Teen Substance Abuse at Epidemic Levels

Substance abuse — a growing epidemic among teens — has been dubbed America’s No. 1 public health problem by a recent study, leaving some parents wondering how to help their children.

“Teens users are at significantly high risk of developing an addictive disorder, and the physical toll is bigger on their developing system,” according to NBC4’s Dr. Bruce Hensel.

A Columbia University study found that one in eight high school students in America has a substance abuse problem.

Jonathan Whitfield, the Medical Director at the Phoenix House Academy, said there are a number of reasons for this rise.

“It’s getting harder and harder to be a kid, and whether it’s peer pressure, or stress of life, I see a lot of kids who start using drugs to self-medicate. They medicate their own anxieties, their own depression,” Whitfield said.

Once they start abusing the substances, their brains become more susceptible to their effects, said Dr. David Sack, of Promises Treatment Centers.

“The synaptic connections in the brain continue to develop until about age 20. So that’s when teenagers start to use drugs chronically. They’re affecting nerve development in the brain, and that has long-term consequences,” Sack said.

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