Recipe for Teen Addiction

Looking for the perfect recipe for teen addiction? Look no further. Here are all of the ingredients that go into a prescription drug addicted teen.

Looking for the perfect recipe for teen addiction? Look no further. Here are all of the ingredients that go into a prescription drug addicted teen.


  • One teenager or young adult

Genetic and mental factors

  • Family history of addiction
  • Mental illness
  • Feeling anxious, stressed, or shy

Personality Traits

  • High pressure to succeed
  • Impulsive personality
  • Poor self control
  • Difficult personality

Environmental factors

  • Drug use in the home
  • Community with high saturation of drug use
  • Abuse, neglect, or traumatic experience
  • Lack of communication about drugs at home
  • Lack of drug education at school
  • Lack of supervision/ parental involvement
  • Boredom
  • Easy availability to drugs
  • Lack of knowledge about dangers of OTC or Rx medicines
  • Early experimentation with drugs
  • Casual use of drugs at parties or on weekends
  • Peers who use drugs

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Begin with one teenager or adolescent, aged 12 and over.

The teen brain is still developing, which can cause teens to react to drugs differently than an adult. Adolescent brains are more susceptible to drugs, stress, and mental illness. Adding additional risk factors to a developing teen brain can be a recipe for a lifetime of addiction. Any of the following will do:

Add one or more genetic and mental factors.

Although genes can play a role in addiction, they are not the only deciding factor. Genes are responsible for about ½ of a person’s risk for drug addiction; they can cause drugs to seem more attractive through biological factors such as an increased euphoric response or quicker response to drugs.

Mental illness and drug addiction often go hand-in-hand. More than 50% of drug abusers are also dealing with a mental illness. For some, drugs are used to self-medicate symptoms of existing mental illness; for others, drug use causes changes in the brain that result in mental illness taking root and growing.

Combine with one or more personality traits.

Certain personality traits can increase a teen’s risk of addiction. A study in the journal Health Psychology linked temperament related personality traits such as a “difficult temperament”, poor self-control, and “deviance-prone attitudes” to early drug experimentation.

Even so-called “positive” personality traits could indicate a possibility for future drug use and addiction. Teens who feel pressured to succeed at all costs, who feel the need for perfection in appearance, performance, academic, and extracurricular activities may be driven towards drugs as study or weight-loss aids.

Season with one or more environmental factors.

When a teen has been raised in a home or community where drug use is prevalent, their chances of addiction later in life become quite high. Not only does early exposure to drug use normalize it, the trauma that can accompany living with an addict can increase the risk of addiction later. Other traumas such as neglect or abuse in the home can also be substituted for drug use in the home.

Even teens who have grown up in seemingly “idyllic” home environments can still be at risk for addiction. A teen whose parents never talk about the risks associated with drug use, or who aren’t around to provide supervision, can be a prime candidate for drug experimentation or addiction. Add a subpar drug prevention program from school, or boredom, and this can become the perfect environment for teen addiction.

The earlier in life someone experiments with drugs, the more likely they are to become addicts. Casual drug use and peer influence can also contribute to addiction as the teen brain is primed for addiction. Many teens will casually experiment with prescription or over-the-counter drugs with a misguided sense of security that these are safer than illicit drugs. This kind of experimentation can quickly lead to teen addiction.

Instructions may vary per individual teen, as can addiction time. Some teens only need to combine a few risk factors, while others throw everything into the pot. The teen brain is primed for addiction, however, so any kind of drug use in these years can lead to a recipe for teen addiction. Even a single experiment can lead to a lifetime of addiction down the road.

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A tired-looking man lies in bed staring at pills on his nightstand.
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