Substance Abuse In Teenagers: Facts, Signs, Treatment And Counseling

Substance abuse is a broad term used to describe behaviors related to abusing harmful substances that range from experimentation to full-blown addiction. As it stands, the most commonly abused substances among teenage girls are alcohol, marijuana, opiates, opioids (such as prescription pain killers), and stimulants - both illicit (such as methamphetamine and cocaine) and prescription pills (such as Adderall, Ritalin, etc.)

Over the last 20 years, substance abuse among teens has become an epidemic issue. Whereas abusing harmful substances was once thought to be taboo, consuming, smoking, drinking, and even snorting particular drugs has become mainstream. 

What’s worse, the usage of drugs like alcohol, which not only has always been the most commonly abused drugs among teens but is also by far the most dangerous, shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. 

Below, we will briefly cover the most commonly used and dangerous substances being abused by American teens. 


According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), alcohol has been abused by 36% of teens in junior high, 60% of sophomores, and a staggering 70% of high school seniors. In their findings, the NIDA found that 41% of seniors, 28% of sophomores, and 14% of 8th graders admitted to abusing alcohol within the last 30 days. 

According to recent studies from Stanford’s Children’s Health, teens who participate in underage drinking run the following risks: 

  • Becoming alcoholics: according to a recent study, teens who abuse underage drink are up to four times likely to become dependent on alcohol in young adulthood. 
  • Violence: underage drinkers are much more likely to commit or be involved in acts of violence while consuming alcohol. 
  • Dropping out: teenage girls who regularly drink are more likely to drop out prematurely than those who have merely experimented with alcohol abuse. 

Prescription Medications 

Prescription medications, such as opioids and stimulants, have become massively popular among teens in the last 20 years. According to the most recent NIDA findings, a staggering 23% of American teens have used prescription pain killers at one time. Additionally, The AddictionCenter.com reports that a similar number of teens (one in five) have abused some prescription medication. 

As for why teens are abusing prescription drugs more than ever before, there are many factors to consider. However, the most pressing issue and contributing factor have to do with drugs being overprescribed. According to AddictionCenter.com, as many as 16 million prescriptions for a popular ‘study’ drug, Adderall, were prescribed in 2012 alone - approximately 3 times the amount from just four years prior.  

Of course, this issue is even more of an issue when it comes to the opioid epidemic. According to the most recent reports, more than 250 million prescriptions are worth of opioids on the streets today.  

Teen Substance Abuse - A Disease that Affects The Whole Family

Teenage substance abuse is a serious issue that affects more than the teen as an individual; rather, it is an issue that affects the entire family. Often, when parents finally realize the extent of their child’s substance abuse, they are overwhelmed and paralyzed with worry. However, while it is completely natural to worry, parents must take this time to calmly assess and handle the situation, rather than full-on panic. 

Moreover, it’s important for parents of teenage girls in this situation to understand they are just one of the hundreds of thousands of families who are dealing with a similar issue. Luckily, with the epidemically large number of families with drug-abusing teenage girls, there are also many rehabilitative options to utilize. 

Incidentally, it is also crucial for parents of a substance-abusing teenage girl to exhibit confidence and composure during this stressful time. By exhibiting this mental state of calm and confidence, their daughter is all the more likely to follow their direction and guidance in locating the necessary residential treatment to help them achieve and maintain sobriety. 

Treatment for Teenage Substance Abuse 

When it comes to teenage substance abuse, finding treatment is an absolute necessity. And, while traditional, out-patient, one-on-one therapy sessions do work for teens who have merely experimented (tried once or twice) with drugs and alcohol, it is generally not intensive enough when it comes to teens who have or continue to abuse harmful substances regularly.

That said, it is highly suggested that parents of a drug-abusing teen locate and utilize the services of a residential treatment center, such as a therapeutic boarding school for troubled teens. 

Elk Mountain Academy Treats Troubled Teen Girls with Substance Abuse Issues 

At Elk Mountain Academy, girls with substance abuse-related issues receive an individual treatment plan aligned with their medical, emotional, and psychological needs. Our multi-disciplinary staff is dedicated to helping each resident embark on a new and more productive life path. Our clinical staff, both on and off-campus, is made up of psychiatric specialists, primary care physicians, a dentist, an orthodontist, licensed psychotherapists, and teachers, mentors, and residential care staff.

For more information, please call us today at (208) 266-1122.