Why Teens Are More Vulnerable To Drug Addiction

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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.

About Our Founder

Jose Hernandez, for over a decade, has been involved in alcohol and addiction recovery helping people succeed in overcoming substance abuse and regaining control of their lives. He has experience in all aspects of the recovery world, from facilitating entry into treatment as an intervention specialist to counseling and case management at rehabilitation facilities. Jose has worked one-on-one with individuals as a sober companion and with groups as a resident counselor at addiction treatment centers and is certified by the California Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (CAADAC) to practice as a substance abuse counselor.

Through his professional experiences in crisis intervention, drug and alcohol detoxification, substance abuse counseling, and relapse prevention, Jose has developed a unique plan for case management that bridges the gap between a person’s painful past of substance abuse and a future of sobriety.

At Riviera Recovery, a sober living facility with multiple locations, clients continue their transition from the supportive environment of a treatment center to living well and happily in the “real” world. The program he designed at Riviera Recovery personalizes treatment plans that enable clients, including those with a single or dual-diagnosed mental health disorder, to embrace a satisfying life.

His greatest endeavor has been establishing LAUNCH, a Los Angeles-based life skills intensive outpatient program for young adults. LAUNCH works with recovering men and women to establish personal vocational and educational goals and develop the tools to successfully meet them. His mission is to ensure that no one stands alone in his or her recovery.

Meet Our Clinical Team

staff member drug alcohol treatment los angeles

Jess Beck, LCSW

Clinical Director

treatment team los angeles ca

Eric Chaghouri, MD


chloe kruskol los angeles rehab team

Chloe Kruskol, LCSW

Family Program Manager

Our Testimonials

Clients and Professionals Share Their Experience

  • HO

    Launch provided care on multiple levels. The highly skilled therapist coupled with the focus on purpose and long-term goals refocused my recovery from what previous treatment centers pushed onto me. I went from believing that I needed years of treatment to believing I needed years happiness and success. I began to focus on what I wanted to accomplish with my life. I came to realize all the things my addiction and mental illness had taken from me, and I used my future goals as a reason to never pick up again. Due to the passion that Launch instilled in me, I have pursued my future with excitement and dedication.

  • Nicole

    This place changed my life! I’ve had good laughs, good cries, shared a lot of heart to heart moments and grew a loving bond with everyone at Launch Centers. I will always be grateful!!! I really do miss it time to time. I highly recommend Launch Centers!

  • Joey

    The staff and clinicians are amazing and make you feel right at home from the second you walk in the door. I would absolutely recommend this place for a family member or close friend.

  • Ben

    This treatment facility has changed my life. I have always struggled with my mental health and this young adult program provided me with the necessary skills to launch to adulthood. I commend anyone who struggles with mental health or substance use (which was not me) to try this program out. It will change your life.

  • Conner

    Launch Centers Treatment was a major help to me. The therapists and staff genuinely cared about me and truly helped me to make a plan for my future. My personal therapists helped me to discover where some of my deeper issues came from. All of the staff worked tirelessly with me to talk through my issues, or just about life, and offered realistic solutions to my current problems and situation. All of the staff went above and beyond and advocated relentlessly for me. I am very grateful that I was able to have such a wonderful experience with Launch.

  • Adam

    In no uncertain terms Launch Centers changed my life. The staff at Launch are professional, knowledgable and relatable. They keep the format diverse and interesting which kept me engaged in the process. The greatest thing we can do in life is seek to improve ourselves. Launch gave me a skill set I consider to be invaluable in the journey of becoming the best version of myself. I would implore anybody considering Launch to step outside their comfort zone and go, you will not regret it.


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