What Are My Six Reasons Why Teenagers Turn to Alcohol and Drugs?

The first step to addressing your teen’s substance use is understanding the “why’s.”

By Lisa Tiano, Parenting and teen expert, author and founder of REAL TeenTalk and InnerStarGirl

There’s no doubt that many teens aren’t educated about the dangers of turning to alcohol and other substances. They may have some awareness, but the majority think that just “trying” won’t lead to other things, or naïveté, thinking something bad couldn’t possibly happen to them. Some of the education I provide to parents and teens includes understanding the “whys” and “how’s” tweens and teens fall into the dangerous traps of substances. Below are my six main reasons and the discussions that follow in my teen talks with parents and teens:

Low Self-Confidence – A lot of shy kids may be drawn to alcohol and drugs to become uninhibited, feel more social, and experience less anxiety.  Having little self-worth is often a means of wanting to feel accepted by others. Having good self-esteem is being able to say “no.”

Escape Real World– Escaping from the pressures of the world surrounding them is most often a way of experiencing different drugs and/or alcohol. Whether it’s anxiety, depression, or a feeling of confusion, doubt, escaping into a world that eliminates the dysphoric feelings can be a way of teens feeling more relaxed. Little do they know how quickly addiction can set in.

Acting Out  – Often, a way to rebel and gain negative attention is to go against their better judgment (and their parents) gravitating towards using and abusing. Trapped by anger or even rage, they don’t think about the repercussions or what can happen following their behavior. 

Social Media – As teens navigate the tumultuous waters of social media feeds, they’re easily drawn into the postings of what others are doing. It may appear fun, daring, different, and non-threatening if they see other friends doing it.

Too Much Time on Their Hands– Parents may already know, but kids get bored easily. So, what happens when kids have too much time on their hands? They’re more apt to dabble and experience if substances are accessible to them. It’s those times when they start joining the wrong crowd or group of peers already using.

Acceptance– A huge part of navigating the teen years is about discovery and figuring out where you fit in. The desire to be socially accepted by peers is by far one of the biggest social stressors for teens. Hence, if other kids are using, it’s not uncommon for them to want to use also in order to be included.

Like I always say to parents, knowledge is power. Whether or not you think you’re sounding monotonous with your kids, who cares? It’s your child’s life at stake. With all the current trends and new ways of accessing drugs and alcohol, kids are very resourceful in finding ways to get recreational drugs. Sneaky, savvy, desperate, and hurting teens find ways. Educate yourself first, then educate your children – before it’s too late. 

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