Teen Behavior Drugs Drinking Commonly Used

Despite government-funded anti-drug campaigns directed specifically at teenagers, teen drug use remains an ongoing problem in the United States.

Reviewed here some of the most common drugs used by teenagers, warning signs of use and risk factors of abuse.


Alcohol remains the most commonly used and abused drug by American teenagers. In a 2009 study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly a quarter of the surveyed teens had gotten drunk within the past month.

The warning signs of teen alcohol abuse include:

  • A sudden change in the teen’s usual group of friends
  • Problems at school, including increased absences and dropping grades
  • Moody or rebellious behavior, such as missing curfews or getting angry easily
  • Signs of drunkenness or a hangover after being out with friends.

Trouble at school and changes in behavior or mood can also be warning signs of any kind of substance abuse, not just alcohol. They may also indicate that a teen is struggling with non-drug related problems. The key for parents is to follow up on these signs to determine the reason for their development.

Illegal Drugs

According to the same CDC study, the illegal drugs used most often by teenagers are marijuana, hallucinogens (such as LSD and mushrooms) and ecstasy. Of these, marijuana is by far the most commonly used.

The teens most likely to develop a serious illegal drug habit are those with emotional problems. Parents can help reduce the likelihood that their teen will develop a drug problem by watching for signs of depression and low self esteem and addressing these problems early.


Inhalants are gaseous fumes that can be breathed in through the nose (called “sniffing”) or through the mouth (called “huffing”) in order to feel intoxicated. The sources of inhalants are usually common household substances, such as glue, nail polish remover and the propellants used in spray paint and whipped cream canisters.

Some of the indications that a teen may be abusing inhalants are:

  • Chemical smell on breath or clothing
  • Paint stains on hands or face
  • Red eyes and runny nose.

Inhalants are easily accessible to teens, and drugs of this class are sometimes incorrectly perceived as harmless. With prolonged use, inhalants can damage nerve fibers, and they can also be addictive.

Prescription Drugs and Over the Counter Medications

Up to one-fifth of high school students have taken prescription medications that were not prescribed to them, and that number is believed to be growing, according to The National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign (n.d.). The most frequently abused drugs of this class are:

  • Depressants (e.g. Valium® and Xanax®)
  • Painkillers (e.g. OxyContin® and Vicodin®)
  • Stimulants (e.g. Ritalin®)

Teens may also take over-the-counter cold medications containing dextromethorphan in order to obtain a chemical high.

If parents have these substances in their medicine cabinet at home, they need to monitor the number of pills remaining and consider keeping them in a locked drawer or cabinet. Parents can also help by educating their teen on the dangers and addictive qualities of prescription drugs and dextromethorphan.


American Academy of Child