Essay on Substance Abuse in Adolescence

An essay on substance abuse in adolescence could cover a range of topics related to the issue of teenagers using drugs and alcohol. Some possible points to consider when writing such an essay could include:

  1. The prevalence of substance abuse among teenagers and the factors that contribute to it, such as peer pressure, stress, and the desire to experiment.
  2. The physical and psychological effects of substance abuse on adolescents, including short-term and long-term health consequences, as well as potential impacts on mental health, academic performance, and social relationships.
  3. The societal implications of adolescent substance abuse, including the economic costs of treatment, the impact on families and communities, and the role of the criminal justice system in addressing drug-related offenses.
  4. The various approaches to prevention and treatment of substance abuse in adolescence, including education, counseling, and intervention programs, as well as the use of medication-assisted treatment and other evidence-based interventions.
  5. The importance of early detection and intervention in addressing substance abuse in adolescence, including the role of parents, teachers, healthcare providers, and other community stakeholders in identifying and addressing the problem.
Essay on Substance Abuse in Adolescence

Sample Essay on Substance Abuse in Adolescence

Substance abuse in adolescence refers to the excessive and problematic use of drugs or alcohol by young people. Substance abuse among adolescents is a serious concern. According to data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), approximately 5.6 million adolescents aged 12-17 had a substance use disorder in 2018. This behavior can have severe consequences for their physical and mental health, as well as their personal and social lives. Substance abuse can lead to addiction, harm to brain development, decreased academic performance, and increased risk of accidents and injuries. Additionally, substance abuse can contribute to the development of mental health problems and increase the likelihood of involvement in risky behaviors.

What causes addiction in adolescents?

Addiction in adolescents can be caused by a variety of factors, including biology, environment, and personal choices. This section will discuss some of the most common causes of addiction in adolescents.

  • Biology: Research has shown that genetics play a significant role in the development of addiction. People with a family history of addiction are more likely to develop an addiction themselves, especially if they start using substances at a young age. This is because addiction is often caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
  • The brain: Substance abuse and addiction can cause changes in the brain, particularly in the regions responsible for reward, motivation, and impulse control. These changes can make it difficult for individuals to quit using substances, even when they want to. Additionally, some drugs, such as opioids and methamphetamine, can cause long-lasting changes to the brain that make it more difficult to quit using these drugs and increase the risk of relapse.
  • Mental health: Mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD, can increase the risk of addiction in adolescents. These conditions can lead to feelings of hopelessness, sadness, and isolation, which can make it difficult for individuals to cope with life’s challenges. Substance abuse can provide temporary relief from these feelings, but it also exacerbates the underlying mental health problems, creating a cycle of substance abuse and mental health problems that can be difficult to break.
  • Environment: The environment in which an adolescent grows up can also have a significant impact on their likelihood of developing an addiction. For example, individuals who are exposed to substance abuse or trauma at a young age are more likely to develop an addiction later in life. Additionally, social and peer pressure can play a role in the development of addiction, especially if an adolescent is surrounded by individuals who engage in substance abuse.
  • Personal choices: Ultimately, the decision to use substances is a personal choice, and addiction can develop as a result of repeated substance abuse. Adolescents may start using substances to cope with stress, boredom, or peer pressure, but they may continue using substances even after the initial reasons for using have passed. Over time, substance abuse can lead to addiction and other negative consequences.

Understanding the causes of addiction can help individuals make informed decisions about substance abuse and seek appropriate treatment if necessary. It is important to remember that addiction is a treatable condition, and individuals who seek help can recover and lead healthy, productive lives.

What causes addiction essay
Causes of addiction

Is addiction a choice?

The question of whether addiction is a choice is a highly debated topic in the field of psychology and substance abuse. Some people believe addiction is a choice, while others argue it is a chronic disease with biological, psychological, and environmental roots.

On the one hand, some people argue that addiction is a choice because individuals choose to use drugs or alcohol in the first place. They may also choose to continue using despite negative consequences, such as strained relationships, lost job opportunities, and health problems. This perspective suggests that individuals can control their substance use if they truly want to.

On the other hand, many addiction experts believe it is a chronic disease with biological, psychological, and environmental roots. This perspective recognizes that addiction is a complex and multi-faceted problem that is not simply a result of an individual’s lack of willpower or moral fortitude.

For example, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, genetic factors can play a significant role in addiction risk. Studies have found that individuals with a family history of addiction are more likely to develop an addiction. This suggests that there is a biological component to addiction that cannot be attributed simply to choice.

Additionally, research has shown that the brain’s reward system is altered in individuals with addiction, making it more difficult for them to control their substance use. When individuals with addiction use drugs or alcohol, they experience a rush of pleasurable chemicals, such as dopamine, in the brain. Over time, the brain becomes dependent on these substances to feel pleasure, and it becomes more difficult for the individual to control their substance use.

Moreover, environmental factors can also contribute to the development of addiction. Individuals who grow up in environments where drug or alcohol use is normalized or where there is a lack of positive role models and support can be more likely to develop an addiction.

While addiction may have both biological and environmental roots, it is also important to recognize that individuals with addiction have a role in their recovery. Making the choice to seek treatment and engage in recovery activities, such as therapy and support groups, can greatly improve their chances of successful recovery.

Adolescents’ addiction treatment options

Adolescents who struggle with addiction face unique challenges and require specialized treatment to overcome their substance abuse problems. Addiction treatment for adolescents typically involves a combination of behavioral and pharmacological therapies, as well as support from family and peers. Below are approaches to help them:

  • Behavioral therapies: Behavioral therapies are a key component of addiction treatment for adolescents. These therapies help individuals understand the underlying causes of their substance abuse, develop new coping skills, and build a support network to help them maintain their sobriety. Common behavioral therapies for adolescents include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational interviewing (MI), and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that focuses on helping individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to their substance abuse. Research studies suggest that CBT significantly improves functioning and quality of life. CBT helps adolescents develop new coping skills and build self-esteem, which can reduce their risk of relapse.
  • Motivational interviewing (MI) is a therapeutic approach that focuses on helping individuals overcome resistance to change and make positive decisions about their substance abuse. MI helps adolescents identify their motivations for using substances and their reasons for quitting, which can help them stay motivated and engaged in treatment.
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a type of therapy that combines CBT and mindfulness techniques to help individuals manage difficult emotions and improve their emotional regulation. DBT has been shown to be effective in reducing substance abuse and other risky behaviors among adolescents, and it can also improve their overall mental health.
  • Pharmacological therapies: In some cases, medication may be prescribed to help adolescents overcome their substance abuse problems. For example, medications such as naltrexone and buprenorphine can help individuals overcome opioid addiction, while disulfiram and naltrexone can be used to treat alcohol abuse. Antidepressant medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can also be prescribed to treat co-occurring mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety. It is important to note that pharmacological therapies are not a standalone solution for addiction and should be used in conjunction with behavioral therapies and other support services.
  • Family and peer support: Family and peer support are crucial components of addiction treatment for adolescents. Involving parents and other family members in the treatment process can help build a supportive network for the adolescent and increase the likelihood of successful recovery. Family therapy, for example, can help families identify and address any issues that may contribute to the adolescent’s substance abuse, and it can also help build a supportive network for the adolescent. Peer support groups, such as 12-step programs, can also be helpful for adolescents who struggle with addiction. These groups provide a supportive environment where individuals can share their experiences and receive encouragement and advice from others who have overcome similar challenges.
  • Inpatient vs. outpatient treatment: Addiction treatment for adolescents can be provided in either an inpatient or outpatient setting, depending on the severity of the addiction and other factors. Inpatient treatment, also known as residential treatment, provides a structured and supportive environment where individuals can focus solely on their recovery. Outpatient treatment, on the other hand, allows individuals to receive treatment while living at home and participating in their normal daily activities. The choice between inpatient and outpatient treatment will depend on a variety of factors, including the individual’s substance abuse history, the presence of co-occurring mental health problems, and the availability of support from family and peers. A mental health professional can help determine the best treatment approach for an individual based on their specific needs and circumstances.

Addiction treatment for adolescents is a comprehensive and multi-faceted approach that involves a combination of therapies. In as much as developments have been made for various adolescent-targeted evidence-based substance abuse treatments, the impacts are majorly modest, showing that much research still needs to be conducted to improve treatment outcomes and prevention. 

How healthy spiritual development may counteract addiction 

There is a broad definition of spirituality. In Cook’s (2004) descriptive research that clarifies ways in which spirituality concept is understood and used by researchers and clinicians, he developed a definition of the term, which to some extent has received comprehensive agreement within the field. He defined spirituality as a universal dimension of human experience that arises in three ways: within the awareness of the inner subject, relationship with other individuals within the society, and relationship with something beyond the self (Cook, 2004). For a very long time, spirituality’s protective role has been associated with substance use and misuse. For example, alcohol use problems are linked with religious involvement and affiliations. This indicates that individuals who value religion are less likely to involve in drinking problems. Therefore, healthy spiritual development may reduce substance use or lead to an overall stop. 

Additionally, research indicates that most non-religious groups have the most substance abusers compared to religious groups. Religious groups with non-substance abusers’ customs produce very few misusers compared to non-religious groups (Miller, 1998). This indicates that healthy spirituality development can play a significant role in reducing addiction within the society

Influence of media on adolescents’ substance abuse

The media can significantly impact adolescents’ substance use and abuse. The media includes a variety of platforms, such as television, movies, music, and social media, and it can shape adolescents’ attitudes and beliefs about substance use.

For example, movies and television shows may portray substance use as glamorous or cool, which can make it seem appealing to adolescents. 

Additionally, the media often portrays substance use as a way to cope with stress or to fit in with a certain group, which can influence adolescents’ perceptions of substance use. Music, in particular, has been found to have a strong influence on adolescent substance use, with studies showing that exposure to songs with lyrics promoting substance use is associated with increased substance use.

Social media can also have a profound impact on adolescent substance use. Adolescents may be exposed to images and posts that glamorize substance use, or they may be influenced by peer pressure from online friends who engage in substance use. Online communities can also provide access to drugs and alcohol, and online platforms can be used to arrange drug sales and deliveries.

In addition to glamorizing substance use, the media can also contribute to normalizing substance use and abuse. For example, advertisements for alcoholic beverages may portray drinking as a routine part of adult life, which can make it seem normal and acceptable to adolescents.

However, it is also important to note that the media can also play a role in preventing substance abuse among adolescents. For example, media campaigns that aim to raise awareness about the dangers of substance abuse and provide information on the negative consequences of substance use can be effective in reducing adolescent substance use.

Essay on Substance Abuse in Adolescence
Essay on Substance Abuse in Adolescence


Substance abuse among adolescents is a serious issue with far-reaching consequences. It can impact not only the individual’s health and well-being but also their relationships, future opportunities, and overall quality of life. Adolescents who struggle with substance abuse may face a range of challenges, including physical and mental health problems, academic difficulties, and social and legal problems.

Preventing substance abuse among adolescents is essential to promoting their health and well-being. This can involve a range of strategies, including education and awareness campaigns, early intervention and treatment, and support for families and communities.

It is also important to recognize that substance abuse is a complex issue that can have biological, psychological, environmental, and cultural roots. Addressing substance abuse among adolescents will require a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach that recognizes this population’s unique challenges and needs.

Ultimately, reducing substance abuse among adolescents will require a commitment from individuals, families, communities, and society as a whole. Together, we can create a healthier, safer, and more supportive environment for adolescents and help them reach their full potential.


Cook, C. (2004). Addiction and spirituality. Addiction99(5), 539-551.

Miller, W. (1998). Researching the spiritual dimensions of alcohol and other drug problems. Addiction93(7), 979-990.

NIDA. 2019, August 5. Genetics and Epigenetics of Addiction DrugFacts. Retrieved from on 2023, February 7 

Scroll to Top