Teen drug abuse: Help your teen avoid drugs

Teen drug abuse can have a major impact on your teen's life. Find out how to help your teen make healthy choices and avoid drug abuse.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Teens who experiment with drugs put their health and safety at risk. Help prevent teen drug abuse by talking to your teen about the consequences of using drugs and the importance of making healthy choices.

Why teens abuse drugs

Various factors can contribute to teen drug abuse, from insecurity to a desire for social acceptance. Teens often feel indestructible and might not consider the consequences of their actions, leading them to take dangerous risks — such as abusing legal or illegal drugs.

Common risk factors for teen drug abuse include:

  • A family history of substance abuse
  • A mental or behavioral health condition, such as depression, anxiety or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Impulsive behavior
  • A history of traumatic events, such as experiencing a car accident or being a victim of abuse
  • Low self-esteem or feelings of social rejection

Consequences of teen drug abuse

Negative consequences of teen drug abuse might include:

  • Impaired driving. Driving under the influence of any drug can impair a driver's motor skills, putting the driver, passengers and others on the road at risk.
  • Sexual activity. Teen drug abuse is linked with poor judgment, which can result in unplanned and unsafe sex.
  • Drug dependence. Teens who abuse drugs are at increased risk of serious drug use later in life.
  • Concentration problems. Use of drugs, such as marijuana, might affect a teen's memory and ability to learn.
  • Serious health problems. Ecstasy can cause liver and heart failure. High doses of or chronic use of methamphetamine can cause psychotic behavior. Chronic use of inhalants can harm the heart, lungs, liver and kidneys. Abuse of prescription or over-the-counter medications can cause respiratory distress and seizures.

Talking about teen drug abuse

Choose a time when you're unlikely to be interrupted — and set aside phones. If you're anxious, share your feelings with your teen.

To talk to your teen about drugs:

  • Ask your teen's views. Avoid lectures. Instead, listen to your teen's opinions and questions about drugs. Assure your teen that he or she can be honest with you. Watch your teen's body language to see how he or she feels about the topic.
  • Discuss reasons not to abuse drugs. Avoid scare tactics. Emphasize how drug use can affect things important to your teen — such as sports, driving, health and appearance.
  • Consider media messages. Some television programs, movies, websites or songs glamorize or trivialize drug use. Talk about what your teen sees and hears.
  • Discuss ways to resist peer pressure. Brainstorm with your teen about how to turn down offers of drugs.
  • Be ready to discuss your own drug use. Think how you'll respond if your teen asks about your own drug use. If you chose not to use drugs, explain why. If you did use drugs, share what the experience taught you.
Feb. 02, 2016 See more In-depth