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Reasons Teens Use Alcohol and Drugs

Teens try alcohol and drugs for many of the same reasons that adults use them. Teens also use alcohol and drugs to:

  • Be social and have fun. Most teens use alcohol and drugs for the first time in a social setting. They believe that addiction "won't happen to me."
  • Explore and try new things. Teens are curious and often want to know what it feels like to be high. Some teens believe that it is an expected and acceptable thing to do. Often parents encourage teens to try alcohol and cigarettes, thinking that the teen is safe because he or she is not using "drugs."
  • Be more mature, glamorous, or sexy. Teens may think using alcohol or drugs makes them more grown-up and more confident. Many advertisements give the impression that alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs increase sex appeal, confidence, and fun.
  • Fit in with a group. Teens who feel that they are outsiders may fit in with a group that uses alcohol, cigarettes, or other drugs because they don't feel that they can fit in with other groups.
  • Rebel or act out against their parents. Sometimes teens use substances as a way to rebel against their parents' authority. They may engage in other risk-taking behaviors as well.
  • Feel better or escape their problems. Teens with psychiatric conditions, such as depression or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), may use substances in an attempt to treat their symptoms. Teens with high stress may use substances to take their mind off the stress for a while. In addition, teens who have been physically or sexually abused or who have post-traumatic stress disorder may use substances to relieve their pain and to escape.
By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Peter Monti, PhD - Alcohol and Addiction
Last Revised August 19, 2010

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: August 19, 2010
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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