Addiction and substance abuse is not just an adult problem. Young adult addiction has grown more common recently. In fact, data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports that one in seven young adults struggles with substance abuse. Teen addiction primarily occurs with alcohol and marijuana. However, the National Institute on Drug Abuse has also identified opioid pain relievers as an addiction in young adults at rates that surpass other age groups.
In 2018, 19.7 million young adults aged 18 to 25 years old had a substance use disorder in the United States. Of those 19.7 million young adults:
- 16.4 million had an alcohol use disorder
- 7.4 million had an illicit drug use disorder
Young adults are more likely to abuse substances than any other age group. In fact, young adults aged 18 to 25 years old are twice as likely as adults 26 years or older to have a substance use disorder.
The Most Commonly Abused Substances by Young Adults
- Inhalants (such as spray paint)
- Prescription drugs (pain relievers, stimulants, and sedatives)
Drug Use and Young Adult Addiction
The three most common teen addictions are alcohol, marijuana, and opioids. Before delving into each addiction, it’s worth looking at some of the reasons behind teenage drug use. Adolescence is a unique life stage marked by many biological, mental, and environmental changes. With how much happens during adolescence, it is no wonder that a higher risk marks this phase of life for developing an addiction.
Some common reasons teens may engage in drug use are sometimes unique to their age group:
- The desire to fit in with their peers
- Wanting to feel good, which may be related to self-medicating as a result of a mental health issue
- Experimenting with substances with friends
- A desire to take risks
- A wish to defy authority figures, such as a parent
These are not the only reasons a teen engages in substance abuse, but these are the most common.
Alcohol Addiction in Teens
Millions of young adults aged 18-25 drink alcohol, many of them regularly. Wild parties and drinking have become almost synonymous with the college experience. Based on young adult binge drinking and alcohol addiction rates, that’s not just a societal stereotype.
Due to the development stage teens are in, alcohol consumption can affect their brains differently from adults, even leading to permanent changes in their brains from excessive use. Alarmingly, Stanford Children’s Health found that youth who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop a substance abuse disorder compared to their peers who refrain from alcohol until the legal drinking age of 21.
The negative impacts of teen addiction related to alcohol include:
- Fatal accidents, including car accidents
- Unsafe sexual activity
- Worsening school performance
- Health issues
Moreover, the above list includes items with a clear warning: young adult addiction harms the addicted person and can potentially harm or even kill those around them.
Marijuana Addiction in Young Adults
The popular consensus is that marijuana is not an addictive substance. However, while less common than for other similar substances, marijuana use results in addiction in approximately 10% of cases. Among youth, addiction rates are even higher, at nearly 17%. For youth who use marijuana daily, addiction rates rise to as high as 50%.
The majority of young adults who become addicted to marijuana have started using the drug before age 18. In fact, most addiction cases begin in adolescence. This is because the brain is still developing during these years and is particularly vulnerable to the effects of substances like marijuana.
Similar to alcohol use, marijuana impairs cognition and is especially dangerous in combination with driving. Another concern for teens is how marijuana use can impact brain development.
Opioid Addiction in Teens
The opioid epidemic has been in the news for some time. One element that is regularly overlooked is the impact opioid addiction has had on teens. In fact, about two-thirds of adults who seek treatment for opioid abuse disorder are identified as first using opioids prior to age 25.
Young adults gain access to prescription opioids from family or friends, or else they may be prescribed opioids themselves, perhaps due to a sports injury. Similar to the causes of other substance abuse, teen addiction to opioids results from factors such as mental health disorders, peer pressure, or environmental stressors such as housing instability or family strife.
Seek Young Adult Addiction Treatment at BoardPrep
BoardPrep Recovery Center® specializes in young adult addiction treatment. Contact us at 866.796.4720 to learn more about addiction in young adults and how our addiction treatment programs specifically address teen addiction.