5 Most Popular Drugs Among Teenagers

Updated on May 5, 2021

Drug use is a common worry that parents have when it comes to their children. After all, adolescents and teenagers have a high level of access to different items online and in real life, and parents may be unable to monitor everything that they do.

While you cannot check everything that your children are exposed to, you can help protect them by properly talking and informing them about the dangers of drug use. Studies show that teenagers whose parents consistently teach them about this topic are 50 percent less likely to use drugs compared to those whose parents don’t.

To get you started, here are some of the most popular drugs teenagers use.


Alcohol is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant that causes its users to feel drowsy, less inhibited, and intoxicated. While people don’t usually think of alcohol as a drug, it is technically considered as such. Users often mix it with other drugs—legal and illegal—to heighten effects or lengthen the trip. 

While alcohol is socially accepted, it is crucial to understand that teenagers have not fully developed impulse control yet. Hence, they are more likely to binge drink, which can later develop into an addiction. 

So far, alcohol is one of the two most commonly abused drugs among teenagers. In 2014, researchers found that by the time children reach 12th grade, two-thirds of them have already tried alcohol. Another study conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that 14.4 percent of individuals aged 12 to 20 years old engaged in binge drinking within the previous month.

Teenagers and other age groups addicted to alcohol can easily find help across the country—whether it’s a Tampa drug rehab center or one located in their local area, these facilities take alcohol abuse seriously and will offer effective ways to address their condition.


Tobacco comprises the other half of the two most popular drugs among teenagers. Its main active ingredient is nicotine, a highly addictive compound. Its presence is one of the primary reasons why smokers find it difficult to stop this harmful habit.

The latest statistics of the National Institute of Drug Abuse reveal that around 11.5% of 8th graders, 13.9% of 10th graders, and 24% of 12th graders across the country have used tobacco products. It is essential to address this concern while the person is still young. Tobacco users often start as a teenager and become addicted through continued use.

Aside from substance use disorder, abusing tobacco increases the risk of developing several health problems. They include cancer, lung diseases, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.


Marijuana is also called weed, dope, pot, or cannabis. Its effects can vary significantly from person to person. Hence, depending on these effects, it is loosely classified as a depressant, stimulant, and hallucinogen.

Based on a 2013 tracking study, about half of 9th- to 12th-grade respondents reported using marijuana. These are concerning numbers, for research suggests that around nine percent of users become addicted to weed. The numbers increase to 17% if they start young and 25% to 50% if they take it daily.

Marijuana has a high addictive potential and may develop into marijuana use disorder with regular use. For teenagers, it can significantly affect their school performance, personal relationships, and other areas of their lives. When users abruptly stop using it, they may experience withdrawal symptoms, including irritability, cravings, decreased appetite, and sleeplessness. 

Prescription and Over-the-Counter Drugs

If you have a medicine cabinet inside the house, keep a close watch on items inside. Teenagers may also use different kinds of prescription pharmaceutical medications to obtain certain effects. Commonly misused drugs include: 

  • Opioids (for treating pain)
  • CNS depressants (for treating anxiety and sleep disorders)
  • Stimulants (often used to treat ADHD)

Monitoring the use of these substances can be tricky because they are easily obtainable. Not only can teenagers gain access to these drugs in your home, but they can also get them from friends and acquaintances. Thus, you need to be extra vigilant and keep an eye out for pills or tablets your child takes without a prescription.


Inhalants include different kinds of common household items, such as lighter fluid, aerosol sprays, cleaning fluids, and glues. They also comprise office supplies such as markers and correction fluid. Since they are readily accessible, inhalants are the favored drug by young adolescents. They sniff the fumes of these substances to achieve a brief high similar to alcohol.

While this may seem harmless to the average onlooker, experts found that addiction may develop for individuals who regularly sniff inhalants. A 2005 study reported that children who used inhalants before the age of 14 were twice as likely to use opiate drugs later on in life.

Moreover, sniffing inhalants can also have harmful side effects, such as nausea and vomiting. In more extreme cases, it can lead to heart failure and suffocation, called “sudden sniffing death.”

Bear in mind that these are only some of the most common drugs that teenagers use. Some of the lesser-used substances include cocaine, hallucinogens (e.g. magic mushrooms), ecstasy, tranquilizers, and sedatives.

Take the time to talk to your children and have an open discussion on drugs, addiction, and their lasting impact on people’s lives. By keeping a close watch on your children and responsibly informing them of drugs’ danger, they will be able to protect themselves from influence and steer clear of these substances. 

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