Page title background

Ask Us Anything About Teen Substance Use

Substance use disorders are a pervasive issue among teenagers throughout the United States and the rest of the world, and many areas like Chicago are facing significant ramifications. In order to move forward, addiction treatment providers must address the younger generation’s unique situation and needs.

One of the biggest concerns many teens and parents find themselves facing is alcohol and drug use. An estimated 1.3 million adolescents in the United States have a substance use disorder. Equally as worrisome, the majority of people who have a teen substance use disorder started doing drugs before the age of 18 and people who start drinking before 15 are four times more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder.

In Chicago, drug problems are a significant issue facing teens and families today. The misuse of prescription drugs and the use of illicit substances present prevalent challenges for many Chicago adolescents. To create effective solutions and provide the best care for teens and their loved ones, providers and families must understand how substance use disorders are evolving — and why.

Teen Substance Use in Chicago Today

Studies indicate that young people may begin using drugs at ages as young as 12 or 13. By young adulthood, many people have had exposure to a variety of addictive substances. According to the National Survey of Drug Use and Health, almost half of adolescents 12 and older confirmed they had used illicit drugs at some point.

Drug use is especially problematic for young people, in part because it increases their likelihood of continued use later on — and because their brains are still developing.

Chicago adults are highly concerned about the current situation of teen drug use, as a joint study by the Chicago Department of Public Health and the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago demonstrated. Notably, the top concern among adults about youth substance use disorders was prescription drugs. Marijuana, cocaine and heroin were also substances survey respondents pointed to as significant issues for Chicago adolescents.

The Reasons Behind Teen Drug Addiction in Chicago

With growing numbers of teens struggling with substance use disorders, it’s crucial to understand why drugs are such a serious issue in Chicago and throughout the rest of the country. As they’re developing cognitively and socially, teenagers are vulnerable to drug experimentation and increased susceptibility to peer pressure from others. Adolescents’ substance use disorders have many complex contributing factors, from pressures at home and school to peer motivators.

Some key factors that put a teen at high risk for substance addiction include:

  • Minimal supervision
  • Family member or peer substance use
  • Underdeveloped social skills
  • Poor relationship with a caregiver
  • Academic struggles and underperformance
  • Easy access to illicit substances

In the face of teen drug addiction, families and providers must find the right treatment options to help adolescents move forward. Young people are at an age that is a crucial window for successful recovery, so providing timely treatment is essential for this population.

Substance Use in Chicago FAQs

Gateway Carbondale’s Clinical Supervisor Rachel Ott and counselors Christina Gordon and Sarah Toigo answered some of the pressing questions people had for them regarding teen substance use.

Some parents think exposing their kids to alcohol early will make them dislike it. Is this true or is it wishful thinking that could cause more harm than good?

“Due to a child’s biological, social, economic and/or environmental factors, exposure to alcohol and drugs can cause the onset or initiation of an addiction. So parents exposing their kids to alcohol and drugs can be a gateway to their use. It would most likely cause more harm than good.”

Since most teens will try or partake in illicit drug use, how will a parent know when to get them help for teen substance use?

“It is important to keep lines of communication open so that your teen feels comfortable coming to you if they are having problems. Talk to your teen about the pros and cons of using drugs and alcohol. If you are noticing a change in behavior or personality (e.g., declining grades, withdrawing from friends, family and extracurricular activities) it is likely time to seek help.”

What advice do you have for parents that are struggling with a teen addicted to drugs presently?

“Talk to your teen – remain calm but express your concerns. Be supportive. Understand that they are probably feeling guilty and won’t want to talk about the past, but explain that it is important for both of you to process your feelings about what has happened so that you can move forward. Listen to your teen, be there if they need to talk, make sure they feel heard and loved. Recovery is a process for the whole family. Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step programs can be helpful places for families seeking support.”

How can a parent monitor the recovery of their child without making it seem like they do not trust their child?

“One thing we do discuss with our patients is the topic of trust. Most of the teens we help talk about losing trust and what it will take to regain it and rebuild family relationships. We try to help them understand that there will be a level of mistrust when they return home, especially if there has been a lot of dishonesty and harmful behavior while the teen was using. The most important thing we stress is open communication. Check in with your teen regularly, organize family activities to help keep them busy and spend time with them and stick to the rules and boundaries you set up with your teen.”

A lot of teens use legal drugs right in their home. How can parents or guardians keep teens safe from their everyday medications?

“This issue comes up often during our family education groups and family therapy sessions. Parents need to stay up to date on the over-the-counter and prescription medications that are often used. Avoid purchasing those products, and if that is not possible, some parents have chosen to lock up these medications.”

Get Compassionate Help for Substance Use in Chicago

Don’t see your question here? See all questions and responses here or contact us. Gateway offers online treatment programs for adolescents and provides both the patient and their loved ones the resources they need to understand addiction and begin the road to recovery.

We understand the profound impact addiction can have on teens and their communities. Our mission is to help anyone struggling with a substance use disorder to regain their freedom and improve their quality of life.

We offer age-appropriate, virtual outpatient services for adolescents, allowing them to get treatment that fits their daily lives. We provide each patient with individualized care to equip them to move forward.

If you or your teen is struggling with teen substance use, give Gateway a call at 877-381-6538.

blue banner

Addiction Destroys Dreams, We Can Help