10 Reasons Your Teen Might Try Drugs

Many parents believe that raising kids in a Christian environment will prevent them from experimenting with drugs. But with adolescents being exposed to drugs at younger ages, no family is immune. In this article, I’ll share what motivates teens to use drugs and how parents can combat the allure of drugs.

Here’s what parents are asking about teens and drugs …

There’ve been a lot of arguments at home lately and our son is spending less and less time here. We suspect he’s using drugs. How do we crack down on drugs AND rebuild our relationship at the same time?

I’m pretty sure my daughter is using drugs with her friends. Will changing schools help my kid stop drugs?

Our son knows we don’t allow drug use, but he’s tried pot once or twice. What are some practical consequences for teens who experiment with drugs? 

If any of these scenarios sound familiar, you’ll want to start thinking about what motivated your teen in the first place. Here are 10 reasons your teen might try drugs.

  1. Curiosity. It’s a natural part of being a teen. They wonder how it will feel, but then they get hooked. Teens are prone to make dumb choices because of immaturity.
  2. Friends are doing it and look like they are having fun together. Your teen craves acceptance. What teen doesn’t want to have friends and have fun? 
  3. Pressure to fit in. National studies reveal that up to 60% of teens will smoke pot by the end of high school. Your teen has a strong desire to belong.
  4. To get relief from stress. 50% of kids today show signs anxiety or depression. Most lack healthy relationships, and don’t know where to find relief when they’re stressed out. Your relationship with your teen can be a much-need relief valve during stressful times.
  5. To calm anxiety. Anxiety centers around the things your teen is unsure about. They’re bombarded by “what ifs”. Normal anxiety motivates, but too much debilitates.
  6. To escape depression. Depression is a feeling your teen is sure about. He’s convinced he’s not good enough, not capable, or not loved. It’s a significant hurdle for teens and if they don’t know how to manage these feeling, some turn to drugs.
  7. To forget about the fighting with parents at home. When there’s tension at home, teens desperately seek relief. While parents can get in car and drive off, teens feel trapped and drugs look like a way out.
  8. To feel good about themselves. I hear from teens all the time that they long to feel “normal.” The pressure to look and act a certain way is magnified by social media. They want to be happy, but they don’t know how, and they’re being lied to by culture.
  9. To exercise control over their life, especially if Mom and Dad are too controlling. Drugs are a decision your teen gets to make, without Mom and Dad.
  10. Just because drugs are available! Legalization has opened up drugs to a wider group of teens. They’re easy to find. In fact they’re hard to avoid!

Does it matter WHY my teen is trying drugs? 

Your response needs to deal with what caused the behavior in the first place. How you respond will depend on what’s motivating your teen. For example, your response to a teen who tries drugs because he’s curious, will be different from a teen who is struggling with depression. Find out why your teen is using drugs. Reaching your child’s heart is more important than simply fixing the behavior.

How do I find out the motivation behind my teen using drugs?

Ask. You might be surprised to find they’ll answer when they’re asked! Observe. Be a student of your teen. How have they changed? What’s going on in their life that might lead them to seek relief in drug use? Get outside help. If your teen won’t open up to you, try going to a counselor.


Hey moms and dads … Your teen will have the opportunity to use some type of gateway drug in their life, unlike the social circles that you and I grew up in. That being said, it’s extremely important that all parents realize our teens’ choices may lead them down a deadly path and take your family on a path that no one wanted to walk. There are two things to watch for. One, look for the opportunity that will be there for your teen to access drugs. Drugs are accessible, permissible, and many times promoted by those who don’t care about your teen. So keep your eyes peeled. Second, if you suspect that your teen is using, get the help they need quickly. Don’t just try to change their behavior, but help them understand that the choices they make today will affect their life tomorrow. Encourage them to use their head, make good choices, and walk away from those desires that appear attractive, but ultimately are deadly.


  • Mark Gregston


    Mark Gregston is the Founder of Heartlight, a premier residential counseling center and boarding school for struggling teens. He began working with teens more than 40 years ago as a youth minister and Young Life director. He has authored nearly two dozen books, has written hundreds of articles, and is host of the nationally-acclaimed Parenting Today’s Teens podcast and radio broadcast.


    The residential counseling center and boarding school for struggling teens is located on 150 acres in the beautiful Piney Woods outside of Longview, Texas. Heartlight is a program that not only modifies behavior, but one that seeks to offer a unique, transformative journey through a relational experience that offers counseling, small group therapy, academics, and activities. Heartlight’s boutique approach creates a warm and welcoming atmosphere that offers hope to the hopeless, help to the discouraged, and new life to those who fear theirs would soon be lost.

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