Teens and Drugs: 3 Risk Factors for Addiction and Substance Abuse

Drug abuse is a serious problem in the United States today, but some individuals are more vulnerable to addiction than others. That’s because there are certain risk factors that make people more likely to use drugs, just as there are protective factors that reduce the likelihood that someone will struggle with such a problem.

Some of these factors are unavoidable and biological, such as a family history of drug or alcohol abuse, while others are social or environmental. If you’re worried about your teen, it can help to know what factors may put them at risk of addiction and how you can help mitigate these risks. Watch out for these 3 factors as they may predispose your child to a drug problem down the road.

Academic Performance

Students who struggle in the classroom are often at a greater risk of developing a substance abuse problem than their higher performing peers. This may be due to a loss of self-esteem brought on by poor performance and low grades or another underlying mental health issue such as ADHD or depression, both of which can harm classroom performance and increase the risk of drug abuse.

Helping young people get the help they need to do well academically as well as to manage any emotional health and attention problems can help improve classroom performance and set students on the right path before the problem gets out of control.

Family Troubles

Trouble at home is also a serious predictor of substance abuse problems. This may stem from exposure to trauma, such as domestic violence or neighborhood gangs, or it may be related to issues like poverty that can cause instability and a lower degree of parental involvement, often due to long work hours or having to hold multiple jobs.

Parents are a touchstone in the struggle against addiction. Not only do closer parental bonds reduce the risk of addiction, but they also make it more likely that your child will come to you if they are struggling and need help, which is often the first step to recovery when problems do arise.


While we often think of children as maturing into young adults as they reach their later teen years, the human brain actually continues to develop until around age 25. Not only is the brain still growing and learning, but the part of the brain that finished developing last is the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for higher cognition and impulse control.

Young people are more likely to make rash decisions that they later regret due to age-related impulse control problems. Other developmental disabilities can also diminish an individual’s capacity for impulse control.

If you’re concerned about your child, be sure to keep an eye out for any behavioral changes and make sure that they know your door is always open to talk if they have a problem. Stay invested, but don’t violate their privacy – maintaining a relationship of trust is vital to keeping youth on the right path.

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