9 out of 10 people who wind up having substance abuse problems get their start on this path during their teenage years. That means that 90% of all adults who are addicts or alcoholics had their first drink or drug while they were between the ages of 13-18. This percentage is extremely high and it exposes that for as much as we attempt to dissuade teenagers from drinking or using drugs we are woefully failing in that department. It also demonstrates that the approach of “Just Say No” was a failure and has in the long term accomplished little if any success.
Up until a few years ago we attempted to deal with teenage addiction in the same way that we dealt with adult addiction. Our teenage treatment programs offered similar services to their adult counterparts and after the teen was released, they were sent back into the same environment that they drank and drug in, with little to no age appropriate support available. They would have to attend 12 Step meetings with people twice and sometimes three or four times their age and their ability to finds peers in recovery was incredibly limited.
Some of this has changed over the past decade as we have begun to understand the importance of early intervention and prevention for teenagers. There have been a number of successful and lasting teen recovery based programs, like Recovery High Schools or Alternative Peer Groups, but with that said there are still millions of teens around the world that every year drink or use drugs for the first time.
Many of these teens are unaware that they are possibly opening up Pandora’s box with that seemingly innocuous sip or puff, and that in time, and if they are predisposed to the disease of addiction, it can lead them to wind up grappling with something well beyond their power to fight. This is why it is important to educate our youth on the dangers of drug addiction and alcoholism and attempt to create cultures within high schools were drinking and drugging is not the norm. It is important for parents to tell their children about any and all family history in regards to addiction, and while it may still not change anything, at least the teen can make a proper and educated decision as to whether they want to try drugs or drink.
With all of that said, let’s take a look at 5 reasons that teenagers try drugs or alcohol. Let’s a take a look at what is really going on here, so that maybe we can learn to better help our teens to make better decisions in these formative years of their life and help them avoid the years of pain that can come with addiction.
5 years Teenagers Try Drugs or Alcohol:
While this is by no means a comprehensive list of every reason that a teen will start to drink or use drugs, it does represent some of the more common aspects that cause teens to experiment. Each person is varied in regards to their psychology, their experience in life and what their motivations are, so if you really want to give your child the best possible chance at navigating the waters of adolescents, drug and alcohol free, then talk to them. Have an open line of communication where you can address problems in real time and give them the life skills and tools necessary so that they can avoid peer pressure and can avoid following the path of addiction.
1. Witnessing Others Drinking or Using
This is probably the number one reason that teens will start drinking or using drugs. They will either see their parents doing these things, their peers doing these things, or celebrities engaging in these behaviors, which will spark a curiosity and a desire to try it out. While there is really no way to stop a teen from witnessing these things, because alcohol and drug culture are fairly ingrained in the American experience, we can help to offset some of these visual stimuli by instilling in adolescents, a strong sense of self and a spirit of independent thinking, so that they will not feel such a draw to drink or use drugs just because they see others doing so.
This may sound like an excuse that a teen would use, ‘Why did you smoke that joint?” ‘I don’t know, I was bored,” but it is actually a real reason that teens start to experiment with drugs and alcohol. Teenagers who are not active in extracurricular actives are more apt to start using drugs and alcohol, because it helps to pass the time and its helps them create a sense of community, with other drug using kids, that they are missing due to their lack of activity.
This is probably the most underreported reason that many teens start to use drugs or alcohol. Many times people fall into addiction because they are attempting to deal with some underlying issue that they may or may not know about. They may have felt extreme anxiety their whole life and then when they smoked a joint they found that they could relax. When this happens they begin to equate pot with an ability to relax and having only dealt with the symptom and not the cause of that symptom they use continue to use drugs to medicate themselves.
During adolescence, teens are attempting to find a sense of self apart from the family unit and this many times means that they are going to rebel. For some teens this means they are going to change their hair color or something similarly harmless, but for some they fall into drug use as a way to create something that is separate from their family and uniquely their own.
This reason for teenage drinking or drug use is easily the most preventable, but since a lot of the times the drug programs offered within the school system are not particularly extensive, teens get their information about drinking and drugs from other avenues. This information is often times incorrect and it can cause a person to fall into the trappings of drug use before they even know what is happening.
As a parent, if you think your child is starting to drink or use drugs, have a talk with them. I know that this can oftentimes be difficult, and it can seem fruitless, but given the fact that a recent survey showed that parental influences is more powerful than advertising and many other outside factors, do it anyway. Just because many teens drink and use drugs, does not mean that your teen has to as well. Hopefully this helped to shed some light on the issue and will help you in your attempts to support your child in making good decisions.
Rose Lockinger is a passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.