Teenage Drug Use: Latest Trends and Statistics

Teenage years are a time of exploration. However, this curiosity can lead to adolescent drug experimentation, abuse, and overdose. So as a parent, guardian, or concerned citizen, you need to be one step ahead. 

1. Cannabis

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), cannabis is adolescents' #1 drug of choice. It’s what teens refer to as pot, weed, herb, Mary Jane, grass, or skunk. 

Results show that 30.7% of 12th graders, 19.5% of 10th graders, and 8.3% of 8th graders used marijuana in 2022.

And, with the growing popularity of vaping, many teenagers (20.6% of 12th graders) have resorted to vaping cannabis as well.

The high figures are often blamed on the ease of getting these drugs - as they can be used recreationally (or medically) in many states. 

2. Stimulants/Uppers

Stimulants or uppers such as Ritalin or Adderall are often prescribed to teens with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD.)  However, 1 in 8 teens (13%) use these stimulants for another purpose: to improve their school performance.

Sadly, it’s not always just the teen’s fault. Most parents and caregivers believe using stimulants is okay when they can be harmful in the long run.

3. Amphetamines

Amphetamines (meth, speed, glass, chalk) are psychoactive or stimulant drugs. According to a survey, more 8th graders use amphetamine (3.2%) compared to 10th (3.1%) and 12th (2.9%) graders.

Teens often use this drug to increase their concentration, confidence, and energy levels.

4. Narcotics

Like adults, some teens get hooked on narcotic medications - such as Fentanyl, Vicodin, OxyContin, and Percocet. That’s because using this type of drug can bring an immediate (yet artificial) sense of well-being. 

NIDA results show that approximately 1.7% of 12th graders have used these drugs between 2021 and 2022.

As more adults get access to this drug, more teens get to do so as well. 

5. Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines or benzos are drugs used to treat anxiety, insomnia, panic attacks, and many other conditions. Popular examples of such medications include Valium, Ativan, and Xanax.

According to a 2019 report, about 1.5% of teens aged 17-19 - roughly 381,000 - took this type of drug.

Like narcotics, benzodiazepines are readily available to teens - because they’re often prescribed to their parents/guardians.

Many teens believe these prescription drugs to be ‘safer’ than opioids, which is not the case. 

As a result, many teens are hospitalized due to a combination of drug and alcohol use. Some, meanwhile, are admitted due to seizures and other withdrawal symptoms.

6. Cocaine

Cocaine (coke, crack, blow, dust, snow, speedball, white rock) is a stimulant drug made from coca leaves. It makes teens feel powerful and energetic, which is why many choose to take them. 

According to the NIDA survey, the percentages of teens who used cocaine in 2022 are as follows:

  • 1.5% of 12th graders
  • 0.3% of 10th graders
  • 0.5% of 8th graders

    7. Heroin 

    Heroin (dope, smack, H, snow, China white) is an opioid drug created from morphine, a substance found in opium. Sniffing, snorting, or injecting this drug can lead to feelings of euphoria - a ‘high’ if you will.

    Statistics show that 0.3% of 12th and 8th graders used the drug in 2022. The rate of heroin substance abuse for 10th graders is 0.2%.


    With teen drug abuse being prevalent, it pays to be a step ahead of your teenager’s activities. So when in doubt, get yourself a home testing kit for marijuana and/or other abused drugs (meth, cocaine, opiates, etc.) 


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