Teen Recreational Drug Use

Most of today’s parents are aware of the risks of teen substance abuse.  But, do these parents know the underlying reasons that cause their teen to experiment with recreational drugs?  It’s easy for parents to assume that their child got involved with the wrong crowd or that it’s just a passing phase that they will outgrow.  

The truth is, all teens go through a variety of emotional, social, hormonal, and mental changes that can lead to a number of issues such as depression, low self-esteem, and anxiety.  These factors, among many others, contribute to teen recreational drug use.

Teens Tell Why They Experiment With Drugs

About one in five teens admits to recreational drug use.  When researchers asked “why” most of the responses were as follows:

  • Easy availability
  • To fit in with the crowd
  • As a way to relieve stress
  • Because they were curious
  • To self-medicate emotional or mental issues
  • Poor impulse control
  • Family history of substance abuse
  • To have fun
  • A way to escape problems

Additionally, teens admit that they are influenced by drug use in music, movies, and social media.

Regardless of the reasons why they started, teen recreational drug use is one of America’s most serious substance abuse problems today.

Which Drugs Do Teens Use the Most?

A variety of substances can be found right at their fingertips.  For instance, the family medicine cabinet or a parent’s nightstand can provide exactly what a teen needs to get high.  Painkillers, sleep aids, anti-anxiety meds, cigarettes, alcohol, and more are commonly found in the home.

Generally, the following drugs are most preferred by teens:

Many teens also experiment with drugs in what is known as a “skittles party.”  Everyone brings pills and puts them in a container together, then they pass the container around.  None of them know what they are actually ingesting.

Side Effects of Teen Recreational Drug Use

It’s not unusual for teens to combine two or more substances to enhance the effects.  This is a dangerous behavior that can lead to overdose or death.  For example, combining alcohol with another CNS depressant such as benzodiazepines can be deadly.  Both substances can lead to respiratory depression or failure.  They also decrease the amount of oxygen in the brain causing coma or permanent brain damage.

Below are some of the side effects of the most commonly abused recreational drugs:

Marijuana – Poor memory, loss of motivation, declining academic performance, increased appetite, calm mood.

Synthetic Marijuana – Confusion, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, high blood pressure, suicidal thoughts, violent behavior, death.

Adderall (stimulants) – Talkativeness, anxiety, headaches, hallucinations, confusion, chest pain, weight loss, insomnia, mania, overdose.

Alcohol – Slurred speech, drowsiness, poor coordination, nausea and vomiting, impaired judgment, blackouts, unconsciousness, coma.

Opioids – Dizziness, sedation, nausea, vomiting, respiratory depression, impaired thinking, disorientation, confusion, memory problems, pale or clammy skin, bluish tint to fingernails or lips, unresponsiveness, slow heart rate.

It’s important to note that the teen overdose death rate is increasing.  More than 4,235 adolescents between the ages of 15 and 24 died from a drug-related overdose last year.  Half of those deaths were attributable to opioids.

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Signs that Your Teen is Using Recreational Drugs

If your teen is having mood swings or other noticeable changes in behavior, it’s possible they are experimenting with drugs.  Of course, some of these behavioral changes are normal for adolescents for a number of reasons.  However, knowing the signs and symptoms of drug use can help parents know when to intervene.

Behavioral signs of teen drug abuse:

  • Secretive behavior
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Regularly breaking curfew
  • Social isolation
  • Skipping school
  • Lack of interest in hobbies or activities
  • New circle of friends
  • Staying out later than usual
  • Frequently asking for money
  • Lying, stealing

Physical signs of teen drug abuse:

  • Changes in attitude or mood
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Poor hygiene
  • Runny nose or nosebleeds
  • Shaking, sweating
  • Sudden changes in weight
  • Track marks on the skin, sores on the mouth
  • Pupils appear larger or smaller
  • Anxiety, fidgeting, irritability, paranoia

Casual or recreational drug use can quickly become an addiction.  Teens are more susceptible to addiction because their brains and bodies are still developing.  

Where to Turn for Help with Teen Drug Addiction

If your teen needs help with drug abuse or addiction, start by talking to medical professionals, schools, mental health specialists, or treatment providers.  Also, your insurance company may be able to recommend treatment providers that specialize in adolescent care.

With an individualized, evidence-based treatment program, teen recreational drug use can be overcome.  

 

Sources:

drugabuse.gov – Prescription CNS Depressants Drug Facts

pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov – Opioid Complications and Side Effects

medlineplus.gov – Opioid Misuse and Addiction

hhs.gov– Opioids and Adolescents

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