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5 Factors Predict Teen Addiction


Teen Health

5 Factors Predict Teen Addiction

Teens looking at their cell phones

5 Factors Predict Teen Addiction

Who get addicted and who doesn’t? Teen addiction is fact of life in today’s world, and it’s important to take any teen use of alcohol and drugs very seriously. But know that not all experimentation ends in addiction. Many teens do not become addicted even if they have significantly experimented with chemical use.

Teen Addiction Is Everywhere

Also, there is a pattern of use that may be seen in the teen/college years when teenagers may use fairly heavily but then “age out” of the use once he/she/they focus more on studies and adult behaviors such as relationships and a career. A significant number of teens will become addicted. NIDA (National Institute of Drug Abuse) estimates that 15 percent of teens are already addicted in high school. The problem is you don’ know ahead of time whether your teen is one whose use will escalate, or one whose interest in getting high will fade. Five common factors influence addiction.

It’s In The Family

Biological influences including genetics can play a part in teens’ becoming addicted. For example, teenagers go down the path of addiction much quicker than adults due to their biological developmental milestones not being fully met such as hormone development. Women become addicted quicker than men also because of genetic differences. Having a family history of addiction can also significantly influence the chance of addiction. Further, if there is active and regular substance/marijuana/alcohol/tobacco use in the family, teens can mirror that behavior.

Social Learning/Modeling

This influencing factor is especially seen within families where substance/alcohol use is normal. Social influences also include peers, sports groups, all kinds of social clubs, and social media that makes using seem exciting and fun and harmless. A very important negative modeling example is that of the glorifying of use through social media.If your child views using chemicals as normal or fun behavior, they think it’s okay to drink or drug. If parents use alcohol responsibility and don’t do other drugs, then young people can model healthy patterns even when they get outside messages that drinking is acceptable.

The Addictive Potential Of The Substance

We also need to understand the addictive potential of each drug itself. Two substances, nicotine and crack cocaine, have highly addictive properties. For example, how many social smokers (may smoke 1- 2 cigarettes and then not smoke again for weeks) do you know – exactly! There are few social smokers because of the addictiveness of the substance. This is the same for other highly addictive drugs and medication, including, marijuana, opiates, stimulants and alcohol (although alcohol dependences takes longer to develop).

Peer Pressure/curiosity/feeling “grown up”

As a parent, do not underestimate the influence of peer pressure as during the teen years, peers are exceptionally important. Most teens are curious about what drinking or drugging can do for them. Using can be a lot of fun especially when using with peers; consequences are irrelevant to the developing teenage brain. Also, many teens feel more “grown up” by using as this is an adult thing to do (especially with alcohol).

Life Stressors/Emotional Pain/Co-occurring Disorders/Trauma

This includes the very stress of just being a teenager, being a thrill seeker, along with other stressors such as anger, boredom, rebellion, low self-esteem, or loneliness and/or a co-occurring psychiatric illness such as depression, abuse/trauma history, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. These conditions may also lead to using drugs and alcohol as a coping skill/self-soothing behavior/self-medication (used to help feel better by numbing out or distracting from the emotional pain or by feeling good/feeling pleasure – instant gratification with some drugs).

Make A Prevention Plan

While there can be other influences, these 5 indicators of vulnerability to teen addiction are some of the most problematic. The problem becomes worse if the teen uses for a variety of these reasons. Don’t be left behind. Continue to explore how these reasons may fit for your child and take precautions and discuss addictions with your child or teen. And finally, look at your own behavior and see if there are negative behaviors that may influence your teen to use. What should you do if you think your kid is using.

Reach Out Recovery Exclusive by Carol Anderson

If you need help with your child, visit Recovery Guidance for a free and safe resource to find Addiction and mental health professionals near you.




Carol Anderson, D.Min., ACSW, LMSW, is a licensed clinical social worker with over 25 years of experience in the fields of mental health, addictions, and co-occurring disorders. Her other specialties include grief and trauma, women’s issues, chronic pain management, holistic healing, GLBTQ concerns, and spirituality and transpersonal psychology. Dr. Anderson has been educated and trained in the fields of education, social work, and spirituality, and she holds a Doctor of Ministry degree (non-denominational/interfaith) specializing in spirituality.

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