Teen Substance Abuse: A Guide for Understanding Addiction In Your Teen

by | Last updated Jun 12, 2023 | Published on May 13, 2021 | At Risk Populations, Family Recovery | 0 comments

Addiction in Your Teen

Depressing as it may seem, some young people suffer from substance abuse. Nobody is safe from the potential grip of addiction, and this is why it is so important to not only recognize the signs of a substance use disorder but also to understand that their circumstance is not the only one of its kind. No one person is alienated from the pain that addiction inflicts, but it is imperative to note that there is no cookie-cutter design for their recovery needs.

At The Freedom Center, our goal is to help young people who suffer from addiction understand that they are not alone; more than anything, these kids want so badly to feel a sense of security. Addiction is scary, but the one thing those who suffer can be hopeful for is unique, individualized care that will help them recover successfully. In addition to all of this, it is vital to recognize the symptoms of substance abuse if any teen that suffers is to receive the best care available. 

Symptoms of Teenage Substance Abuse

Symptoms of substance abuse in teenagers include the following:

  • Changes in sleeping habits
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Changes in friend groups
  • Lack of interest in friend groups
  • Lack of grooming
  • Lack of self-care
  • Lack of interest in school/extracurriculars
  • Poor academic performance
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Secrecy

One of the most difficult parts about being a teenager is finding belonging and validation. Because some kids don’t have that, they turn to drugs. This is dangerous as it could be this that pushes them towards being addicted to abusing substances for a long period; this is why it is imperative to recognize the signs and symptoms. 

Why Are They Addicted?

Some surface level factors to becoming addicted include the following:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Peer pressure
  • Traumatic experiences

On a deeper level, because the use of drugs distorts one’s perception of pleasure when a young person uses, their overall development is inevitably changed. When drugs are taken or abused, the pleasure center of the brain is triggered. When this happens, one’s perception of amusement is molded to the experience of a drug high. 

When a drug is taken or smoked, dopamine rushes to the brain, giving the user an enjoyable experience. There is a vast array of consequences that come with this, the first of which has to do with everyday pleasures. Food, love, and comedic relief are oftentimes never the same after using drugs that twist one’s perception of pleasure. 

In addition to this, there is, unfortunately, no high that will ever be as strong as the first one. Because of this, people want more every time because they are trying to achieve the same high they did when they first started. The more often people use or abuse drugs, the more likely they are to experience the symptoms of withdrawal. Dependency then ensues, inevitably bearing drug addiction.

Why Won’t My Teen Ask for Help?

Asking for help when you’re most vulnerable is one of the single hardest things anybody could conjure up the effort to do. For someone as fragile and insecure as a teenager, it’s even more difficult. Asking for help takes courage and motivation, something not easily accessible when confronted with paralyzing fear or depleting depression. 


Fear often has a habit of dictating one’s decisions. Psychologically, fear has a way of paralyzing those who are unwilling to see a failing outcome. In fact, because of the potential for failure, some teens won’t even so much as be real with themselves. Some aspects of failure may pertain to their friend groups, family, and isolation. A teen’s security is their hidden treasure, and once it’s been stolen, it’s very difficult to find it again. 


Some teenagers may not even admit to their substance abuse issues. Even if they are confronted with irrefutable proof, they may still find it difficult to recognize a present issue. Denial makes it incredibly difficult for teenagers to get help; if someone isn’t aware of an existing issue, they certainly won’t acknowledge that help is necessary. 


Another reason why teenagers may not ask for help is that they’re depressed. There is a large misconception that depression only equates to sadness. This is not at all true. There are a great many people who suffer from depression that are not sad, but they lack motivation severely. Lack of motivation is one of the tell-tale signs of depression, and it can make the simplest of tasks the most difficult experience. That being said, a great many teenagers have problems finding the motivation to seek help.

What Can I Do for My Teen?

The best thing to do for your teen suffering from substance abuse is to reach out. Be very careful not to come off as accusatory. Accusations will isolate them, hindering their trust even further. The best method to use is more Socratic. Ask them questions, genuinely seek to understand them in your responses, and then ask questions that provoke critical thought.

For teens, living with addiction is immensely difficult. What’s even worse is that addiction at a young age can be a catalyst for a dangerous long-term addiction. Catching the symptoms early can truly help nip addiction in the bud; if the addiction is caught early, there’s a lot that The Freedom Center can do for your teen. Some of that includes the following:

How Rehab Can Help

At The Freedom Center, our recovery programs prioritize success and growth for young teens who need it. In fact, not only will these programs help them recover, but they will be surrounded by a support system that sets them up for success after treatment. 

As mentioned before, teenagers never want to feel as though they are alone. Vulnerability is one of the most terrifying feelings in all of life. Having strong support systems to surround them is imperative to the recovery journey. Support bears empowerment, empowerment bears momentum, and momentum bears success.

Our ultimate goal at The Freedom Center is to usher those who suffer from substance abuse into a life of happiness and solidarity; we want them to feel as though their lives mean something. We are committed to doing everything we can to help your teen get there so that they can move on to a life of stability. 

Our Team

At The Freedom Center, we have a team that is committed to providing the very best care and serving the unique needs of those involved with our recovery programs. Some of those team members include the following:

  • Doctors
  • Therapists
  • Psychiatrists
  • Health care professionals

Life After Recovery

Life doesn’t stop after our patients walk out of our doors. What we do here merely lays the foundation for a strong life filled with choices that are beneficial to one’s overall well-being. Outside of recovery, there are options available to continue one’s rehab journey.

At The Freedom Center, we desire to help each person that comes through our door as a unique individual. There is no one-size-fits-all method of recovery. Because of this, it is our utmost pleasure to develop a plan that will help each person succeed within the context of the lives they’ve already been living. Equipping patients with the best tools before they leave is what we do at The Freedom Center, and it has proven to be successful in the lives of many that have come through our doors. 

You’re Not Alone: The Freedom Center Can Help 

Lives with great potential being ruined by the threat of addiction is perhaps the scariest part of substance abuse. Some of the worst things about that are the long-term implications this can have on someone so young. These teens are not the only ones suffering either; they have families who love them and want the best for them, and seeing them suffer from addiction is disheartening. 

Giving support to those who need it most is the cornerstone of our work here at The Freedom Center. Teenagers are very fearful individuals, and if drug abuse wasn’t destructive enough, it’s even worse for those who are vulnerable. The way we help these young people is by encouraging and empowering them to make great strides in their recovery journey. 

Leading these individuals to a place of stability is a tough process, but with the right mindset, and the right amount of care and understanding, they can get to where they need to be. Assessing individual needs is imperative to those who find themselves in a unique circumstance concerning their addiction. No two individuals are the same, and their treatment should reflect that. 

If you or your teenager are suffering from substance abuse, you have the resources you need to move forward. If you are interested in pursuing a life of recovery and stability, you can contact us, or call us at (888) 291-4362.





Written by: Nick B.

Nicholas B. is the Corporate Director of Admissions for our substance abuse and behavioral health company. Nick’s mission is to provide quality care to every person that reaches out regarding substance abuse or behavioral health questions. Knowledge of an ever-changing industry, compassion when dealing with people, and compliance in every decision are the forces that drive his personal and professional growth.

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