Teenage Risk Factors for Drug and Alcohol Use
Despite well-publicized risks, many teenagers cannot resist the perceived thrill of experimenting with
drugs and alcohol. Unfortunately, recreational usage too often turns into habituated consumption of
Once that occurs in the teenage years, it is more likely that the teen will engage in
adverse behavior related to substance abuse and risk experiencing one or more negative long-term or
Although recent statistics reveal a promising decline in illicit substance use among teens, over a million
American teens reportedly have a drug use disorder with an additional 915,000 teenagers struggling
with alcohol dependence issues.
These statistics are further re-enforced by a report from the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug
Dependence that shows alcohol and drugs as the leading contributors to teenage suicide, crime among
youth and lower grade averages. It is also a well-documented fact that risk factors associated with
substance abuse increases as the number of use opportunities increase.
Other sources indicate that…
a) The highest rate of illegal drug use occurs between the age of 18 to 20.
b) More than five million teenagers are affected by binge drinking which is defined as consuming
four or more drinks in a single sitting.
c) 25 percent of all teens between the age of 13 and 17 say they have friends who use drugs in
some form such as marijuana, prescription pills or by inhaling toxic fumes from paint, computer
cleaner or glue.
d) New York University researchers also found that high school seniors who use heroin were also
more likely to engage in polydrug use.
There is no single factor that influences substance use among teens. However, studies show the physical
and emotional changes that occur during the transition from adolescence to young adulthood as the
most vulnerable period for drug and alcohol use among teens. Researcher also highlights “exposure” to
drugs and alcohol as well as “expectancy” for the euphoria provided by these substances as common
motivators that contribute to teenage drinking and experimentation with drugs.
Major risk factors of drug and alcohol use that begins in adolescence include:
● Impairing the development of the prefrontal cortex in the brain that is responsible for critical
thinking, risk assessment, impulse control, and organization.
● Problems with the myelin sheath formation which is directly related to brain signaling.
● MDMA (Molly or Ecstasy) has been linked to lowered serotonin levels which are associated with
emotional wellbeing. Studies indicate that the impact of MDMA on serotonin levels could last
for as much as seven years.
● Regular alcohol and/or binge drinking in teens has been shown to negatively impact
problem-solving abilities, vocabulary, memory, understanding of spatial relationships and
● Recurring delinquency and other social problems with family members, peers, and the greater
● Increased risk of sexual assaults, rapes, unwanted pregnancy and contracting a sexually
transmitted disease. These risk factors can cause significant, and long-term effects on mental
health, childbearing for women and sexual dysfunction in men. Some studies also indicate that
these ill effects could last longer for teenage girls.
● Contributes to substance use disorders that can follow teens into adulthood.
Due to the rapid neurological changes occurring in the brain between puberty and adolescence, drug
use choices made during these developmental years can have negative long-term effects.
Ebb Tide Treatment Centers
We at Ebb Tide Treatment Centers believe alcoholics and addicts can and do recover. Recovering from
active addiction (Substance Abuse Disorder) does not have to be a long, painful process. With the help
of Ebb Tide’s caring and experienced staff, you and your loved ones will learn, and take proven steps
necessary to achieve success by maintaining lasting sobriety. The goal of Ebb Tide Treatment Centers is
to restore lives and families. With our help, you can regain control of your life from addiction and start
Ebb Tide Treatment Center
400 Executive Center Dr. Suite 209
West Palm Beach, FL 33410