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Thursday, June 18, 2020

Risk Factors for Youth Substance Use

risk factors

Since the beginning of America’s opioid epidemic, research has focused on how drug use begins and how it progresses. Many different factors, environmental and genetic, can contribute to someone’s risk for a substance use disorder.

The Facts of Youth Substance Use 


Since 1975, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has monitored trends of drug and alcohol consumption among adolescents. Current data reveals that while the prevalence of cigarette use and binge drinking have dropped in recent years, the use of tobacco products remains high. Marijuana use has increased, with 12.5% of 8th graders, 28.8% of 10th graders, and 36.4% of 12th graders reporting that they had used the drug within the past year. Prescription medications like Vicodin, Oxycontin, Adderall, and Ritalin are of particular concern; in 2009, the CDC reported that more than 20% of high school students had misused a prescription drug. 

The risks of substance use among young people are significant. Research shows that using drugs and alcohol earlier in life can result in increased rates of sexually transmitted infections, juvenile delinquency, vehicular fatalities, and other issues associated with mental and physical health. Adolescents are particularly vulnerable due to the underdeveloped state of their brains, which can lead to worsened decision-making abilities and increased long-term effects of alcohol and drugs. Finally, using these substances in one’s teen years can result in an increased risk of serious drug use and dependence later in life. 

Risk Factors 


It is important to know that risk factors do not predict a child’s future; instead, they provide a general gauge regarding the likelihood of drug or alcohol use. By addressing risk factors early and providing extra assistance to higher risk children, it is possible to avoid the path of substance use. Prominent risk factors for youth substance use include

Family history. If a child’s family members have had addiction problems in the past, there is a heightened biological and social risk that this child will misuse alcohol or drugs. Adults should let their children know that they are more likely to develop drug or alcohol problems when they reach their early teens. 

History of trauma. Research shows that children who have been through car accidents, sexual abuse, or other traumatic incidents are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol later in life. It is vital for parents to help their teens to receive proper treatment for these concerns. 

Impulse control issues. Teens who love risk-taking or who have difficulty controlling their impulses are more likely to use drugs and alcohol. Because teens’ brains are not fully developed, it is critical that parents educate their children on the risk factors for youth substance use. 

Mental health problems. Children with diagnoses like depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or anxiety are at higher risk for addiction. These individuals aren’t guaranteed to develop a substance use disorder, but because of their reduced ability to regulate emotions and behavior, parents should be watchful. An open dialogue with your child’s primary care provider is advised. 

How to Prevent Youth Substance Use 


Teens use drugs and alcohol for a variety of reasons, and understanding these motivations is critical to prevention efforts. During this phase of their lives, young people struggle to cope with transitions, grown-up emotions, and hormonal surges. They may turn to drugs in an attempt to escape or self-medicate feelings of depression and anxiety. It’s also possible that they see substance use as a tool of their rebellion, or as a way to fit in. The risk factors for youth substance use are as complex as teenagers themselves. However, it is possible to prevent them from taking over your child’s life.

Know your teen’s activities and friends. Be aware of their whereabouts, and find out which adult-supervised activities your child is interested in. Encourage them to get involved in these activities, rather than letting them have unlimited downtime – boredom can be a reason that teens turn to substance use. 

Create rules and consequences. Family rules are important to young people and serve as helpful boundaries for their behavior. Explain what these rules are – for example, you may forbid riding home with a driver who has been drinking – and consistently enforce the consequences when necessary. 

Know the signs of substance use. Early intervention is key, and behavioral change is usually one of the first things parents notice. If your child is using drugs, you may observe worsened academic performance, self-isolation and secrecy, complaints from teachers and classmates, unexplained disappearances, changing friend groups, and defiant or disrespectful behavior. Keep an eye out for physical signs of substance use, including slurred speech, mood swings, inappropriate laughter, loud or obnoxious behavior, paranoia, low energy levels, and unexplained changes to their personality. 

Set a good example. Parents should model the behavior they wish to see – do not drink to excess, misuse prescription medications, or use illicit drugs. This is particularly salient for those in recovery, who should avoid drinking or drug use altogether. By setting a good example, you show your child how to behave and how to overcome the risk factors for youth substance use. 

Faith-Based Addiction Treatment 


Celebrate Hope at Hope By The Sea is a faith-based addiction treatment program rooted in the 12 Steps and the teachings of Christ. Many of our clients first began a pattern of substance abuse in their youth and are now working to lead prosperous lives in recovery. Others reached the age of 18 and realized that treatment is necessary. For more information about our evidence-based addiction treatment, contact us today.

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