Most Commonly Abused Drugs By Teens

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Drug use and abuse among teenagers in the United States has continued to be of high significance. Teenagers are more likely to use multiple substances in comparison to adult populations and because a teenagers’ body and brain are still in important stages of development, there can be major impacts to physical, psychological and neurological development. The reasons that teenagers use drugs can be multifaceted, with family environment, peer pressure, and perceived lenient attitudes towards drug use all playing major roles.

As stated earlier, teenagers are more likely to use and abuse multiple substances and thus can become addicted to those substances. It is important to recognize those substances that are most commonly abused by teenagers.



Alcohol continues to be the most commonly abused drug among teenagers in the United States. According to a study done by the Century Council, nearly nine million young people between the ages of 12 and 20 have reported having consumed alcohol within the last thirty days. The same report also states that the percentage of youths who drink alcohol regularly increases as they get older with 1% drinking by age 12 up to 39% by age 20.

According to a fact sheet compiled by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), nearly 4,700 young people die each year due because of factors related to alcohol consumption and just over one in four teenagers that drove while under the influence of alcohol and died in car crashes had blood alcohol concentrations of 0.08 or higher.


Marijuana use ranks second behind alcohol in regards to the most commonly abused drugs by teenagers. There has been an increase in marijuana use among teenagers due to the increasing societal attitudes towards tolerance and perceptions that marijuana is not a dangerous drug. In an article recently published in the Huffington Post, new government research is showing that 6.5% of teenagers surveyed in the study smoke marijuana daily, which is up from 2.4% in 1993.

This recent study also shows that about one in four teens surveyed had smoked marijuana within the last 30 days and just over one in ten teenagers aged 13-14 used marijuana within that same time period. Along with the increase of use, the potency of marijuana has also increased within the last 20 years. The effects of marijuana use are more pronounced in the mental and cognitive areas of functioning in comparison to physical domains and with the teenage brain still in critical stages of development, the cognitive and mental functioning in teenagers can be impaired well into adulthood.


Prescription Drugs

It is estimated that approximately 2,500 young people in the United States aged 12-17 abuse a prescription pain reliever for the first time. In a survey conducted and published by The Partnership for a Drug-Free America, one in four teens has been reported to have misused or abused prescription drugs in their lifetime. Prescription stimulants such as Ritalin and Adderall are the most commonly abused drugs by teens in this category.

The increase in the non-medical use and abuse of prescription drugs such as Ritalin and Adderall can be traced to lax attitudes by both parents and caregivers. It is estimated that one-third of parents say they believe Ritalin or Adderall, normally prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), can improve a teen’s academic performance even if the teen does not have ADHD. Parents are not effectively communicating the dangers of prescription drug misuse and abuse to their kids.




Staff Writer

The Palm Beach Institute employs a diverse staff of writers that share a common passion for helping those who are struggling with substance abuse find the care they need. With years of experience in the substance abuse treatment industry and decades of experience in writing and research, our team of writers constantly strive to present accurate and helpful information that is easily digestible and encourages people to seek help.

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  • I have a 45yr/male son currently staying at my house, he has OD, 3 times on Herion. He tries to say it is intentional – I say he wants the attention, or symathy. His girlfriend just got out of the hospital and is at my home temp. they were to find a place, she has been here about a week. Today while assisting his girlfriend( she is paralized on her left side leg and arm from drug abuse) while he is supposedly at a meeting, I have found while looking for her speater a fanny pack containing a needle, spoon, with burn marks, inhalers.etc, I did not look far enough to see if there was drugs in the bag. Also while looking for her cane I found a box of tin foil under the bed. My son did not look right or act like himself this am, Previous occupation was nursing, he appeared to be in a fog, looked as they he may stroke out of have a heart attact. His girlfriend 42yr old has rich parents that can send her to any treatment facility in the world, my son does not have insurance at all, he has not worked for some time. Is their any such thing as a Sponsor that will pay for him to get the help he needs. Or take him as a patient and when he has completed the program lket him work as a coach to help others end their addiction. My son does know the Lord and has not always been this way
    When he was in the hospital recently they told him a lot of his problem was depression placed him on prozac, he had an allergic reaction to it I had to take him to the ER. The doctor said continue it. This still was a problem, he tried his girlfriends paxil this did the same thin high blood pressure sick to his stomach, in a fogged state of being. My phone number is 386-338-7476. Thank you for taking time to read this.

  • There is county and state funding for people that need help. Call a county social worker. Also if he is a harm to himself or others family can commit him. PLEASE CALL YOU DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES!!

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