As “Drug Culture” Returns, Teens Are Exposed to More Risk

Preparing to Shoot Heroin

Everyone faces risk and threats to their health when they experiment with drugs and alcohol. The nature of the beast with substance abuse is that it is a highly unhealthy activity, hence why it is so frowned upon in society. And it is not just dangerous for the person experimenting but for those around him or her too. As we move forward through the 21st century, there is an increased risk associated with drug abuse. “Drug culture” is making a comeback after a decade and a half in the shadows, and teens are more at risk now than they ever were before.

Of all the demographics that abuse drugs and alcohol, teens are the ones who experience the most danger by far. When teens abuse substances, they are the demographic most likely to get into accidents, to engage in risky behaviors, to become violent, to hurt themselves, to have risky, unprotected sex, to get into car accidents, to get into trouble with the law, etc. When drug use and alcohol misuse is involved, it seems that teens are more prone to harm and self-destruction than older adults are.

Teen Drug Use in 21st Century America

A recent study published in the journal, Pediatrics, indicated that teens are shifting away from heavy drug use, but are now leaning towards prescription drug abuse. When abused, prescription drugs are just as dangerous as hard drugs are. Teens are self-medicating on OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet, Codeine, Xanax, Ativan, Adderall, and Ritalin in growing regularity.

“About 1 out of every 5 high school students reported non-medical use of prescription drugs…”
Prescription drugs

According to Heather Clayton, study author and health scientist in adolescent health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

“About 1 out of every 5 high school students reported non-medical use of prescription drugs. This behavior is very concerning, as overdoses and deaths related to the non-medical use of prescription drugs are on the rise.”

Across all age ranges, deaths from prescription drugs have increased by more than four-hundred percent since 1999. So, when we hear that teens are showing a growing interest in self-medicating on prescription drugs, of course that is something to be concerned about.

CDC Evaluation of Current Teen Substance Abuse

The CDC surveyed more than twenty-nine thousand high school teens across the United States. The study was able to prove without a doubt that teens who abused prescription drugs were statistically speaking more likely to engage in risky behaviors and dangerous habits than their non-drug using peers were.

According to CDC researchers:

“We have teens who have hormones and needs for excitement and physical stimulation, but who lack the maturity and understanding of the consequences of their behaviors. When any substance use is thrown into the mix, the judgment aspect of the brain is severely affected. Thus, we have adolescents engaging in very high-risk behaviors.”

It could not be put more clearly than that. Teens are already at risk for unhealthy and dangerous behavior based off of their current psychological and developing state. When we add prescription drugs into the mix, substances that are highly mind-altering, it creates a recipe for destruction amongst teens.

Teens Need to Say No to Drugs

Just because a drug is legal does not make it safe. Not by a long shot. Teens need to learn to say no to drugs and alcohol. Their lives depend on it. Just because a drug is made legal in the U.S. and prescribed to people to “help them” with various phenomena does not mean that that drug is safe for teens to self-medicate on.

We need to talk to our teens and educate them about the risks present with prescription drug abuse and, heaven forbid our teens should become addicted to these drugs regardless, we need to ensure they receive expert treatment at a qualified rehabilitation center as soon as possible.




After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.