol - the most deadly of all substances, alcohol also remains the most popularly abused substance among teenagers. According to NIDA's research, it has been abused by 36 % of middle schoolers, 60% of sophomores, and 71% of seniors in high school. What's more, according to their study, 41% of 12th graders, 28% of 10th graders and 14% of 8th graders admitted to abusing alcohol in the previous 30 days.
  • Marijuana - by far the least dangerous substance on this list, but nevertheless a serious issue among parents of teens, marijuana is also the least abused substance with only 6.1% of high schoolers admitting to using the drug on a regular basis.
  • Over the Counter Drugs (OTC) - OTC drugs are the easiest substance to obtain as they can be purchased at any convenient store, local grocer or pharmacy without a prescription. These types of substances include cough medicine which is consumed by roughly 10% of teens each year. It should be noted that, despite its convenient accessibility, OTC medications can be extremely dangerous and can even be fatal if enough is consumed.
  • Prescription Drugs - these types of substances are among the most widely abused and dangerous drugs affecting teens today. According to NIDA's report, 23% of all teens admit to having abused prescription painkillers.
  • Tobacco — More than 1 in 4 (27 percent) of U.S. teens report having used a tobacco product in the previous 30 days (this includes vaping products).

Ranking of Most Used and Abused Substances

There is no doubt that substance abuse among troubled teens has become rampant among our nation's youth. Below is a list of the most abused substances by American girls according to a study conducted by the University of Michigan in 2015.

Each percentage represents how many American teens have abused the corresponding substance:

  • Marijuana 34%
  • Adderall 7.5%
  • Synthetic Marijuana 5.2%
  • Tranquilizers 4.7%
  • Cough Medicine 4.6%
  • Vicodin 4.4%
  • Hallucinogens 4.2%
  • Oxycontin 3.7%
  • Sedatives 3.6%
  • Meth 3.6%
  • LSD 2.9%
  • Cocaine 2.5%
  • Inhalants 1.9%

Risk Factors of Teenage Substance Abuse

Risk factors of teenage substance abuse are defined by the circumstances, environment, or other extraneous issues that influence a teenager to abuse harmful drugs. Like many self-destructive behaviors, the risk factors that can potentially lead to a teen abusing drugs and alcohol are complex and varied.

The following risk factors are among the most common among teenage girls:

  • lack of parental supervision or attention
  • failure of parents to communicate with their child
  • internal conflicts within the family dynamic that lead to dysfunction
  • failure of parents to properly discipline their child
  • a history of substance abuse issues such as addiction within the family
  • traumatic events in which the child was victimized (abuse, sexual abuse, etc.)
  • learning disabilities or a low emotional IQ
  • compulsivity issues (inability to control one's impulses)
  • emotional instability (typically stemming from the child's environment: school, home, etc.)
  • a proclivity to 'thrill seek' or act out in dangerous behaviors for the fun of it
  • peer pressure from friends or other teens with whom the child wishes acceptance and approval
  • lack of knowledge relating to the severity of potential harm that may result from abusing drugs or alcohol
  • severe boredom that leads to an intense need to escape their dull surroundings
  • the impulse to self-medicate due to hidden emotional or mental health-related issues
  • modeling parent behavior (if a parent abuses substances, typically a teenager will use this as an excuse to do the same)
  • academic problems (this typically relates to the abuse of stimulants that aid teens in studying harder and for extended periods)
  • if a teen becomes curious due to the reputation or desirable effect of certain substances
  • other present disorders

Early Detection is Key

Obviously, when it comes to teenage Girl substance abuse and addiction, treatment is absolutely necessary. The longer a drug-abusing adolescent girl goes without treatment the more likely they are to develop long-term, even life-long, dependency issues. Considering drug overdose is the second leading cause of fatalities among teenagers, early detection of substance abuse in teens is paramount.

Symptoms of Teenage Girl Substance Abuse

In order for parents to detect substance abuse issues in daughters teens, they first must become familiar with the symptoms, or tell-tale signs of what drug abuse looks like.

The following list is just a fraction and most common symptoms of teenage substance abuse:

  • a dramatic change in behavior with little or no apparent reason for such change
  • a sudden loss in energy
  • uncharacteristically frequent changes in behavior or attitude
  • seemingly over-the-top moods of elation proceeded by random or sudden bouts of depression
  • the dramatic change in the peer group
  • a noticeably steep decline in academic performance
  • a decline in grooming and personal hygiene
  • loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • the sudden deterioration of relationships with family and friends

While any one of these potential symptoms of drug or alcohol abuse may not necessarily mean that a teenage girl is, in fact, abusing harmful substances, displaying more than two or three at a time may be cause for alarm.

Parents who feel as though their child's behavior exhibits a few or more of these potential symptoms should at the very least talk to their child and become more aware of their ongoing activities. Moreover, if a parent discovers these symptoms to be likely or absolutely due to substance abuse, it is critical to seek immediate inpatient treatment for their child.

The Importance of 1-on-1 Therapy

Individual therapy with a licensed therapist is fundamental in rehabilitating an experimenting or addicted teenage girl. During individual therapy, clients can explore their feelings, beliefs, and behaviors in a safe, supportive, and confidential environment.

Unfortunately, like most forms of treatment, not all residential treatment centers offer optimal therapeutic opportunities to their teenage clients. What's more, programs for troubled teens such as boot camps or brat camps, fail to offer any type of licensed therapy whatsoever - often making problems worse once the adolescent returns home.

With that said, parents should do their due diligence when researching any prospective treatment center for their drug-abusing child.

Clearview Horizon is a community of faith. The girls pray at meals and other special moments. They get together and talk about what they are discovering about their belief in God. This is not forced on them; they come to it on their own terms as they deal with other issues in their lives.

By providing the mentoring and opportunities to develop a faith life, the girls grow as much spiritually as they do emotionally. They are required to attend, but not fully participate in church services, Sunday school, Bible study, and Youth Group. All of these activities are lead by people who wish to support our students in any way that they can.

Teen Girl Substance Abuse - A Disease that Affects The Whole Family

Adolescent substance abuse is not an issue that is limited to the life of the teen, rather, it is a disease that affects the entire family. When faced with the realization of their teen's substance abuse issues, it is perfectly natural for parents to become overwhelmed with worry. However, it is critical that parents faced with such adversity to understand that, although they do not have all the answers, maintaining composure and a sense of confidence is critical for the sake of their child. Giving into emotional stress, blaming themselves or acting harshly critical towards their child, will only exacerbate their child's serious issues.

If you are a parent whose child is currently abusing substances, act quickly with poise. More specifically, rather than torture yourself with matters that are out of your control, take it upon yourself to act on the ones you can control. Namely, locating a viable treatment option that is most suitable to rehabilitate your child's substance-abusing issues.

Residential Treatment Center for Girls

“Lighting Her Path”

Clearview Girls Academy offers affordable, expert treatment for life-controlling issues and disorders in girls, including attachment disorders, attention deficit, eating disorders, anxiety, depression, self-destructive or antisocial behavior, and issues involved with adoption.

We lead troubled girls to seek truth and to trust in the Holy Spirit, our Holy Comforter who was given to all believers in Christ. At Clearview, we coach and train our students to seek, trust, and rely on the Holy Spirit, who is their comforter.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” - John 10:10