Teen Substance Abuse and Legal Trouble
Published On: February 6, 2017|Categories: Substance Abuse|

Nearly 70 percent of students in high school will have consumed alcohol prior to reaching their senior year. About 50 percent of students will have taken one or more illegal drugs, and 20 percent will have used prescription drugs non-medically.1

Teenagers who abuse alcohol or drugs are much more likely to develop addiction to those substances. Addiction is a chronic illness that can have devastating effects on those afflicted with it, as well as on their families. Apart from the health risks associated with teen substance abuse, many also get into trouble with the police.

Legal Consequences

Possession of illegal drugs can land a teenager in court. The seriousness of the offense is heightened if a teenager is caught selling or distributing illegal drugs. Teenagers engaged in selling illegal drugs are likely to face a prison sentence if caught.

The implications for teenagers with prison records are serious. Having a record may make it very difficult later when the teenager has become an adult and is looking for work. A criminal record will preclude people from some professions.

One of the many statistics on the relationship between crime and drug use published by the Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that adolescents under the age of 16 accounted for 41 percent of drug-related violations in 2002. Those who abuse substances are also implicated in other crimes like burglary and violent assaults.


Teen Substance Abuse and Legal TroubleDriving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is one of the leading causes of legal trouble for teenagers. The financial cost of any offense can be high, including penalties, court and representation costs, mandated testing or probation and other fees.

Unfortunately, many teenagers die in automobile crashes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, six teens between the ages of 16 and 19 are killed in crashes on American roads every day.2 Drugs or alcohol are involved in many of these crashes.

Indications of Teen Substance Abuse

Parents should be on the lookout for signs of problems. Some of the signs that your teenager may be taking drugs or alcohol include:

  • Worsening performance at school or college
  • Losing interest in healthy activities
  • Noticeable change in personality
  • Apathy and lack of motivation
  • Becoming withdrawn
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Stealing money


Simply talking to your son or daughter about drugs, alcohol and addiction is unlikely to be enough to make your child stop abusing substances if they’ve already started down that path. If your child has a problem with substance abuse, it is best to get professional help.

People suffering from addiction have an incurable illness, but it is an illness that can be treated and sent into remission. Professional addiction treatment is the best way for young people to break free of drugs or alcohol. The earlier treatment commences, the better.


  1. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-adolescent-substance-use-disorder-treatment-research-based-guide/introduction
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/teen_drivers/teendrivers_factsheet.html
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