Practically since the beginning of human existence, individuals have used substances such as marijuana, alcohol and others for both recreational and medicinal purposes. One thing that has remained the same throughout the centuries is that the teenage years involve experimentation and learning. Teen drug use naturally follows as teens experiment and learn about themselves and the world.
In itself, teen drug use may not be a huge cause for concern depending on the drug and the context in which it is used. However, if teen drug use becomes teen drug abuse then parents, loved ones, caretakers, friends and acquaintances have a real cause for concern. Some teen drug use facts in Florida include:
- In a survey conducted in 2017, 18.6% of high school students reported smoking cigarettes or similar products at least once
- 56.5% of high school students reported drinking alcohol at least once
- 12.7% of high school students reported binge drinking alcohol at least once
- Roughly 20% of high school students reported currently using marijuana
- Nearly 5% of high school students reported using cocaine at least once
- 11.2% of high school students reported either using prescription pain medicine without their own prescription or using it incorrectly
- Similar rates of drug and alcohol use are seen in high school students in Florida relative to teens across the entire United States
The Difference Between Use, Abuse & Addiction
Many teenagers will experiment with drugs. It should be stated that just because a teen experiments with drugs does not mean they will abuse the drug or become addicted to it. An accurate understanding of teen drug use, teen drug abuse and teen drug dependence (addiction) is necessary to distinguish whether a teen needs support or treatment. Teen drug use can be defined as when teenagers use drugs on occasion or as a form of experimentation. Teen drug abuse can be defined as when teenagers intentionally misuse drugs beyond experimentation. For example, binge drinking alcohol would fall under the category of teen drug abuse. Finally, teen drug dependence or addiction can be defined as when a teen becomes dependent on a drug and can experience withdrawal symptoms if too much time has passed since the drug was last used.
Common Drugs Used by Teens
What are the most common drugs used by teens? Throughout the decades, teen alcohol abuse has not been uncommon, and teen marijuana use has been popular too. It is important to note that drugs that are the most accessible to teens (e.g., prescription pain pills, alcohol in their parents’ cabinets, etc.) are generally used more often than drugs that are more difficult to obtain (e.g., heroin). Examples of drugs commonly used by teens include:
- Marijuana and synthetic marijuana products
- Prescription opioids like hydrocodone and oxycodone
- OTC medication like cough medicine
- MDMA (ecstasy or molly)
- Nicotine in cigarettes or e-cigarettes (e.g., JUUL pods)
- Ketamine (tranquilizers)
- Hallucinogens (mushrooms, LSD)
Method of Administration Matters
There are numerous methods of administration depending on the drug teenagers use. Though drugs that need to be injected are less likely to be used by teenagers, nevertheless parents and caretakers should have an understanding of different administration methods for commonly used drugs.
Typical administration methods include:
- Snorting the drug (e.g., cocaine, prescription painkillers)
- Smoking (e.g., marijuana)
- Drinking (e.g., cough medicine or alcohol)
- Injecting (e.g., ketamine or heroin)
Teens that use specific drugs may have unique drug paraphernalia that corresponds to their drug of choice that parents and caretakers can look for if there are concerns.
Teen Drug Statistics
On the bright side, teen drug use has decreased in recent years except for marijuana use and “vaping.” Teen vaping has become extremely popular due to marketing and easy accessibility of products like e-cigarettes and JUUL pods. Vaping has been touted as a safe nicotine alternative to cigarettes, though more research must be conducted to truly determine the safety of these products and the different ingredients they contain.
Additionally, smoking weed, whether the old-fashioned way or by newer ways such as weed cartridges that can be loaded into devices that are similar to e-cigarettes, remains popular. There may be many reasons for marijuana use not decreasing in recent years, some of which pertain to the legalization of either medicinal marijuana or recreational marijuana in certain states. Fortunately, as the opioid epidemic begins to be increasingly publicized, teen prescription drug use has decreased.
National teen drug statistics suggest that teenagers are overall doing fewer drugs than previous generations. However, regarding the teens that do partake in drug use, what is the percentage that they comprise? National statistics on teen drug use include:
- In a survey conducted in 2017, one-third of high school seniors reported vaping at least once
- The same survey found a significant and substantial increase in teenage vaping
- 8th-12th graders reported using vaping products because they contained marijuana or nicotine or they enjoyed the flavor
- The rate of prescription opioid use in teens is at a historic low compared to their adult counterparts
- Fewer teens are partaking in binge drinking, cigarette smoking, and using heroin, methamphetamine and anabolic steroids than in past years
While teen drug use statistics in Florida are very similar to the national rates, nevertheless there are a few interesting differences. Some statistics include:
- At the time of the survey, 27% of Floridian high school students reported having had a drink in the past 30 days relative to 30% of teens in the whole United States
- 34% of Floridian teens reported having used marijuana in their lifetime relative to 36% of teens in the entire United States
- 3.7% of Florida teens reported taking steroids without a prescription
- 34.5% of Florida teens reported using marijuana at least once in their lives while 20% currently used marijuana
- 27% of Florida teens reported currently drinking alcohol
Teen Attitudes Towards Drugs
In addition to the percentage of teens that report using drugs, it is also advantageous to understand attitudes toward drug use. For example, drug use among teens can lead to positive, negative or indifferent attitudes depending on societal values and different historical perspectives. Namely, in recent years, there has been a high disapproval rating for most drugs except marijuana and vaping. Statistics about drug disapproval ratings amongst high school seniors include:
- From 2017-2018, more high school seniors approve of marijuana use
- The majority of high school seniors since 2016 have approved of occasional marijuana use
Why Do Teens Use Drugs?
Why do teens use drugs? This question has no specific answer. Teenagers use drugs for a variety of reasons that depend on their unique life situations. Talking to teens about drugs is absolutely crucial. An open line of communication should be made between teens and their loved ones so that there is not a fear of punishment for trying drugs but instead a support system. Support systems can help make sure teens are safe and have someone to rely on in the event of a drug-related emergency or otherwise. If parents or caretakers can have an open line of communication with their teen, it is advisable to discuss objective facts about teen drug use rather than opinions. Some potential reasons why teens take drugs include:
- Being pressured by peers
- Genuine interest or curiosity
- Problems at home, school or work
- Having a parent or loved one use drugs
- Mental health conditions
- Advertising and social media (e.g., the rise of vaping in popular media)
Signs of Drug Use in Teens
What are the typical signs of drug use in teens? Importantly, if a teenager is trying to hide their drug use from loved ones, what are some hidden signs of drug use? There are generally specific physical and psychological symptoms of teen drug use that loved ones can learn to recognize.
One of the more obvious signs that a teenager is partaking in drug use is if they hide or leave drug paraphernalia in plain sight. For example, if a teenager smokes marijuana, generally they will have bongs, glass pipes, grinders and lighters. For teenagers injecting drugs, they may have a rubber cord and syringes. Different drugs are associated with different forms of drug paraphernalia and can easily be googled by parents or guardians to find out more information.
If a parent or loved one cannot find any obvious drug paraphernalia, there are certain physical signs of teen drug use. Some of these include:
- Appetite changes
- Sleeping changes
- Lack of concern about work, school or family matters
- Lack of concern about physical appearance
- Pupils are recognizably smaller or larger than normal
- Problems communicating
- Slowed or slurred speech and coordination
- Constant sniffling or runny nose
- Clothing smells like smoke or an odd smell
- Rapid changes in weight
In some cases, it may be difficult to identify the physical signs of teen drug use. However, some loved ones may be better at picking up on behavioral changes. Some examples of psychological signs of drug use include:
- Increased agitation or irritability
- Becoming more paranoid or angry for no given reason
- Rapid shifts in energy — sometimes in bed for days, sometimes cannot sit still
- Rapid mood changes
- Decreased motivation or desire to participate in activities that once were enjoyed
- Personality changes
Effects of Adolescent Drug Abuse
Beyond some of the dangerous physical and behavioral issues associated with teen drug abuse, there are both short-term and long-term implications of adolescent drug use. The teenage years are often a difficult and turbulent time. It is no wonder that adolescence and alcohol and drug abuse can go hand-in-hand. However, teenagers and their loved ones should be made aware of the different effects of drug abuse.
Short Term Effects
Some examples of short-term effects of teen drug abuse may include:
- Getting arrested or having to stay at a juvenile detention center
- Teen pregnancy
- Losing one’s job
- Getting into debt
- Losing friends
- Higher risk of sexually transmitted diseases and infections
- Injuring oneself
- Getting suspended from school
- Withdrawal symptoms when not using the drugs
Long Term Effects
Some examples of long-term effects of teen drug abuse may include:
- Birth defects of children of pregnant teenage mothers using drugs
- Permanent damage to family relationships
- Developing a drug tolerance or addiction
- Permanent damage to the brain since it is still developing during the teenage years
- Changes in neurotransmitter signaling in the brain which can last months to years
Finding Professional Help
There are specialized treatment programs all over the United States that offer teen addiction treatment. There are no set guidelines or rules about what to do if your teen is using drugs. Nevertheless, confronting the issue and finding professional help is a great start. Looking for a Florida teen drug rehab?
Does your teen exhibit signs of drug abuse or addiction? Contact the Orlando Recovery Center for more information about seeking treatment for teen addiction. A representative will be happy to answer all of your questions about treatment options, costs and how our recovery program for teens works.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “High School YRBS: Florida 2017 Results.” 2017. Accessed September 12, 2019.
Monitoring the Future Survey. “TABLE 14: Trends in Disapproval of Drug Use in Grade 12.” 2018. Accessed September 12, 2019.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Monitoring the Future Survey: High School and Youth Trends.” December 2018. Accessed September 12, 2019.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Principles of Adolescent Substance Use D[…]used by adolescents?” January 2014. Accessed September 12,2019.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Vaping popular among teens; opioid misuse at historic lows.” December 14, 2017. Accessed September 10, 2019.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Why You Should Talk With Your Child Abou[…]ohol and Other Drugs.” August 27, 2019. Accessed September 12, 2019.
United States Department of Health and Human Services: Office of Population Affairs. “Florida Adolescent Substance Abuse Facts.” May 1, 2019. Accessed September 12, 2019.
The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.