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

Drug and alcohol use has a significant, negative impact on the mental health and physical body of those who abuse substances. But they also can have a deeply negative impact on one’s personal and professional life in regard to criminal records and offenses. Oftentimes, those who abuse substances never intended to get into trouble with the law, but, due to the chemical changes in their brains, begin acting in progressively dangerous, risky ways.

This is serious for adults, but it can be even more seriously devastating for teens. For a young person who encounters legal trouble while under the influence of drugs and alcohol, the consequences can, unfortunately, follow them around for the rest of their life.

How many teens are involved in drug use?

We may all be aware that many high school students experiment with substance use, but the statistics may show the issue to be more prevalent than initially assumed.

For example:

Teenagers who abuse alcohol or drugs are much more likely to develop an addiction to those substances than teens who never experiment and are more at risk for struggles with substance abuse as adults as well.

Additionally, any underlying mental health issues that may be playing a role in a developing addiction can significantly decrease one’s decision-making abilities. This can lead to a number of complications, including potential legal conflicts.

Legal consequences of teen drug use

It is unlikely that many teens are fully aware of the gravity of being involved with illegal drug use, but the consequences can be severe and long-lasting. Possession of illegal drugs can require a teenager to appear 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. Any record including drug use and/or time in prison may make it incredibly difficult to find a job as an adult. Certain career paths don’t allow for a criminal record, and teens can negatively impact their future careers if they are not making prudent decisions.

Additionally, drug use often leads to poor decision-making. Teens who use substances are more likely to engage in violent activities or reckless behaviors, putting their own lives and the lives of others at risk.

Driving 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. Sadly, many teenagers are victims of vehicle crashes.

According to NHTSA, “Car crashes are a leading cause of death for teens, and about a quarter of fatal crashes involve an underage drinking driver. In 2021, 27 percent of young drivers 15 to 20 years old who were killed in crashes had BACs of .01 g/dL or higher.” Another source indicates that “Among U.S. high school students who drove, about 13 percent drove when they had been using marijuana…”

Many teens do not consider it at the time, but these actions can lead to a variety of intense consequences. In order to prevent teens from acting under the influence of drugs or alcohol, it’s important to know the signs of substance abuse and intervene when necessary.

Warning signs of substance use in teens

Parents have a unique role to play in determining whether or not their teen has been experimenting with or abusing substances. It is unlikely that your teen will come to you and straight up admit to using drugs or alcohol – more likely, you will need to know the signs and be prepared to have a conversation with your teenager if needed.

Signs a teen might be using substances include:

  • Worsening performance at school or college
  • Failing to show up to obligations, including work, school or family events
  • Losing interest in healthy activities
  • Noticeable changes in personality, such as increased moodiness or irritability
  • Apathy and lack of motivation
  • Becoming withdrawn or evasive
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Stealing money

Normal teenage behavior includes mood swings and potentially increased withdrawal from family life for the sake of friends – in other words, not every change in your teen is indicative of a substance use problem. However, multiple severe changes and continuous signs may indicate your child is in need of help.

Preventing teen substance use

It’s important to talk with your child, at an age-appropriate time, about the reality of substance abuse and the risks associated with using illicit drugs or drinking underage. Encourage your son or daughter to remain strong in their “No” if someone offers them substances; assure them that you’re willing to talk with them about it often; foster a caring environment in the home that encourages open discussion.

If you need additional help or guidance talking to your teen about substance use, or if your teen is actively using substances and needs further treatment than you are equipped to provide, help is available. Contact High Focus Centers to speak with a counselor today and get the services needed for your family. Call our office at 800-877-3628 to learn more.

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