While impending mental disorders are not the fates of all teens who experiment with drugs or drinking, mental health is an important factor to consider when thinking about how drug and alcohol abuse affect young people. Substance abuse and mental illness often occur together, both in adults and teens. In many cases, someone with an untreated mental illness will use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate. In other cases, substance abuse triggers symptoms of depression, anxiety and even trauma.
Percentage Of Teenagers That Do Drugs And Drink
It’s important to understand the scope of the issue and how many teens could potentially suffer from poor mental health because of substance abuse. By senior year of high school, half of all teens have at least tried a drug of some kind. The most commonly abused drugs are marijuana and prescriptions, but party drugs like MDMA and ecstasy, cocaine and heroin are also abused by a significant number of teens. Drinking rates among teens are even higher. Nearly three-quarters of 12th graders drink and most of those binge drink.
How Substance Abuse Affects Mental Health
While mental health often leads to substance abuse, drugs and alcohol can also trigger symptoms of mental illness or make them worse. For example, teen suicide, suicidal thoughts and self-harm, like cutting, are more common in teens who abuse drugs or drink than those who do not. Many drugs, as well as alcohol, make symptoms of depression worse. Certain prescriptions are also used by teens to perpetuate an eating disorder.
Helping Teens With Substance Abuse And Mental Health Disorders
Having a mental illness is a risk factor for substance abuse. Parents who catch their teens using drugs or drinking excessively should be aware of this connection. Substance abuse can act as a warning sign that a teen may be struggling with an undiagnosed mental illness. Getting screened for a diagnosis and being treated for a mental illness can save a young person from years of substance abuse and future addiction.
The most important thing for teens abusing drugs or alcohol is that someone notices and intervenes. Parents need to be aware of what their teens are doing, how they behave, the kinds of friends they spend time with and other factors to be able to notice when drugs or drinking have become an issue.
Teens exhibiting signs of mental health issues and/or of using drugs or alcohol need the guidance of health professionals to learn how to cope in useful ways. They also need supportive parents to help them get well again. Facts about teens doing drugs and drinking are scary for parents, but paying attention and being aware is crucial. Doing so can save a young person’s life.