Teen Drug Abuse

  • Medical Author:
    Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD

    Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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Quick GuideTeen Drug Abuse Pictures Slideshow: Statistics, Facts and Symptoms

Teen Drug Abuse Pictures Slideshow: Statistics, Facts and Symptoms

What is drug abuse?

As defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, drug dependence is a negative pattern of using a substance that leads to a number of problems, which may include needing more of a drug to get intoxicated (tolerance), difficulties that occur when the effects of the drug wear off (withdrawal), using more of a substance or for longer time than intended, and other life problems because of their use of a drug or drugs.

Five stages of drug use have been identified. The first stage is described as access to drugs but no use thereof. In that stage, minimizing the risk factors that make a teenager more vulnerable to using drugs are an issue. The second stage of drug use ranges from experimentation or occasional use to regular weekly use of substances. The third stage is characterized by youth progressing to further increasing the frequency of using one or more drugs on a regular basis. This stage may also include the teenager either buying, stealing, or drug dealing to get drugs. In the fourth stage, adolescents have established regular usage, have become preoccupied with getting intoxicated ("high"), and have developed problems in their social, educational, vocational, or family life as a result of using the substance. The final and most serious fifth stage of drug use is defined by the youth only feeling "normal" when they are using. During this stage, risk-taking behaviors like stealing, drug dealing, engaging in physical fights, unprotected sex, or driving while intoxicated increase and they become most vulnerable to having suicidal or homicidal thoughts.

What are the causes and risk factors of teen drug use?

Family risk factors for teenagers engaging in drug abuse include low parent supervision or communication, family conflicts, inconsistent or severe parental discipline, and family history of alcohol or drug abuse. Individual risk factors include any history of physical or sexual victimization, learning or emotional problems, difficulty managing impulses, emotional instability, thrill-seeking behaviors, and perceiving the risk of using drugs to be low.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/18/2015
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  • Teen Drug Abuse - Treatments

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  • Teen Drug Abuse - Prevention

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  • Teen Drug Abuse - Drug Types

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  • Teen Drug Abuse - Parental Prevention

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  • Teen Drug Abuse - Signs and Symptoms

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  • Teen Drug Abuse - Treatment

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  • Teen Drug Abuse - Help for Teens

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