Does Teenage Drug Experimentation Lead to Addiction?

Does drug experimentation lead to addiction is a question that many parents ask in regards to their teenagers experimenting with various substances. Many teenagers and young adults, at some point, will experiment with alcohol and drugs. 

Unfortunately, what may seem like harmless experimentation can quickly lead to repeated use, dependence, and addiction. Therefore, parents need to be concerned should they start noticing signs of substance abuse in their teenagers and young adult children. 

Why Parents Need To Be Concerned About Drug Experimentation?

Things are a lot different from when you were a teenager or young adult. You probably experimented with alcohol, cigarettes, or even tried marijuana. However, just because your experimentation did not lead to addiction does not mean our son or daughter will be as lucky. Today, teens and young adults are exposed socially to alcohol and drugs that are considered acceptable, such as cigarettes, vaping, marijuana. Even using prescription drugs to take the edge off seems to be socially acceptable. 

This social acceptance of various substances can make alcohol and drug experimentation very enticing for teenagers and young adults. For example, binge drinking is a common drinking practice with teenagers and young adults. Their objective is to consume four or five drinks in a short period to experience the effects of alcohol much faster. While under the effects of alcohol, they are more likely to take other risks, like smoking a cigarette, trying marijuana, or taking someone else’s prescription medication.

Often, first-time alcohol and drug users feel a rush of adrenaline and excitement because they want to try the substance. Combine this with the effects of the substance, and a rush of euphoria can come over them, resulting in a very pleasurable experience. Then, when the alcohol or drugs wear off, it can leave your teenager or a young adult feeling empty inside and wanting to re-experience these same feelings again and again. Ultimately it can lead to addiction

How Can Drug Experimentation Lead To Addiction?

Whether your teenager or young adult child experiments with alcohol, marijuana, prescription stimulants, or another substance, the effects they experience when using it for the first time triggers various chemical responses in the brain. 

Part of the chemical response in the brain is an increase in dopamine which creates a euphoric response. As a result, the use of drugs is reinforced as a positive behavior with the reward of pleasure. Therefore, substance use can become a problem when someone wants to experience the euphoric effects again. 

Parents also need to be aware of other risks that could result in addiction when their teenager or young adult child experiments with drugs, including:

  • Mental Health Disorders – ADHD, depression, anxiety, and OCD can have symptoms young people may attempt to alleviate by drinking or experimenting with various drugs. In some cases, they may adjust their dosages to enhance the effects of prescription medications. 
  • Family History – The risks of developing an addiction increase when there is a family history of substance abuse disorder.
  • Being Exposed to Traumatic Experiences – Physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal abuse, and assault are some of the more common traumas teens and young adults will attempt to deal with by drinking and using drugs.
  • Expectation Stress – Parents, teachers, and coaches can all place expectations on teens and young adults, increasing the stress they feel. As such, they may turn to performance-enhancing drugs to compensate.

What Are Some Signs of Drug Experimentation?

It can be difficult to recognize the signs of drug experimentation depending on how well your teenager or young adult child covers it up. However, if you notice any of the following, they may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs:

  • Behaving Erratically
  • Making Rash Decisions
  • Acting Strangely
  • Smelling Like Alcohol
  • Smelling LIke Smoke
  • Bragging About Drug or Alcohol Experimentation on Social Media

Another common sign of drug experimentation is discovering hidden drug paraphernalia in your child’s room, backpack, or other location. Common drug paraphernalia includes:

  • Lighters
  • Cigarettes
  • Pipes
  • Vaping Devices
  • Prescription Pill Bottles
  • Unfamiliar Loose Pills
  • Marijuana in Bags

As their experimentation continues, other signs of drug abuse will start to manifest. These could include:

  • Insomnia
  • Memory Problems
  • Problems Concentrating
  • Money Disappearing for No Reason
  • Problems at School or Work
  • Associating with New Friends
  • Staying out Late
  • Sleeping All Day
  • Change in Eating Habits
  • Couch Surfing from One Friend’s to Another
  • Exhibiting Signs of Withdrawal 

What Are Withdrawal Symptoms of Drug Experimentation and Abuse?

Common withdrawal symptoms that could indicate drug experimentation or drug abuse are:

  • Uncontrolled Sweating
  • Body Shakes
  • Feeling Cold
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Light Sensitivity
  • Headaches

Unfortunately, parents often mistake withdrawal symptoms as the flu and assume their teenager or young adult child is sick. 

Can Drug Experimentation Lead to Addiction? Get Help in Atlanta, GA

Suppose you suspect your teen or young adult child is experimenting and abusing drugs. The first thing you need to do is educate yourself about substance abuse. By having a better understanding of addiction, you will be in a better place to help your child.

Secondly, you will want to get your child help at a substance abuse treatment center, like  Buckhead Behavioral Health in Atlanta. We are happy to provide substance abuse education for parents, assist with staging an intervention, and help teens and young adults start addiction recovery.

We are also experienced at treating co-occurring conditions, should your child have a mental health disorder. For further information about our teen and young adult drug rehab programs, please feel free to contact us by calling 908-489-5564 today!