Youth Culture and Teen Substance Abuse
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Several factors contribute to the country’s teen substance abuse problem, one of them being the general culture that teens are surrounded by. From the ease of obtaining drugs and alcohol to the portrayal of drug and alcohol use on social media, substances are a large part of youth culture. As we explore several areas that influence teen substance, we’ll also look at why this is the case and what you can do if your child has a teen substance abuse problem.

What Influences Teen Substance Use?

Social Media

It’s no secret that teens love and spend plenty of time on social media. Studies show that one-third of teens spend 5 to 6 hours online daily [1]. When teens are online, they are exposed to more alcohol marketing than any other age group. This is alarming, seeing that they are not old enough to drink legally. [2]

They are also vulnerable to images of drugs and drug paraphernalia on social media. From viral videos to seeing their favorite celebrities experiment with drugs, it is all a part of the culture that surrounds our youth.

With so many images of drugs and alcohol bombarding social media, what happens when teens are constantly being exposed to these types of images?

Research shows that teens who use social media are more apt to use marijuana, tobacco, and alcohol compared to teens who are not on those social media platforms [3]. This is because when teens see people drinking and doing drugs on social media, looking like they are having the time of their lives without consequences, they are curious and willing to try what is making everyone so happy.


The ease of obtaining drugs and alcohol has also impacted the rate of teen substance use. A survey found that for people 12 and older, marijuana is the third most-used drug in the United States, with 23.9 million people having access to the drug and used it [4]. Statistics like these are a clear indicator of the drug culture that surrounds our youth. With substances so easy to get and constantly surrounding them, it should be no surprise that teen substance abuse is so prevalent.

Many teens don’t have to go far to find drugs and alcohol. When it comes to getting their hands on alcohol, studies show that the majority of teen drinking happens in their home or someone else’s home [5]. Research also indicates that teens are finding the alcohol they drink right at home.

Prescription drug abuse among teens is also a problem. Many teens get it right from their medicine cabinets or a friend’s house [6]. Additionally, teens opt for prescription drugs because they believe they would be safer to take than street drugs. But when taken by someone whom they are not prescribed for, these drugs are just as dangerous. This accessibility makes it even more critical for parents to keep alcohol and prescriptions not within reach of their children.

Peer Pressure

Peer pressure is also a big part of youth culture that can contribute to substance use. The desire to fit in and have friends can influence teens to make poor choices. Many don’t want to be the odd one out and succumb to experimenting with drugs and alcohol. But, as we know, experimentation can quickly lead to regular use and addiction.

Why is Youth Culture Centered Around Drugs and Alcohol?

As we mentioned above, the prevalence of celebrities drinking and doing drugs and posting them on social media has impacted the way youth perceive substances. The mentality of “If they’re doing it, why can’t I?” has become more of the norm.

It’s also essential to take into consideration that very rarely do teens see the impact drug and alcohol use can have. Without seeing the severe consequences drug and alcohol use can have on a person’s life and relationships, young people may think it’s okay to do these things and that it’s just a part of the culture.

By turning the tide and removing images of drug and alcohol use, the impact substances can have on youth culture can diminish. But, as long as they remain easily accessible to teens, they will remain a part of youth culture and contribute to teen substance use.

The ease of obtaining drugs and alcohol and the fact that many parents knowingly allow their underage teens to drink inside their homes contribute to making substances part of youth culture. Many teens may think that there is nothing wrong with underage drinking when it is done at home. But this mentality can lead teens to drink at other places, with severe consequences.

Are You Looking for Treatment for Teen Substance Abuse? Call Ember Recovery

If your child is battling a teen substance abuse problem, Ember Recovery is here to help. We specialize in helping teens who have become addicted to drugs and alcohol. Our residential programs for boys and girls allow them to be in a supportive environment 24/7, surrounded by their peers. We also use a variety of therapies to help teens uncover the underlying causes of their substance use and gain the coping mechanisms to live a sober life. To learn more about our teen substance abuse problems, contact Ember Recovery today.