Teenage Addiction - Symptons | Center on Addiction

Prevention in Teens

Teen Substance Use

Use of addictive substances—tobacco/nicotine, alcohol and other drugs—during adolescence interferes with brain development, reduces academic performance and increases the risk of accidents, homicides, suicides and serious health conditions, including addiction. Teens and young adults are more inclined than adults to take risks, including smoking, drinking or using other drugs. Use of any addictive substance while the brain is still developing increases the chances of future use of that and other addictive substances.  

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The earlier an individual starts smoking, drinking or using other drugs, the greater the likelihood of developing addiction:

  • 9 out of 10 people who abuse or are addicted to nicotine, alcohol or other drugs began using these substances before they were 18  
  • People who began using addictive substances before age 15 are nearly 7 times likelier to develop a substance problem than those who delay first use until age 21 or older
  • Every year that substance use is delayed during the period of adolescent brain development, the risk of addiction and substance abuse decreases

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9 out of 10 people who have substance problems started using before they turned 18.

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Warning Signs of Teen Substance Use

Warning Signs of Teen Substance Use 

Certain symptoms and behaviors are warning signs for substance use in teens, although they may also indicate other problems, such as depression. Warning signs can include:

  • Alcohol, smoke or other chemical odors on your child’s or their friends’ breath or clothing
  • Obvious intoxication, dizziness or bizarre behavior
  • Changes in dress and grooming
  • Changes in choice of friends
  • Frequent arguments, sudden mood changes and unexplained violent actions
  • Changes in eating and sleeping patterns
  • Sudden weight gain or loss
  • Loss of interest in usual activities or hobbies
  • School problems such as declining or failing grades, poor attendance and recent discipline problems
  • Trauma or frequent injuries
  • Runaway and delinquent behavior
  • Depressed mood or talk about depression or suicide; suicide attempts

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics. (2009). “Substance Abuse Prevention”


  • CASAColumbia. (2011). Adolescent substance use: America's #1 public health problem.

Addiction prevention in teens callout(family day)

Family Day celebrates simple, everyday things parents do to connect with their kids. Founded in 2001 by Center on Addiction, Family Day works with organizations across the country to educate parents about how everyday activities, like sharing a meal, playing a game, or asking about their day, can make a difference in the life of a child. 

Why Parents Make a Difference

Children of hands-on parents are far less likely to smoke, drink or use other drugs. Highly engaged parents are more likely to notice some of the warning signs of drug use.

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