Teen Drug Use and Abuse in 2021

Updated: Aug 24

1) What are some precipitating factors of drug use, abuse, and addition in kids and teens.

Having started my career in a Family Counseling Center and working with all age groups over the past decade, it appears the main predisposing factors include impulsive behaviors and a lack of self-regulation skills to manage impulsivity. Additionally, a lack of productive activities (boredom) and lack of social connection can often predispose substance use and dependence making it more likely to use in an attempt to fill time or fit into peer groups. Also, a lack of a sense of meaning and fulfillment, or a sense of feeling stuck in life may often facilitate the urge to change one’s mood with psychoactive substances. Ages of experimentation often range from 12-17 years, but I have seen as young as 8, and an active physical dependency may form in the late teens or twenties.

2) New and unconventional signs of drug use in teens

Although some of these things may occur without the use of drugs, if you have one or more of these uncommon signs of use it may be beneficial to speak with your child and a professional.

  1. Appearance of uncommon household goods including tinfoil, plastic zipper bags, lighters, or torches, herb grinders.

  2. Presence of USB Charging Ports for vaporizers or other paraphernalia.

  3. The remnants of white, orange, or blue powder on credit cards or nonporous surfaces throughout the house.

  4. Rolled dollar bills or paper, cut straws, or straws with pieces cut off for snorting powders.

  5. Erratic behavior, isolation from OR avoidance of family members

  6. Changes in ability to responsibly manage money

  7. Unscheduled or hidden package deliveries and use of TOR (onion) Browser on computers to enter websites drugs can be easily purchased.

  8. Unwarranted or money transfer transactions (cashapp, venmo, zelle, etc)

  9. Changes or lack of interest that are not age-appropriate in previously enjoyable social or recreational activities or hobbies.

  10. Sudden changes in social circle and friend groups.

3) Drugs commonly used by teens:

In today’s world of easy access to a plethora of chemicals via social media and clandestine online drugstores, and the de-stigmatization of non-medical use of certain psychoactive substances, patterns of drug use often vary by region.

For the most part many teenagers are using

  1. Nicotine in the form of vaporizers

  2. Alcohol

  3. Cannabis/ Cannabis Isolates

  4. Kratom

  5. Stimulants like cocaine, methamphetamine, and non-prescribed neocortical stimulants like Amphetamine Salts

  6. Research Chemicals: Novel or Legal chemicals easily obtained online like benzodiazepine analogs, hallucinogen analogs, and other slightly chemically altered psychoactive substances.

  7. Opioids including prescription and counterfeit pain medications and heroin.

  8. Counterfeit alprazolam tablets usually containing benzodiazepine analogs.

  9. Hallucinogens like DMT, Psilocybin Mushrooms, and LSD

Many Drugs now come in smokable, edible, injectable, and even vape-able forms.

4) Managing drug abuse in teens and seeking help

Be proactive, open, and honest about the reality of becoming physically dependent on any substance regardless of it being natural, plant based, or legal. Always seek professional help from an addiction counselor or nicotine cessation specialist if you discover or are informed of their use, especially hazardous use, and provide support rather than anger, frustration, and punishment. Discuss the lack of quality control and dangers relating to counterfeit pills and research chemicals being passed off as “mainstream” or less potent drugs. Have real conversations about the benefits of moderation and abstinence and ask about the pressure they may face from their peers and social environments. Provide alternatives to drug use including structured or unstructured productive activities and a warm, non-judgmental environment which do not support the use of substances. Always provide help if your child is in need and a great place to start is simply to request a Clinical Evaluation or Substance Use/ Addiction Assessment from a Licensed or Certified Addictions Counselor, Therapist, Psychologist, or Doctor. Lastly, define clear boundaries and household rules and know the difference between productive helping and unproductive enabling behaviors which may facilitate the use of substances in an effort to alleviate the initial discomfort of abstinence. An example would be instead of buying vape cartridges for a teen who ran out of money and is withdrawing from nicotine, offering to pay for a quick telehealth counseling session with a nicotine cessation specialist or counselor who can recommend coping skills and tools to minimize discomfort and maximize self-regulation.

For more information please visit

89 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All