The teen years are times of turbulence when their bodies are changing radically, and their brains are pulling them away from the security of the family they’ve known their whole lives in preparation for living life as an independent adult.
They’re constantly questioning themselves and their choices: Am I good enough? Will my peers accept me? Can I make it on my own?
While it’s not always possible to predict what makes a teen turn to drugs, there are some early warning indicators that parents can watch out for, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
The teen years are a time to explore and learn more about themselves as they approach adulthood, including experimenting and testing their boundaries. The desire to do something new or risky is a normal part of teen development, the DEA emphasizes.
They may use drugs or alcohol to:
- relieve boredom
- feel good
- forget their troubles and relax
- satisfy their curiosity
- ease their pain
- feel grown-up
- show their independence
- belong to a specific group
There are certain risk factors that may increase the likelihood that a teen will use drugs, the DEA says. The more risk factors present, the more likely they may be to use drugs and develop problems.
Risk factors include:
- low grades or failure in school
- victim of bullying or cyberbullying
- low self-esteem
- permissive parenting
- parent’s or older sibling’s drug or alcohol use
- living in a community with a high tolerance for smoking, drinking, or drug use among youth
- attending a school without strict rules for tobacco, alcohol, or drugs
- the belief that there is little risk in using a drug
It’s important to know that these influences can be offset by many of the essential components that Informed Families has been advocating for 40 years.
- a strong bond with a parent or caregiver
- high self-esteem
- parent or caregiver who regularly talks with their child about drugs
- active in faith-based organizations, school, athletic, or community activities
- spending time around positive role models
- living in a community that offers youths activities where drugs and alcohol are not tolerated
- attending a school with an effective alcohol and drug education program
- the belief that using drugs may be harmful or risky
With the combined efforts of parents, schools, and the community, we can keep kids safe from drugs!