Drug Addiction in Children and Teens

drug use by teens

Many people can’t face addiction – the sight of someone they love struggling to maintain control of their lives can be overwhelming. One person’s drug addiction can affect the lives of everyone around them. Any parent, for example, will tell you that they don’t want to see their child in pain, but dealing with addiction is a difficult and painful time.

For parents, it is particularly hard – the job of a parent is to raise their teens safely to adulthood, where they then take on the same responsibility with their own children. The process of becoming clean and sober is a long and challenging one, but it is possible to come out of the experience closer to the child, and stronger overall.

The Signs of Addiction in Children and Teens

drug addiction in childrenThe first thing most will notice about drug addiction is changed behavior. Behavioral changes, of course, can be good: the initial effects of some drugs is increased concentration and energy. With those qualities, some kids will use drugs like that to give them the ‘edge’ they feel that they need to succeed in an increasingly competitive world.

Behavioral changes, though, aren’t the only indicator. If a child is more energetic and doing better in school, one can imagine that concerns would be minimal. Increased energy and better grades, though, aren’t the typical signs of drug addiction in teens. Less care taken of one’s physical appearance is something that should always raise a red flag.

Over time, more severe symptoms like declining personal hygiene, and an ever-present smell of smoke may appear. Other symptoms include heightened appetite, declining interest in activities, declining academic performance, and unexplained tiredness. It is extremely common for drug-addicted adolescents to have erratic moods and intense cravings for snacks.

Drug addiction is a particular concern for young people because their bodies are still developing. As young bodies grow and change into adult bodies, a healthy lifestyle is more important than ever.

Formal research of long-term effects of heavy marijuana smoking is slim, but the long-term effects of many other popular addictive drugs has been well-documented. Younger bodies don’t have the fully-developed immune systems of older bodies, and are far more vulnerable to the negative side effects of addiction. It is also important to remember that physical scars are the least difficult ones from which to recover.

Whatever forces, genetic or environmental, that caused the child to seek comfort in the drugs may have been caused by a desire to escape, by curiousity, or even by accident. The consequences of trying drugs may not ever have occurred to many teen in areas where high drug use is considered normal. Teens with family members living with addictions are far more likely to develop an addiction than teens whose families are generally clean and sober. With teens, though, peer pressure also has the power to overwhelm normally-resistant teens, making first-time drug users out of them.

Desire to Escape

Everyone can understand the desire to get away from reality for a little while. For teens, this can manifest in experimenting with drugs. Children dealing with emotional distress and teens from troubled households are vulnerable to addiction. With inadequate parental supervision, or a strong drug scene in a school or neighborhood, a teen can easily fall into the depths of addiction or the purpose of coping with difficulties in their daily life.

The euphoric high of some drugs can lead a teen down a dangerous path for a constant, ultimately unobtainable high. The extreme good feelings that come with use of these drugs is part of what makes them so addictive, and so dangerous to everyone, especially vulnerable a teen.

Accidental Dependence

How could addiction possibly happen by accident? Strange though it may sound, some people will only need to be exposed to fumes created when certain drugs are cooked to develop a dependency over time. With children, as usual, the risk is much, much higher. The smaller the child, of course, the greater the danger. It is not only addictive fumes that endanger drug-exposed children – drug paraphernalia left lying around is always a danger. Drug-exposed children are often neglected, lacking proper or clean clothing, proper nutrition, and may have remedial social skills.


What is this new thing? This is a question that most people ask from time to time. When it comes to teens and drugs, though, this question can represent a dangerous bridge from safety to danger. Even a teen from a healthy home with fair to good relationships with their parents can still easily come in contact with others who regularly use drugs. Even with anti-drug training and positive reinforcement, there is never a guarantee that a teen will always steer clear of the temptation to try drugs.

Popular Addictive Drugs Among Teens


Also known as ‘weed’ or ‘pot,’ marijuana has a variety of uses. Cannabis, a source of marijuana, has been used as medicine for thousands of years. Marijuana today is soaring to the height of its historic popularity. The feeling of a marijuana high can be described as a range of feelings from mellow and content to happy and boisterous.


Heroin, or dope, is a highly-addictive opiate originally developed to treat severe pain. Morphine has been around longer than heroin, but heroine was developed from morphine in the 19th century. When patients were treated with heroin, intense pain and discomfort was replaced with an intense and lasting euphoria that allowed them not only relief, but peace.


Ecstasy, also called, X or XTC is a mild narcotic and strong hallucinogen that has grown in popularity among teens slowly but steadily over the last few years. Rave culture has been partially responsible for the growing popularity of the drug, which makes the user feel energized, confident, sexy, and empathetic.


Alcohol abuse among teens is more pronounced in older teens, though high school-age teens can also fall victim to alcoholism. A family history of the disease makes it more likely that a teenager will experiment, and possibly become addicted. Alcohol lowers inhibitions, intensifies emotions, and makes some people fun and funny, and others sad and withdrawn.

Prescription Drugs

Another crisis is that of teen addiction to prescription drugs. Peer pressure can absolutely contribute to first-time recreational prescription drug use, but the availability of the drug is what affects which drugs are taken by which teen. Some of the most popularly-abused prescriptions drugs are Adderall, used for concentration, Ritalin, used to treat anxiety, and Valium, an anti-anxiety medicine that can make one feel high.

With so many drugs available and accessible for teens, the risk of any teen developing an addiction, is high. Drug use prevention is essential, but there are options if someone you love needs assistance with their addiction.