The Dark Reality of Teenage Substance Abuse
The experimentation of drugs, sex, and alcohol while enduring the teenage years is considered to be quite typical and anticipated among the general opinion. With the expectations of consistency in school, managing social dynamics between peers, and keeping family harmony — there is also an expectancy for teenagers to encounter potential danger, especially to the exposure of a myriad of substances. While society should be cognizant of curiosity towards drugs, the lack of education and diligent harm reduction has led to desensitization, and even ignorance to the dire consequences that can come along with the usage of these substances.
Using drugs as a teenager is detrimental because their bodies are in a crucial period of development. When consuming these substances, it has significantly negative effects on the entirety of teenage anatomy, some examples being impaired memory, high blood pressure, cancers, and mental disorders caused by neurological disruption. As for the emotional aspect of adolescents, it is often exacerbated by the influence of these substances, such as heightened anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and lack of motivation. However, moving away from the physical, emotional, and mental effects that drugs have — it’s simply addicting due to the high dopamine, or “reward chemical”, that is released when consuming drugs. Dopamine is known to release pleasure, happiness, and feel-good emotions; and drugs often release abnormal amounts of these chemicals that can’t be produced when sober. Where there is consistent exposure to feelings of intense pleasure from these risky substances, it can easily become a source of dependency.
A fair question to ask though, “Where are kids even getting these drugs in the first place?”
The high prevalence of drug accessibility has shown to demonstrate a strong correlation to the usage of social media — mainly due to the major accessibility that these platforms provide for illegal drug trade. According to a study conducted by CVS news, they asked Kathleen Miles, an employee for the Center on Illicit Networks and Transnational Organized Crime, to create two fake profiles on Snapchat, Instagram, and Tiktok that posed as high schoolers. One of the profiles primarily searched for drugs, while the other was assigned to frequently use hashtags such as #anxiety, #depression, and #sad. With the first profile, the account came across a supposed dealer within 48 hours. The second profile did not have direct contact with any drug trade, but still had exposure to drug-related posts with marijuana and tobacco because of its hashtag following.
In addition to the problem of easy access to these substances online, there is also an unquestionable drug culture that has been intertwined in the mass media. We oftentimes hear rappers romanticizing the usage of heavy drugs and reckless behaviors that society would deem unsafe. With the natural tendency for teenagers to want to fit in with social ideals, it is inevitable that they will consider participating in this culture. “Teenagers have many different reasons for using drugs. The most common reasons for drug abuse in teens is to rebel, to feel good, to experiment, to avoid the feelings of pain, and the biggest one, to fit in.”(Edubirdie 2021). The overwhelming amount of messaging that glorifies the usage of these substances puts them under the false impression that the engagement of using these substances is ‘cool’ or ‘edgy’, along with bringing aspirations to emulate their role models.
While examining the dangerously loose leash of accessibility to drugs, addictive properties, and glorification of it’s usage, it’s crucial to find solutions to reduce the likelihood of teenagers through education that goes in depth about its negative effects. Rather than teaching abstinence and total avoidance, instead focus on the consequences that can come with the decision to consume these substances. It is important to give children, teens, and even adults proper access to education that specializes in the harm reduction of these behaviors, rather than expressing the notion to “just say no”. By providing open spaces for help networks and drug education organizions, the youth population of our current generation will begin to establish safer viewpoints on drug usage.
- Johnson, Jeff, “The Effects of Drug Abuse on Teens”, Casa Palmera, Published December 13, 2009. Link available at:
2. “Substance Abuse Among Adolescents”, Edubirdie, Accessed June 30, 2022. Link available at:
3. “Teenage Drug Abuse In The United States”, Grades Fixer, Published September 1, 2020. Link available at:
4. “The Key Factors And Consequences Of Drug Abuse In Teens”, Edubirdie, Accessed June 29, 2022. Link available at: