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Teen Drug Abuse Facts & Their Implications
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Teen Drug Abuse Facts & Their Implications

Written by Seth Fletcher on January 8, 2016
Medical editor Anchan Kumar
Last update: May 30, 2024

 Teen substance abuse in Canada is on the rise. According to Statistics Canada, 60% of illicit drug users in Canada are between 15 and 24, and that's one of the many teen drug abuse facts. Healthwise, conditions of teen drug abuse are alarming, with exposure to drugs at a tender age likely to result in critical health effects such as physical and mental health disorders. Most of the teen addicts are likely to suffer from mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety. Teen drug abuse calls for a response drawing on knowledge of those factors that put one at risk for this behavior and both the immediate and long-run health consequences, together with effective prevention and treatment strategies.

Key Takeaways

  • Rising Teen Drug Use: 60% of Canadian drug users are aged 15-24, showing a rise in teen substance abuse.
  • Severe Health Effects: Teen drug use causes serious health issues, including mental health disorders and physical ailments.
  • Major Risk Factors: Peer pressure, family history, mental health issues, drug availability, and media influence drive teen drug use.
  • Impact on Brain Development: Drug use harms the developing teen brain, increasing addiction and overdose risks.
  • Need for Prevention: Effective prevention and education are essential to combat teen drug abuse.

We published an infographic talking about the drugs in Canada. Take a look. Popular illicit drugs in Canada include: Marijuana, Ketamine, LSD, Cocaine, Bath salts, Methamphetamine, GHB, Ecstasy,  Heroin and Alcohol. Of course, teens who abuse drugs are more likely to develop health problems such as: 

  • Short-term memory loss 
  • Anxiety
  • Depression 
  • Decreased appetite 
  • Panic attacks 
  • Psychomotor retardation 
  • Psychosis 
  • Cardiovascular disease 
  • Liver damage 

Why Do Teens Use Drugs

Some experiment with illegal drugs for a short period. Others use them regularly and ultimately become addicted to drugs. The reasons why teens use drugs vary widely. With the help of our rehab, we have freed plenty of teens. The problem is not limited to kids who go to public schools. John Westland, a social worker at the Sick Kids Hospital, says that he has interacted with teen addicts who go to private and religious schools. One reason why do teens start using drugs is to demonstrate their independence. Once again, this affects kids across all social levels. Kids from well-to-do families or low-income families could dabble in drugs to demonstrate their independence. However, teens from families where one or both parents use drugs are at a greater risk of becoming addicts in the future. Substance abuse could also be used as a form of escapism to cope with stress or boredom.

Effects of Drugs on Teens

In June 2015, the Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse, an advisory council in Canada mandated to provide research on the harm of drugs and other addictive substances, published a report [PDF Link] about the adverse effects of gateway drugs like Cannabis. Particularly stating these effects during adolescence to be problems in focusing attention and information processing, motor coordination difficulties, psychotic symptoms, mental health issues and other consequences of teen drug use.

Treating or controlling teen substance abuse is quite expensive. Figures from the Health Officer's Council of BC show that for every $5 spent on teen drug rehabilitation, $95 goes towards incarceration expenses. In addition, substance abuse costs the healthcare system $8 billion every year. The most obvious implication of drug abuse is that it is one of the top causes of early death. The Government of Saskatchewan's Department of Health found that young people who use illegal drugs are 11 times more likely to commit suicide or overdose.

Another study found that 54% of female drug addicts are likely to die prematurely. Young people involved in drugs are likely to drop out of school. Science Daily found that youth in 12th grade who use marijuana, alcohol, and other illegal drugs are likely to drop out of school. Moreover, these dropouts tend to become heavy users of illicit drugs compared to their peers in school. Science Daily also found that drug use among dropouts was 31.4% higher than among teens who continue studying (18.2%).

Teen Drug Abuse Facts

It is essential, therefore, to understand all the critical facts about teen drug use to address this increasing menace. There are many factors that influence teen drug use; the most important ones are underscored below. Here are some critical teen drug use facts:

  • Peer pressure: Many young people start using drugs in order to fit in with their peers or social groups.
  • Family influence: Those teens who have a history of substance misuse in their families are more likely to acquire such behavior.
  • Mental health problems: Using drugs as a means to cope with problems like depression, anxiety, or ADHD is common among adolescents.
  • Availability: The availability of drugs within their reach through friends and family members and the spread of drugs in the locality significantly affect drug use among teens.
  • Mass media influence: This will make youths find it acceptable to use the drug or even make them want to use drugs if in movies, TV series, or on social media they are portrayed.

These statistics for teen drug use call to attention the need to approach the influencing factors for reducing teen substance abuse.

Why Does Drug Use Affect the Teen Brain Differently Than Adults?

Drugs and the teen brain interact in harmful ways that are complex. First, the adolescent brain is in that critical period of life - the teen brain is vulnerable to the neurotoxic effects of drugs. In other words, substance use can interfere with normal developmental processes. Such effects may bring about changes in brain structure and function that can then hang around and influence adulthood in negative ways. Changes in cognitive abilities, such as memory, attention, and problem-solving skills, might make it more difficult for teens to succeed academically and socially.

The heightened sensitivity of the teen brain's reward system also increases the risk of addiction. Adolescents are more likely to be indulged in risky behaviors; the intense euphoria that drugs produce can reinforce repeated use, leading to very fast dependency. What worsens it is the fact that teens are less likely to perceive the long-term implications of their behaviors; hence, they are more likely to experiment with substances without even realizing that they may end up addicted. 

Aside from this, adolescents are at an exceptionally high risk of drug overdose. Owing to their developing brains and bodies, teens cannot quite correctly estimate appropriate dosages or recognize the signs of overdose. This lack of awareness, combined with the potent and sometimes unpredictable nature of drugs, can lead to fatal consequences. Indeed, young people need to take preventive measures and learn about the unique risks drugs pose to the teen brain in order to reduce drug overdose and protect long-term health and well-being.

Why Is the Teenage Brain More Susceptible to Addiction

Drugs and the teen brain are a dangerous mix because the teenage brain is still developing, particularly in areas responsible for impulse control and decision-making. So that makes teens more prone to take risks and seek out the intense rewards drugs provide, leading to a greater likelihood of addiction. The pathways for pleasure in their brains are more easily kicked into high gear, reinforcing the use of drugs much more powerfully than in adults.

Also, incomplete teen brain development may lead to worse judgment regarding the amount and frequency of taking drugs, thereby enhancing the risk of a drug overdose. The risk associated with their behavior may not be fully understood by teens, making education and prevention efforts particularly crucial at this vulnerable stage.

Teen Drug Use Statistics

Teen drug abuse statistics provide the necessary insight into the scale of the problem among adolescents. A recent teen drug statistics report says that about 60% of illicit drug users in Canada fall between the ages of 15 and 24 years. Marijuana use is the most rampant, with nearly a third of all high school-going teens reporting that they have ever tried the drug. Additionally, around 15% of the teens have abused prescription drugs.

The data further indicates a high level of experimentation with other substances. For example, almost 28% of 8th graders have tried alcohol, and 16.5% have used marijuana. These statistics reveal the need for targeted prevention efforts and education to reduce teen drug use and the factors that influence it. Understanding these teen drug statistics provides the necessary insight into devising strategies that will help keep youth healthy and secure.


How prevalent is teen drug abuse in Canada?

Teen drug abuse is a significant issue in Canada, with 60% of illicit drug users aged between 15 and 24 years old.

What are the common health effects of teen drug abuse?

Teen drug abuse can lead to serious health problems, including mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety, as well as physical issues like cardiovascular disease and liver damage.

What factors contribute to teen drug abuse?

Factors include peer pressure, family history of substance misuse, mental health problems, availability of drugs, and media influence.

Why is the teenage brain more susceptible to addiction?

The teenage brain is still developing, particularly in areas responsible for impulse control and decision-making, making teens more prone to take risks and seek out intense rewards, increasing the likelihood of addiction.

What can be done to prevent teen drug abuse?

Effective prevention and education strategies are essential to address the factors influencing teen drug use, reduce drug abuse, and protect long-term health.

Certified Addiction Counsellor

Seth brings many years of professional experience working the front lines of addiction in both the government and privatized sectors.

Dr. Anchan Kumar studied Family Medication at the College of Manitoba, where she was profoundly committed to conveying optimized healthcare. With a sharp intrigue in mental well-being, Dr. Kumar has effectively contributed to the Queen's Online Psychotherapy Lab, giving online psychotherapy to patients with different mental well-being conditions. Her endeavours centre on upgrading understanding encounters, making strides in the quality of care and progressing well-being results.

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