Teenage Drug and Alcohol Abuse

If you believe that your teenager has ingested a harmful substance call 911 immediately.   Havenwood specializes in helping teenagers who have drug and alcohol problems.  We would be happy to consult with you to determine how we can help–CALL NOW.


While some consider experimentation with drugs and alcohol to be normal rites of passage for adolescents, experimentation can very easily, and very often does, lead to increased usage and even dependancy/addiction.  While experimentation for a short period of time may not result in long-term, harmful effects, prolonged use of drugs and alcohol will almost always lead to significant, long-term problems.  Knowing the signs of teenage drug and alcohol abuse can help parents identify problems early and allow them to work with their teenager to prevent further serious problems and even death.

Risk Factors for Teenage Drug and Alcohol Abuse

In some ways just being in highschool now days is a risk factor for teens when it comes to drug and alcohol use.  Studies indicate that nearly 100% of students graduating from highschool have experimented with marijuana and/or alcohol.  The average age of first exposure to marijuana is 14 while the average age of exposure to alcohol is 12.  Prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications are also become popular teenage drugs of choice and their usage is increasing.  Other popular illegal drugs that are being increasingly used by teenagers include PCP, cocaine and ecstacy.

Risk factors that can lead to a serious drug and alcohol problem in teenagers include:

  • Depression
  • Low self-esteem
  • Familial history of drug abuse
  • Feeling like an outsider

Warning Signs of Teenage Drug and Alcohol Abuse

There is no single, reliable warning sign of teenage drug and alcohol abuse.  There are, however, various warning signs of teenage drug and alcohol abuse that parents should be aware of.  Watching for these signs can help parents identify a potential problem and, under proper professional advice, intervene to assist their teenager.  The following warning signs might be helpful in determining whether a teenager has a drug or alcohol problem:

  • Emotional signs of teenage drug or alcohol abuse.  Sudden mood swings, irresponsible behavior, lack of interest in activities of former interest, personality differences, low self-esteem, irritability
  • Physical signs of teenage drug and alcohol abuse.  Repeated health problems, lingering cough, fatigue, frequent headaches, red and glazed eyes
  • Social indications of teenage drug and alcohol abuse.  Changes in friends and preferred activities, changes in style of dress, less attention to personal appearance, run-ins with the law, taking money or valuables from home
  • School problems associated with teenage drug and alcohol abuse.  Dropping grades, discipline problems (frequent principal visits), decreased interest in school and extracurricular activities, truancy, increased tardiness, negative attitude
  • Family problems associated with teenage drug and alcohol abuse.  Deliberate withdrawal from family and family oriented activities, violent outbursts, starting arguments, breaking curfew or sneaking out at night, breaking family rules

Most Common Drugs/Substances being Abused by Teenagers

While marijuana and alcohol are the substance most commonly abused by teenagers, parents should be aware that, sadly, the only limitation on the kind and type of substance being abused is the bounds of the teenage imagination.  Struggling teenagers are often seeking a means to feel different than they are currently feeling–not necessarily high but simply different.  Struggling teenagers are also not generally capable of thinking through the harmful, even deadly, effects of abusing substances to feel different.  As a result, many of the substances being abused by teenagers are extremely dangerous and even deadly.  Parents should be aware that there is a significant rise in teenagers abusing the following substances:

Illegal/Illicit Drugs (to name a few)

  • Marijuana (illegal in most states)
  • Heroin
  • Opium
  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamines
  • Methamphetamines
  • Speed
  • PCP
  • LSD

Prescription Drugs (to name a few)

  • Pain killers (codeine, morphine, methadone, Fentanyl)
  • Anti-anxiety drugs (Ativan, halcion, valium, Xanax)
  • Sleeping medications (Ambien, sonata, Lunesta)
  • Methylphenidates (Concerta, Ritalin)
  • Cough medications (Dextromethorphan)

Household Chemicals (to name a few)

  • Paint thinners
  • Gasoline
  • Nail polish remover
  • Glues
  • Spray paint
  • Cleaning fluids

Effects of Drug/Alcohol/Chemical Abuse on Teenagers

Since teenagers brains and bodies are still developing, drug abuse in teenagers can have a drastic and detrimental impact on both brain and body.  The following represents some of the serious side effects (some of them permanent) of teenage drug abuse”:

  • Slowed development of brain and body (sometimes resulting in smaller brain size and lower than average body size)
  • Loss of short-term memory
  • Cognitive/learning difficulties
  • Underdeveloped motor skills
  • Lack of motivation
  • Impaired emotional and sexual development
  • Deviant behaviors and conduct disorders
  • Inability to judge or understand risks
  • Depression and suicidal tendencies
  • Eating disorders
  • Personality and psychiatric disorders
  • Damage to blood vessels in the brain which can lead to strokes, convulsions and other nervous system disorders.
  • Reduced brain function which can lead to coma and even death.

What should a parent do if he/she believes their teenager is abusing drugs/chemicals?

If you believe that your teenager has ingested a harmful substance call 911 immediately.   Havenwood specializes in helping teenagers who have drug and alcohol problems.  We would be happy to consult with you to determine how we can help–CALL NOW.


Think Havenwood Might Be For You?

We encourage any visitors considering placing their daughter in treatment to fill out our online assessment as soon as possible. This two minute form will give our admissions team all the information needed to determine if your daughter is a good fit for our program.