It is frightening to come to the realization that your child might be using drugs or abusing substances. Drug abuse in teens is a significant problem today. Drug abuse in adolescents is on the rise. Furthermore, people who begin on the path of drug use in their teenage years are more likely to abuse drugs during adulthood. As a parent or someone who cares for a teen or adolescent who you suspect is on drugs, it is important to recognize the most commonly abused teen drugs and how teenage drug abuse should be addressed.

What Drugs Are Commonly Abused by Teens?

In order to help a teen battling substance use, it is important to know the most commonly abused teen drugs


Alcohol is a legal drug in our society (for people of age, of course) and is very common. It can be enjoyed responsibly and also abused. Unfortunately, it can be one of the most harmful teen drugs around considering the extreme ways it can be consumed by teens. Most teens are given the opportunity to try alcohol. It is readily available and despite its legality, it is still considered high on the list of addictive substances,  next to nicotine. It is a central nervous system depressant that inhibits a person’s ability to think, reason and even physically function. 


Marijuana is another commonly abused teen drug due to its easy accessibility. With marijuana becoming legalized in many states, usage has increased among teens – likely due to its decrease in perceived harmfulness. Some (but not all of) the signs of common marijuana drug use include lack of motivation, bloodshot eyes, increased appetite, slowed reaction time and nervous or paranoid behavior. 


Cocaine use is less common among adolescents than marijuana, according to the National Survey on Drug use, but it still remains a commonly abused substance among teens. Cocaine is often combined with alcohol use to allow a person to drink more. It is often present in nightlife and party settings but can also be used at home in quiet since it can be snorted. Signs of cocaine use include dilated pupils; excessive energy; sensitivity to light, touch or sound; irritability; restlessness and/or paranoia.

Prescription Drugs 

Prescription drugs are also common teen drugs, including narcotics such as Vicodin and OxyContin. The three most common drugs abused by teens include:

  • Opioids, such as OxyContin, Vicodin or codeine, which are used to relieve pain
  • Stimulants, such as Ritalin or Adderall, which are used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Depressants, such as Xanax or Valium, which are used to relieve anxiety disorders or to help a person sleep better


Heroin abuse is on the rise in the United States and is prevalent among young women. Its severe withdrawal symptoms make it difficult to beat heroin addiction. Signs of heroin use include sleepiness, pinpoint pupils, needle tracks on the body, skin infections, vomiting, nausea, itching and more. 


Nicotine addiction may seem less harmful than other addictions, which is likely due to the ease of accessibility to tobacco products and their legality. However, the worst side effects of nicotine addiction take time to develop and are highly addictive. Some people think nicotine use is not a big deal because it does not offer a high like other drugs and is so prevalent in today’s society, but it stimulates the release of dopamine in neurons just like other drugs.  Nicotine is also considered a gateway substance, as are several other drugs, including marijuana. This means the use of this drug tends to precede the initiation of the use of other drugs. 

How to Get My Teen Help With Drug Addiction

If you think your teen is on drugs, the first thing to remember is that you don’t have to do this alone. Nobody expects you to take on the battle of teen drug addiction yourself. It can be overwhelming for parents or loved ones of a person struggling with teen drugs to take on the challenge of helping the teen alone. Look for help in the form of immediate family, your child’s friends, school counselors and teachers, doctors and intervention specialists. It is also important to learn how to talk to your teen about addiction.

It is also important to reach out to a professional right away if you notice signs of teen drug use in your child. The longer substance abuse is allowed to fester, the more difficult it can be for your teen to break the cycle of addiction. Finding an addiction recovery center can be overwhelming. There are many options available with varying degrees of treatment and financial options. My Recovery Source is proud to act as the middleman, helping you to find the teen addiction treatment facility right for you and your family. Reach out today for your free personalized recommendations.

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