The Price of the Pill: The Science Behind Childhood Drug Abuse

Recently, Fentanyl related deaths have increased, especially among teenage populations. The National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics has reported that in the United States alone, 2.02 million adolescents aged 12-17 years old have admitted to participating in some form of substance abuse in the past month. Substance abuse is an issue that is becoming increasingly important, especially among the youth, who feel pressured to fit in. Certain substances are marketed towards teenagers as they are highly addictive and guarantee lifetime customers. 

By definition, substance abuse is the use of illegal drugs or over-the-counter drugs with malicious intent or in extremely high volumes. In recent years, the leading cause of substance abuse among teenagers has consistently been peer pressure. The National Council for Mental Wellbeing has stated that 21% of teens have admitted to the fact that they gave in to peer pressure and partook in substance abuse at least one time. To put this into perspective, this would amount to hundreds of thousands of teenagers. Another reason why teenagers might turn to substance abuse is to escape reality. Whether it be due to stress from school, an uncomfortable home life, or to relieve boredom, many teenagers have begun to use substances as a way to slip into a feeling of numbing bliss. While this might temporarily work, it can be detrimental to their health. 

Companies purposefully use ingredients such as nicotine and tobacco to create powerful substances that intentionally increase dopamine levels. This increase overwhelms the brain with pleasure and can invoke feelings of relaxation and accomplishment. This feeling of bliss is incredibly addictive and leaves one yearning for more. This desire leads individuals to consume more harmful substances in higher volumes each time. However, each time one consumes a substance, their mind becomes more adapted, requiring them to consume higher volumes to achieve the same satisfaction. This reliance isn’t only harmful to your body but can also end fatally. 

The impacts of substance extend far past addiction. Once one becomes addicted to certain substances, one can fall into a state of absenteeism in school, leading to a noticeable decrease in one’s academic performance. Additionally, one might also experience symptoms of withdrawal when they aren’t consuming substances. This dependency can intensify feelings of depression and unworthiness. It can also, at one point, lead to one taking their own life to end their suffering. 

While it is difficult, quitting substance abuse is extremely rewarding and can set one free. Rehab facilities can help one overcome the symptoms of withdrawal. Additionally, a substance abuse hotline is available at any given time, especially for teenagers seeking guidance on how to quit. To prevent substance abuse as a whole, one can practice self-love and take good care of their mental health, making sure they aren’t stressing themselves out too much to the point where they are experiencing burnout. 

In our modern day, substance abuse-related deaths are skyrocketing. Spreading awareness to the youth is incredibly crucial to prevent this issue from becoming even more significant than it already is.

Works Cited

“Depression and Substance Abuse.” Addiction Center, 10 Jan. 2024,

Get Smart About Drugs. “Why Do Teens Use Drugs? | Get Smart about Drugs.”, 31 Mar. 2023,

“How an Addicted Brain Works.” Yale Medicine, 25 May 2022,

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National Cancer Institute. “Substance Abuse.”, 2 Feb. 2011,

NCDAS. “Teenage Drug & Alcohol Use: Statistics, Facts and Data.” NCDAS, National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, 2023,

Thomas, Anona. Peer Pressure with Substance Use. July 2023.