Teen Stress and Drug Abuse

How stressed is your teen? What are the consequences of stress on adolescents? What can be done to relieve teens’ stress? A new study released this month by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America indicates that stress may be more of a concern than most parents think. The study, reported August 4, 2008, reveals that 73 percent of teens say that school stress is the primary reason for drug use. This study also showed that “parents severely underestimate the impact of stress on their teens’ decision to use drugs. Only 7 percent of parents believe that teens might use drugs to cope with stress.”

Causes of Teen Stress

It used to be that teens did drugs to feel cool, or to go along with peer pressure, or to have fun. But these days, teens are often so overwhelmed by school and daily pressures that they feel they are led to use drugs just to cope.

While the pressures of performing well in school and getting into a good college weigh heavily on many teens’ minds, there are many stresses young people face during their teen years. The basic changes that their bodies go through at this age can lead to biological stress. The rapid way teens develop at this stage in their lives can be a source of worry and concern to them. Added to this is lack of sleep because of school, social life, family life, and work.

Family stress is another cause of pressure for adolescents. As teens struggle to become adults and independent from their parents, arguments and harsh words often take place. Almost every parent has experienced the all-knowing, angry attitude of a teenager, who is disgusted by their parents’ rules for them. These problems are often exemplified when parents are divorced, leaving the teen confused about where they belong in the family.

Social stress can also be overwhelming during the teen years. Dating and breakups, struggle for popularity at school, and teasing and bullying can put a lot of pressure on teens.

What can you do to help your adolescent through stress?

One of the most important things for parents to do is to be aware of the stress their children are under, and also the risks their teens face because of the stress. Moodiness, lethargy, forgetfulness, isolation, antisocial behavior, lying, difficulty concentrating, lack of sleep, headaches and stomach aches can all be signs of stress.

If your teen seems stressed, as a parent you can help them reduce the stress, and also help them cope with the stress. Are the worries your teen faces real? Talk to them, and hear their fears, being careful not to minimize their concerns, but rather to work through them. Parents should also model healthy stress management at home. If teens realize they are not alone, and that everyone experiences some sort of stress, teens can learn their own positive ways to cope, rather than turning to things like drugs. And if the teen is unable to function in everyday life, or turning to destructive behavior, parents should consult a professional for help.

Unsure where to start? Take Our Substance Abuse Self-Assessment

Take our free, 5-minute substance abuse self-assessment below if you think you or someone you love might be struggling with substance abuse. This evaluation consists of 11 yes or no questions that are designed to be used as an informational tool to assess the severity and probability of a substance use disorder. The test is free, confidential, and no personal information is needed to receive the result. Please be aware that this evaluation is not a substitute for advice from a medical doctor.