A normal part of teen development is having the desire to engage in the unknown. What often begins as a casual experiment with drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, or e-cigarettes for some adolescents can quickly become an unhealthy habit or escalate to an addiction.
At any stage of life, risk factors, including peer pressure, lack of parental supervision, and substance availability, can arise. When one is constantly being exposed to risks, they can become more susceptible to addiction, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
What once was just a curious thought for student Edward* developed into a habit that stuck after he turned to smoking as a coping mechanism for abandonment.
“I grew up in an environment where substances were pretty much all around me, so I was curious to try it out for myself,” Edward* said. “I always saw it as a bad thing but as my parents neglected me and I had to grow up on my own, I decided that the stress was too much for me to handle by myself so I thought, ‘Maybe this would do something for me.’”
Because he was surrounded by people who drank, vaped, and did drugs for fun at parties, he wanted to try these things for himself. He then developed an addiction to drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol.
Edward* later eased off of them and got into vaping as a way to combat his addiction, temporarily disregarding the potential health risks that also come with vaping. Enticed by fruity and candy-like flavors, he began vaping more regularly after hearing it is not as bad as drinking, smoking, or doing drugs.
“I do have a plan on stopping,” Edward* said. “I’m currently working on stopping because I know it’s going to be harder to quit later on.”
After getting hooked from experimentation and fighting a long battle with addiction, Edward* is now starting to take the risks into more consideration. He still vapes to relieve stress sometimes; however, he is no longer addicted to any substance and wants to eventually quit vaping as well.
Most of the time, student Dan* does drugs for fun. He regularly uses substances with friends for enjoyment.
“It’s just that everyone has a fun time and it’s a phenomenal feeling,” Dan* said. “I do know other people who do that and they say it’s fun too.”
He said that “as long as no one gets addicted, everything should be cool.” For Dan*, peer pressure is not a concern because “no one forces anyone to do it.”
“When it comes to my friends and I, we determine who’s addicted by seeing who wants to use substances every single time we hang out,” Dan* said. “Then it becomes pretty obvious who is and we’ll tell them to stop. At this age, we should know well enough how to determine if we’re addicted. We should know our own limits.”
He is aware of the negative consequences, both short and long term.
“I’ve done my research,” Dan* said. “But in the end it’s still my decision to make, and I still choose to do these things.”
Despite the known risks, teenagers still indulge in drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, and e-cigarettes for their own reasons, but once they fully understand the signs and symptoms of addiction, they can learn to resist them.