The Many Consequences of Substance Abuse Among Teenagers

Did you know that 1-in-8 teens fall victim to drug abuse? That’s a frightening number for any parent to read, and what’s even scarier is the fact that teen drug abuse grows every year.

When anyone suffers from substance abuse, it has a rippling effect throughout their life. When it comes to teenagers, those effects hit harder and last longer. The consequences of substance abuse have permanent repercussions for teens and that’s why it’s important to learn about it.

We’ve collected the effects of teenage substance abuse so that you and your teen can understand the problems and get the help necessary for recovery. Learn everything you need to know down below.

Increased Risk of Overdose

The most depressing fact is that teen drug use kills. Accidental overdoses ruin many lives and it’s the biggest concern for parents when they realize their teen is using drugs.

Taking too much of a drug to reach a greater ‘high’ is much more of a risk for teenagers who want to have a good time with their friends. Even adults struggle with finding the right dose.

As a kid, your decision-making isn’t as solid as an adult’s capabilities. It’s easy to be encouraged to take more and more of a drug until it’s suddenly too much for the teen’s system. If they’re not rushed to the hospital in time, they’ll die from the overdose.

Teens who’ve taken drugs are not quick to ask for help if they fear getting in trouble. They might not even recognize the symptoms until it’s too late.

Even when an overdosed teen reaches the hospital in time to prevent a tragedy, that overdose causes lasting problems throughout their entire body.

Increased Risk of Car Accidents

When you’re a teen, you never want to let others know that you’re struggling. Whether it’s wanting to look cool to your friends or wanting to avoid a fight with your parents, each reason leads to the same poor decision-making.

Instead of asking for help or calling for a ride, they’d much rather attempt to drive home on their own. They feel that this is what’s expected of them and to do otherwise would be a bad look for their reputation. They might get in trouble with friends or family so they feel it’s better to drive than to reach out.

Teenagers are so new to driving that it requires all of their attention to stay safe on the road. Any kind of impairment turns driving into a huge risk for even the most experienced drivers. For teenagers, this risk is severe.

Many vehicle accidents with teenagers are a direct result of substance abuse.

Slower Brain Development

It’s not only immediate worries such as accidents and drug overdoses that happen during teen substance abuse. Other risk factors take place behind the scenes that many people don’t even realize.

Since a teenager’s brain is still in a high state of development, drug abuse has a huge impact on their brain’s attempt at growing. The longer the abuse continues, the worse the effect but even a small amount can cause problems.

These effects alter many parts of a teenage brain and its processing power, including:

  • Decision-making
  • Ability to plan ahead
  • Ability to understand consequences
  • Impulse control
  • Problem-solving
  • Memory
  • Emotional stability

All of these skills are things that are vital to growing into a successful adult. By engaging in substance abuse, your teen will find it more difficult to reach their goals in life.

As soon as you suspect your child of substance abuse, it’s time to act right away. Otherwise, these problems will continue to get worse as your teen grows into an adult.

Declining Academic Progress

Teens who struggle with drug abuse do worse in school. A big part of that is because of the slower brain development but it’s also due to things such as lack of attention, fatigue, and other mental struggles.

If a teen is suffering from a withdrawal of their chosen drug, it’ll be next to impossible to pay attention at school. They may feel so tired that they’ll fall asleep in the middle of class. They’ll struggle with solving problems during tests and they’ll forget about homework assignments.

All of these things work against a teenager’s attempts at getting good grades. For many teens, all of these problems continue to pile up until it feels like an impossible mountain to climb. They’re fighting against so many things that they no longer see the point in trying to overcome any of them.

Tendency to Skip School

It’s because of all these things that teens skip out on school altogether. They’ll often wonder what’s the point of going to school when they’re not accomplishing anything.

Instead of putting themselves into a situation that they feel is hopeless, they’d rather go for the next high. They’d rather go hang out with their friends than work on math problems.

The biggest problem is that they’re rewarded for this behavior by the good sensations that come from taking the drug. They’re more likely to fall back on the drug because it seems easier and more pleasant than anything else.

It’s a never-ending cycle of destruction that doesn’t have a good ending unless someone intervenes and provides help to the child.

Lashing Out

When a teen feels as though their back is against the wall, they don’t have the same learned experiences to fall back upon. Instead of trying to approach a situation with calmness, they tend to lash out against everyone.

It’s not uncommon for teens to feel isolated and misunderstood. When you add drug use into the mix, these feelings increase tenfold. They’ll attack instead of trying to find common ground.

It’s this kind of attitude that often makes it difficult for parents and teens to work through tough situations like substance abuse. The best thing is to remember that your teen is in trouble and doesn’t know how to react to everything happening around them.

You’ll need to keep a tight reign on your own emotions to better help a struggling teenager through these difficult situations.

Loss of Important Relationships

Constant lashing out is never an easy time for anyone. It’s because of these words of anger and fear that many families and friendships break apart. Sometimes those broken pieces aren’t able to be repaired even after the teen has grown into a new lifestyle.

When a teenager loses these important relationships, they’ll start to feel even more isolated. This makes them crave the uncomplicated euphoria of a drug more than before. It leads to a whole new cycle of destruction that leaves the teen uncertain about their place in the world.

If you’ve noticed your teenager has started to lose their friends, it’s time to start investigating the cause of these breaks ups.

Unplanned Pregnancy

Under the influence of a drug, it’s easier to fall prey to bad decisions. It’s almost impossible to think ahead of any consequences when the promise of immediate pleasure is on the table.

That’s why there’s a big connection between drug use and unplanned pregnancies in teens.

Outside of substance use, a teen might know that having unprotected sex is a bad idea. They most likely don’t even want to have a child right now. But when a drug is in their system, it puts them in a vulnerable position that could lead to teenage pregnancy.

Dealing with pregnancy at a young age is a life-altering situation that puts strain on everyone involved.

Sexual Diseases

Unprotected sex also brings on a higher risk of sexually-transmitted diseases. Some are easy to heal with the right medications but others last a lifetime. These kinds of diseases make the road to recovery trickier for a teen who wants to get better.

Plus, there’s a stigma about STDs that increases a teen’s feelings of embarrassment, regret, and isolation.

It drives a struggling teen towards bad decisions all over again because they don’t feel like there’s anywhere else for them to go. Instead of recovering, they tend to go back to the root of all the problems.

Depression and Anxiety

Substance abuse creates a pathway towards many mental illnesses, including depression and anxiety. These are the kind of illnesses that stick with a person throughout many years if they go untreated.

Even with the right medications and therapies, it’ll be easier for those illnesses to come back into your child’s life. It’ll always be a struggle that started due to their connection to drug abuse at such a young age.

This is why the risk for suicide is much higher for teenagers suffering from addiction when compared to other teens. If you notice signs of depression at any point in your teen’s journey with drugs, it’s important to keep a close eye on them.

Withdrawal From Social Groups

Did your child once love to play on a sports team? Did they participate in drama club or stay after school to help tutor another classmate? Have they stopped doing all of these things?

Due to the feeling of isolation, teens are more likely to pull out of their social groups as well. Instead of engaging in their interests, they’ll only want to be with those who enable their addiction.

Pulling out of these kinds of activities ruins many future opportunities. It keeps the teen isolated and makes it difficult to get back into those activities in the future. It’s a terrible thing to realize that your child has lost the chance to have fun with their peers in an activity they once loved.

Permanent Criminal Record

We all want our children to have the best future possible. Drug abuse often leads to problems with authority and incarceration, both of which leave a permanent scar on their record. Even though your child might work hard to recover from their addiction, they’ll still have a criminal record that’ll follow them for the rest of their life.

It could make getting a good job or a higher education impossible, no matter how much the teen has grown since those days.

It’ll always be a reminder that they fell under the drug’s spell. It could make it easier for them to fall victim to it again in the future.

Low Self-Esteem

Feeling isolated, stigmatized, and corrupted would harm anyone’s self-esteem. For a teenager still trying to find their place in the world, it’s impossible to self-confidence when all of these things work against them.

It’ll take a long time for a teen to learn how to move past those negative feelings and find peace.

Higher Chance of Addiction as an Adult

One of the biggest problems with teenager drug abuse is the fact that it often leads to future abuse as well. Even if a teen has broken ties with their past addiction, it’s something that’ll stay with them forever.

The lure of drugs gets easier as an adult since you have more resources at your disposal. If a relapse occurs, it’ll be harder to get back on the wagon once again.

The best thing is to stop substance abuse as soon as possible. This gives more time for your teen to repair the damage in their body that’ll keep them strong for years to come.

Understanding the Consequences of Substance Abuse for Teens Is the First Step

It’s never easy to realize that your teen is struggling with drug addiction. No one wants to see a child they love suffer from the horrible consequences of substance abuse. That’s why learning all about it is the best first step.

By knowing these consequences and risk factors, you’ll know what to look for and what to expect. This understanding gives you insight into what teens are going through when they’ve fallen into a damaging addiction.

As soon as you recognize the tell-tale signs of drug addiction, it’s time to talk to your child. The sooner you step in, the quicker you’ll prevent these consequences from becoming too severe.

To further help the young one in your life, make sure to check out our Health and Education sections. These sections have tons of advice that’ll help them get back on track!