Children’s Health: Teens and Substance Abuse

Substance abuse in teens is on the rise. While alcohol use has declined, vaping has risen. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), 1 in 5 high school seniors say they’ve vaped nicotine in the last month.

Xanax and other related drugs (benzodiazepines) are on the rise. Health care professionals believe this is due to the increased pressure and stress teens are feeling, availability of the drug and an increase in the rate of prescription.

Marijuana use is up as well. According to NIDA statistics, 25% of high school seniors report using an illicit drug in the past month, with the most popular choice being marijuana.

Prescription drug misuse, which can include opioids, is among the fastest growing drug problems in the United States.

Parents should monitor their child’s behavior and watch for signs of drug use. Those include:

  • Isolation.
  • Changes in behavior – For example, they don’t like something they used to have an interest in.
  • Physical changes – Includes dilated/unusually large or small pupils, and bloodshot eyes.
  • Odd odors in their clothing.
  • Loss of interest in the way they look and physical appearance (e.g., for boys, they stop shaving).

It’s important for parents to talk to their teens about drugs. If your teen is taking opiates (after getting their wisdom teeth out, a sports injury, etc.), monitor their use. Be open about how the painkillers make them feel; are they feeling any positive or negative side effects?

Set clear expectations in your household, the kinds of behaviors to expect and realistic consequences. For example: “If I catch you smoking, you lose your cellphone and you won’t go out on weekends.” If substance abuse is already a problem, help teens see their choices and options.

Cone Health has an exceptional, comprehensive network of pediatricians and behavioral health providers dedicated to helping teens stay healthy.

Spokesperson Background:

Wes Swan, MS, NCC, LPC-A, LCAS-A, is a counselor with Cone Health Outpatient Behavioral Health at Greensboro. He received his Bachelor of Arts in history from Asbury University and his Master of Science in counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Swan is a licensed professional counselor associate and provisionally licensed clinical addictions specialist associate.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.