Teen Substance Abuse Statistics

The teen years are characterized by rapid growth and change. During this time, young people begin trying out different activities and identities. They may be influenced by media or their peers. Unfortunately, this period of experimentation is often characterized by substance abuse.


Substance Abuse Among Teens

There are a few fast facts that you should know about teen substance use.

  • The most commonly used substances among members of this demographic are alcohol, marijuana and nicotine products. 
  • By their senior year of high school, about two-thirds of students have tried alcohol at least once. 
  • Nearly 50% of high schoolers reported having used marijuana, and 40% have tried cigarettes. 
  • With the rising popularity of alternative tobacco products, such as vaping devices, nicotine use has returned as a major point of concern for parents.
  • Among high school seniors, 20% reported using a medication without a prescription.
  • While it is illegal for teens under the age of 21 to drink, research shows that people between the ages of 12 and 20 consume 10% of all alcohol in the United States.


The Risks of Teen Drug and Alcohol Use

While many parents may write off teen substance use as typical behavior, these choices can result in lifelong consequences. 

  • The teenage years are a time of rapid growth and maturation. Substance use negatively impacts physical and mental development.
  • Drinking and using drugs increase the risk of other behaviors, such as unprotected sex or driving under the influence.
  • Teen substance use increases your child’s risk of adult health problems.
  • The earlier a person begins using drugs or alcohol, the higher their risk of dependence and addiction.
  • Using substances during this critical period can impact your child’s prospects in college, sports, extracurriculars and their personal life.


When Should I Talk to My Teen?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends screening for substance use in children as young as nine years old. This policy emerged in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which observed earlier and earlier substance abuse among pre-teens and teenagers. You can hold an age-appropriate discussion with your child at any point.

If you suspect that your teenager has begun to misuse drugs or alcohol, resources are available. First, read over the signs of teen substance abuse. If you have observed these symptoms in your child, we can help.

ARCH Academy is an alternative school for teen boys. We help your child to break the cycle of substance abuse through evidence-based best practices. With caring staff, engaging activities and an accredited approach, we help families find recovery.

Contact our admissions office for your confidential assessment.



Adventure therapy, otherwise known as experiential therapy, has been shown to greatly benefit adolescents in recovery.



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