Adolescent substance results in a child’s inability to control emotions and impulses. Teens are particularly susceptible to substance use because adolescence is the stage of the greatest vulnerability to addiction. During adolescence, the parts of the brain that are so critical for judgment and self-regulation do not fully mature until people reach 21 to 25 years of age.

Factors that increase vulnerability to addiction include family history (presumably through genes and child-rearing practices), early exposure to drug use, exposure to high-risk environments (typically, socially stressful environments with poor familial and social supports and restricted behavioral alternatives and environments in which there is easy access to drugs and permissive normative attitudes toward drug taking).  Certain mental illnesses (e.g., mood disorders, attention deficit–hyperactivity disorder, psychoses, and anxiety disorders) can also contribute to substance abuse.

After centuries of efforts to reduce addiction and its related costs by punishing addictive behaviors failed to produce adequate results, brain research has helped us better understand appropriate ways to address substance abuse in children ages 15-18.

Prevention Related Standards


What does this look like in my child?

At School

  • Excessive absenteeism and tardiness

  • Withdrawal from friends and extra-curricular activities

  • Violent outbursts, fighting

  • Poor relationships with teachers and peers

At Home

  • Compulsive behaviors

  • Little motivation to pursue school success and/or graduation

  • Poor decision making, control, and self-regulation

  • Argumentative

  • Mood swings

  • Poor friendship choices

  • Poor eating habits

How can I help my child now?

  • Seek therapy for child and family

  • Reduce stress and stressful environments

  • Allow child time with loving, caring adults

  • Limit access to drugs and alcohol

  • Encourage exercise and participation in age appropriate healthy social interactions

  • Change circle of friends

  • Meet with a trained/certified pediatric mental health care provider

  • Have pediatrician conduct a full physical

  • Meet with school to develop a plan that supports interventions

What can I do for my child in the long-run?

  • Continue to encourage and participate in child’s and family’s therapy

  • Advocate for public and school policies that promote prevention, intervention, and education

  • Take care of your health and limit your stress

  • Work with child to set and track progress of personal goals

WVDE Disclaimer

Please Note: Links to resources outside the West Virginia Department of Education’s website do not constitute an endorsement by the WVDE. Users should vet linked resources to meet audience needs.