Drug Addiction Statistics for Teens and Young Adults

Whether you’re a concerned caregiver, teacher, coach or friend of a teen who abuses substances, you’ve likely witnessed the negative effects of drug or alcohol addiction and are eager to do something about it.

Substance use that starts in teen or young adult years can have disastrous effects for those involved, like increased risk of incarceration, and be devastating to loved ones. No one anticipates themselves in a situation involving adolescent addiction, but finding answers when the trial arises can give you hope for recovery.

In this article we’ll explore this public health crisis, primarily by looking at adolescent substance use statistics as well as identifying a few key ways to intervene. 

Adolescent substance use statistics

Adolescent substance use is a prevalent issue. According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, drug use increased by 61 percent among 8th graders between 2016 and 2020. Moreover, 62 percent of seniors in high school have abused alcohol and half of teenagers have misused drugs (prescription or illicit) at least once. 

Adolescent substance use statistics are significant, especially considering the drastic consequences they imply. Among other serious repercussions of introduction to drugs or alcohol at an early age, overdose is perhaps the most regrettable outcome. 

There were 4,777 overdose deaths among 15 to 24 year olds in 2019. The majority of the overdose deaths were specifically related to opioids. In fact, 11.2 percent of total overdose deaths were people between the ages of 15 and 24 years of age.

Drug addiction statistics

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the following drug addiction statistics for adolescents.

  • 15 percent of high schoolers report use of illicit or injection drugs including cocaine, inhalants, heroin, methamphetamines, hallucinogens or ecstasy
  • 14 percent of high schoolers report abusing prescription opioids (their own prescription or another’s)
  • Opioid use among youth is associated with increased risk for HIV, overdose, sexual risk behaviors, experience of violence and mental health and suicide risks

Drug addiction statistics can be terrifying for a parent or loved one to hear. Immediate intervention is essential, especially in cases where there is a risk of suicide or overdose. For immediate help, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988. 

Alcohol addiction statistics

Alcohol use among young adults is a tricky subject, because many youth and adults alike believe consumption of alcohol is a normal part of growing up, especially during high school and college. 

The Office of Population Affairs states that binge drinking (five or more drinks for males and four or more drinks for females on one occasion) is the most commonly reported way that teens abuse alcohol.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 27.4 percent of college students participated in binge drinking in the past month. The same source also states that an estimated 696,000 students ages 18 to 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking.

Despite diverse parenting decisions regarding openness to underage drinking, consuming any amount of alcohol under the national drinking age of 21 remains illegal. Underage drinking can result in legal issues as well as emotional and health consequences, and even delayed brain development.

One of the most serious risks of adolescent drinking is the potential for vehicle-related fatalities. According to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration, car crashes are a leading cause of death for adolescents. About 25 percent of fatal crashes involve an underage drinking driver. 

Adult substance use statistics

There is a link between adolescent substance use and addiction issues later in life. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of adults who meet the criteria for substance use disorders started using drugs or alcohol as teens or young adults. 

Tips for intervention

Teens and young adults who abuse alcohol or drugs will face social, emotional or legal consequences for addictions that are left untreated. Intervention is key to long-term sobriety and maintaining a stable lifestyle. Here’s how you can help:

1. Start the conversation

Talking about adolescent substance use statistics isn’t an easy conversation to have, but it’s essential to confront the seriousness of the issue and express your concern. Identify specific drug or alcohol-related behaviors you have noticed and your willingness to support treatment.

2. Find local supports

Whether you join a peer-support group for parents or reach out to the teen’s school for extra help, there are plenty of resources in your community that can help you through this tricky time.

Check out online resources as well, like the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry’s Substance Use Resource Center.

3. Engage in professional treatment

Supporting professional treatment is the most evidence-based way for the young person in your life to find healing from a substance use disorder. Therapy, medication and lifestyle changes can make a difference that lasts a lifetime.

Finding treatment for adolescent substance

Don’t let drug and alcohol addiction statistics scare you into inaction. Full recovery is possible for any person at any age. No one is too far gone for treatment to be effective.

If you’re looking for addiction treatment specifically catered to young adults, check out Mazzitti & Sullivan Counseling. Find in person or virtual options that work for you. Contact us today.