Impacts of Adolescent Substance Abuse

What are the consequences of substance abuse on young people—particularly, those going through adolescence? Adolescence is typically defined as the period between the ages of 13 and 18. During this stage of life, a young person experiences numerous changes on both a physiological and a psychological level. An increasing body of research supports what anecdotal evidence and common sense would suggest: Drug abuse at a young age can be extremely damaging to the development and psyche of a young person.

Individual Consequences of Early Drug Use

In many cases, early experimentation with illegal or restricted substances can lead to serious consequences, such as:

  • Memory loss
  • Concentration / attention problems
  • Loss of motor skills
  • Loss of coping skills
  • Detrimentally affected brain development
  • Social worries
  • Academic struggles
  • Health problems
  • Affected relationships
  • Delinquency

Statistics of Teenage Drug Use

CASAColumbia is a nonprofit organization focused on the research and policy surrounding substance abuse. The organization published a study compiling thousands of interviews, multiple focus groups, reviews of publications, national data set analysis, and more.

The report found that:

  • Three in four high school students have used addictive substances, including cigarettes, marijuana, cocaine, and alcohol
  • 90% of Americans who are considered addicted to one or more substances according to established medical criteria began using addictive substances before 18 years of age
  • One in 25 Americans who began using substances at 21 or older were addicted compared to one in four Americans who began using addictive substances before 18 years of age
  • 46% of high school students currently use addictive substance
  • 12% of high school students can be considered addicted according to medical criteria

Types of Substances

Of course, different types of substances have different effects on different people. Restricted and addictive substances include:

  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco
  • Cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Marijuana
  • Methamphetamine
  • LSD
  • Prescription drugs

Additionally, various factors impact a young person’s susceptibility and vulnerability to substance abuse, including:

  • Family history
  • Genetics
  • Mental health and other factors
  • Media consumption
  • Environmental factors

Nationwide Consequences of Adolescent Drug Use

The economic cost of adolescent drug use is also substantial. According to research published by CASAColumbia:

  • Juvenile justice programs involving drug use cost the United States $14.5 billion annually
  • Juvenile justice programs involving alcohol use cost the United States $68 billion annually

These numbers are even more sobering when you consider the total cost of drug and alcohol use every year. This is a valid number to consider in the context of adolescent substance use, since it is a well-established fact that substance abuse and addiction begins for most individuals before age 18. All factors considered from state, federal, and local levels of government, American taxpayers pay a total of $468 billion every year for substance use-related issues. That is nearly $1,500 for every American citizen.

For more information about our behavioral health services in Northern California, call Therapeutic Solutions today at (530) 899-3150.