Empowering Youth: Understanding the Impact of Alcohol and Drug Use in Teens

Empowering Youth: Understanding the Impact of Alcohol and Drug Use in Teens

March 30 through April 5 is National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week (NDAFW). This is an annual health observance dedicated to debunking myths and providing facts about drug and alcohol use, especially among adolescents. As pre-teens and teens navigate a crucial stage of their development, understanding the impacts of substance use on their health is more important than ever. 

The Prevalence of Substance Use Among Teens

Teen drug use statistics are concerning, to say the least. By age 15, about 33% of teens have had at least 1 alcoholic drink, and by age 18, that number climbs to 60%. In fact, alcohol is the most commonly used and abused substance among youth in the United States. While alcohol use among teens has decreased over the years, the use and abuse of other substances, such as marijuana and prescription drugs respectively, remains prevalent.

The Dangers of Adolescent Alcohol and Drug Use

Substance use at a young age can have significant impacts on a teen’s developing brain, potentially leading to cognitive and behavioral issues and increasing the risk of developing substance use disorders later in life. Teens who are genetically predisposed to addiction are at an even greater risk of these. 

Further, many adolescents have new driving permits or licenses, or ride with friends who do. They are inexperienced drivers and decision-makers, yet often have all too much experience with peer pressure. As a result, they may be more likely to be in accidents related to driving under the influence of intoxicants (DUI or DUII).

Moreover, there’s a strong connection between substance use and emotional health. Teens may turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with stress, anxiety, depression, or peer pressure, not realizing that substance use can worsen mental health and lead to new disorders, including addiction and impaired judgment.

What You Can Do During NDAFW and Beyond

NDAFW provides an opportunity for open conversations about the science of drug use and addiction. It aims to clear up misconceptions and understand why some individuals — including in the especially vulnerable teen population — are more susceptible to drug use and addiction than others. It’s also a time to discuss strategies for resilience and healthy coping mechanisms as alternatives to substance use.

Parents, educators, and caregivers play a vital role during this observance and beyond. Having honest and fact-based conversations about the dangers of drugs and alcohol can make a significant difference. It’s crucial to establish a safe and open environment for teens to discuss their questions and concerns. If you’re a teen or teen family member who has lived experience with substance use, you can help countless others by sharing your own tips and strategies online as well as reviews of mental health facilities and providers. 

Protect Teens From Substance Abuse With ReGroup Foundation

ReGroup Foundation is a non-profit that helps pre-teens, teens, and their families anonymously share and benefit from mental health success stories. Too often, the best resources and practices in teen mental health care remain under the radar. We want all families to benefit from the triumphs of those who have “been there, done that” where drug use and other issues are concerned. We make this possible by collecting family reviews of local mental health caregivers and facilities as well as personal strategies for helping teens recover from wellness challenges.

In only 15 minutes, you can begin making a world of difference in the lives of other teens and their families — just by anonymously sharing your successes. Register today and start sharing your reviews and mental health insights!

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