Teenagers spend much of their time experimenting and trying to shape their identities. Sometimes they take a wrong turn and it’s up to their loved ones to guide them back to the right path. Why are teens more vulnerable to addiction? Several factors come into play, making it important that parents know what to look for to keep their children safe.
Reasons Why Teens Are More Vulnerable to Drug Addiction
More than one reason exists for why teens are more vulnerable to addiction. A major contributor comes from the fact that at their young ages, they have not accumulated much life experience that might keep them from falling prey to drug abuse. Development of the human brain and its ability to problem solve and made good decisions takes time. The average teenager doesn’t have the ability to see around dangerous corners or understand the risks involved in potentially volatile endeavors. This makes many of them prone to developing a drug addiction.
Peer pressure also contributes to why teens are more vulnerable to addiction. The teenage years challenge kids to try to fit in with their peers and feel accepted. When a friend offers a chance to try drugs, the teen often feels pressure to participate to seem cool and fearless. What may start out as innocent experimentation can quickly escalate to heavy drug usage and addiction.
Teenagers who don’t have supportive home environments often end up turning to drugs to ease their pain. Home lives comprised of neglect, physical, sexual, or emotional abuse can propel a young person to use drugs to self-medicate. If they deal with a mental illness, such as anxiety, depression, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and do not receive adequate treatment for it, they may use drugs as a crutch to help alleviate the symptoms.
Even without an easily identifiable reason why a teenager becomes addicted to drugs, it can still happen. A qualified treatment program can identify the root of the addiction and help the individual overcome it.
Teen Addiction Statistics
Many people write off teen drug use as harmless experimentation or something only a handful of “bad” kids do. However, statistics show a much more dire situation. Consider the following statistics:
- 70% of kids who try illegal drugs before age 13 end up with a substance use disorder by age 20
- 35% of people in college prefer using illegal drugs to prescription drugs
- By the time they graduate high school, almost half of all young people have used at least one illegal drug
- One in six people who try marijuana before they turn 18 become addicted
- From 2018 to 2019, alcohol use among those aged 12 to 17 increased by 4.4%, despite a decline in other age groups
- 47% of young people have used at least one illegal drug by the time they graduate from high school
How Drugs and Alcohol Affect the Brain of Teens Differently
Addiction to drugs and alcohol causes changes in the way the brain operates. The brain naturally produces feel-good chemicals such as endorphins. When a substance use disorder occurs, this production becomes compromised and the individual relies on the effects of drugs or alcohol to compensate. The teenage brain has not fully developed yet, so it experiences this loss of naturally produced chemicals more quickly than adults.
During adolescence and early adult years, the brain goes through a time of experimentation and adaptation. The brain cells used the most become strengthened, while the ones used less often provide less of a connection. During this time of great potential for growth in the brain, the window for learning opens and makes teens more capable of learning than at any other age. When a teenager sacrifices this potential by abusing drugs and alcohol, it can have long-lasting and even permanent ramifications.
From the ages of 13 to 25, the brain possesses a strong ability to develop skills like self-control and decision-making. Teenagers who become addicted to drugs and alcohol waste this ability and end up equating the immediate gratification that comes with getting high or drunk with how to approach the remainder of their lives.
What Parents Can Do to Help Their Teens Avoid Addiction
If you are wondering, “Why are teens more vulnerable to addiction?”, you may have a child who already demonstrates a problem with drugs or alcohol. If it’s time to have an honest conversation with your teenager, consider the following tactics to help them:
Provide an open dialogue: Talk to your teenager when you both feel calm and let them know they can speak honestly with you. Ask them if they have experimented with drugs in the past or currently use them. Let them know the harsh reality of how their physical, mental, and emotional health can be compromised by substance use. If they tell you they already experimented with drugs or alcohol, arrange for them to talk to a doctor or counselor to explain how to stop now before the situation escalates to addiction.
Explain the effect drug addiction has on goals and hobbies: Talk to your teenager about their educational and career goals and how addiction will grind those to a halt. Discuss things like pastimes, sports, or clubs they enjoy and list ways that addiction compromises their ability to do well at any of them.
Encourage your child to have a busy schedule: Every kid needs downtime but too much of that can lead to boredom and opportunities to get into trouble. Talk to your teenager about interests they have or wish to develop and help them create a schedule that includes them.
Addiction Treatment for Teens in Los Angeles, CA
If you know a teenager who struggles with drug addiction and needs help, we know how to treat them. At Launch Centers of Los Angeles, CA, we provide multiple treatment options for substance use disorders. Our program can help get teens back on track with schooling and career plans. If you have questions, contact us or visit our admissions page today.