Drug addiction or drug abuse concept

Why do teenagers use drugs?

The teen years consist of a series of challenges for everyone. For some though, those challenges can quickly change from conquerable to overpowering, and this can lead to some serious issues for teens.

Smiling teens students with backpacks and textbooks, talking and going forward

Once teens enter high school, they are bombarded with the pressures of maintaining good grades, engaging in extracurriculars, getting ready for college, having a social life, and figuring out what they want to do for the rest of their lives.

Teens with laptop

In addition to the normal stressors that come with being a teenager, it’s not uncommon for teens to face ridicule from peers, feel enormous amounts of pressure from parents or academic advisors, and also to begin dealing with mental health issues.

5 Reasons Teens Start Using Drugs & Alcohol

Peer Pressure

The National Institute on Drug Abuse conducted a survey in 2016 and discovered that 1.9 million adolescents ages 12 – 17 years old had used illicit drugs within 30 days of the survey.

Group of teenagers boys indoors in abandoned building, smoking cigarettes.

A majority of these teens reported being given drugs or alcohol by a peer. Teens want to be accepted and to fit in. When their best friend offers them drugs or alcohol, it’s unlikely that they’ll say no.

Self-Medication & Escape

It’s not uncommon for mental health symptoms to begin to make an appearance during the teen years. In order to cope with symptoms of depression, anxiety, or other mental health disorders, teens often begin using drugs or alcohol to minimize their symptoms or to “numb out”.

young female doctor drinking alcohol in the kitchen.woman suffering from strong headache or migraine

Performance Improvement

With immense amounts of pressure relating to academics and extra-curricular activities, teens may begin using performance-enhancing drugs or stimulants in order to meet the expectations of their parents, teachers, or coaches.

Happy team of high school girls and guys studying together and laughing. Group of multiethnic classmates smiling and studying while sitting in university library. Group of young people sitting at table working on school assignment.


Kids are naturally curious, and kids grow into teenagers. It’s not uncommon for teens to seek out drugs or alcohol just to know what the sensations of being inebriated are like.

To Feel Grown Up

Teens want to feel grown-up, and it’s no surprise that they do! The idea of being an adult is new and exciting, and being able to drink, smoke cigarettes, or use illicit and harmful drugs is also exciting for many teens.


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