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Drug and Alcohol Abuse Effects

You can stop the effects of drug and alcohol abuse. You can help your teen heal. Addressing substance use now means avoiding its continued effects. Drug and alcohol use puts teens and young adults at risk for more drug and alcohol use. The Foundation for a Drug-Free World[1] explains, “Young people who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than those who begin drinking at age 21.” The earlier a teen or pre-teen starts drinking, the more likely he or she is to struggle with substance abuse issues later in life. This may not seem like a problem for your child. You may not want to believe your child drinks or uses drugs. However many teens start drinking at a young age. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism[2] shares the following statistics:

  • By age 15, about 35 percent of teens have had at least 1 drink
  • By age 18, about 65 percent of teens have had at least 1 drink
  • People ages 12 through 20 drink 11 percent of all alcohol consumed in the United States
  • Young people consume more than 90 percent of their alcohol by binge drinking

You are right to worry about a friend, child or other young adult. You do not worry alone. Many teens experience the effects of alcohol and drug use. These effects include developing or continuing substance use issues. Don’t let drug and alcohol abuse continue. Supportive professionals, peers and treatment services are readily available. Reach out to Michael’s House to learn more about identifying and addressing substance use issues in teens. Stop substance use before it leads to continued abuse and addiction problems.

The Effects of Drug and Alcohol Abuse on Mental Health

Addiction shares a close relationship with other mental health issues. This is as true during teenage years as it is during adulthood. Each concern exacerbates the other. One of the effects of alcohol and drug abuse is worsening anxiety, depression and other mental health symptoms. None of these concerns can be addressed until all of these concerns are addressed. The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking[3] explains, “Adolescents with defined mental disorders have significantly elevated rates of alcohol and other drug use problems. In these cases, early treatment of mental disorders, such as depression or excessive anxiety, is warranted before an adolescent begins to drink as well as after initiation of drinking…Because many young people are involved not only with alcohol but also with other substances and may have a mental disorder, interventions should be designed to address this complexity.” Treatment should begin with a complete mental and physical health assessment. Providers need to recognize the likelihood of multiple substance use and mental health issues. Substance abuse treatment should include Dual Diagnosis care. When professionals work together to provide this integrated treatment, teens find freedom from substance abuse and mental health symptoms.

Teenage Brain Development and Drug Use

Your teen doesn’t have to struggle with a co-occurring mental health issue for substance use to affect his or her brain. Teenage brains are still developing. Drug and alcohol abuse interrupt this development process. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism shares, “Young people’s brains keep developing well into their 20s. Alcohol can alter this development, potentially affecting both brain structure and function. This may cause cognitive or learning problems.” Substance use can change how a person thinks. When teens misuse drugs and alcohol, they may damage their ability to learn, remember and process emotions now and in the future. Developing brains also have a wonderful ability to heal. Taking action against substance use means better hope for a healthy, drug-free future.

The developing brain also explains why teens do drink and use drugs. Substance use isn’t a sign of parenting failure. It reflects how the brain grows and how teenagers think and act. The Call to Action explains, “The limbic areas of the brain, which are thought to regulate emotions and are associated with an adolescent’s lowered sensitivity to risk and propensity for novelty and sensation seeking, mature earlier than the frontal lobes, which are thought to be responsible for self-regulation, judgment, reasoning, problem-solving, and impulse control. This…can result in impulsive decisions or actions, a disregard for consequences, and emotional reactions that can put teenagers at serious risk in ways that may surprise even the adolescents themselves.” Even teens sometimes feel they cannot control their teenage thoughts and actions. They may be as surprised by their substance use as a parent, friend or other mentor. Good kids use drugs and alcohol. Good parents need support reaching out to and helping these kids.


[1] “Young People Versus Adults. What’s the Difference?” The Foundation for a Drug-Free World. Web. 31 Jan 2017.

[2] “Underage Drinking.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Jan 2016. Web. 31 Jan 2017.

[3] Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking. 2007. Web. 31 Jan 2017.