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Adolescent Addiction and Mental Health Treatment Services

How Does Addiction Affect Adolescents?

Pre-teens and teenagers have unique risks when it comes to using substances and taking part in unhealthy addictions. Adolescence is when we are most prone to developing addiction. Our brains are still developing, and we’re figuring out our identities. When addiction is added to this mix, it can take a heavy toll on significant areas of an adolescent’s life, including school, physical and mental health, and peer relationships. Similarly, addiction can lead to risky behavior and get them in trouble with the juvenile justice system, impacting their futures.

Most Common Addictions in Adolescents

While no one is immune to any type of addiction, regardless of age, the most common addictions seen in adolescents are alcohol, cannabis, social media, and video games.

Alcohol Addiction

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, “In 2022, 5.8 million youth ages 12 to 20 reported drinking alcohol beyond “just a few sips” in the past month.” It’s not uncommon for adolescents to underage drink out of curiosity, to fit in, or to relax. If a teenager grows up with an alcoholic parent, this may also be around the time they copy these unhealthy coping habits.

Cannabis Addiction

Marijuana use among teenagers has gone up in the last few years. In 2019, 37% of US high school students reported using marijuana, and 22% reported using it in the past 30 days. Like underage drinking, using drugs like marijuana is commonly a result of wanting to fit in, feel “cool,” or cope with stress. As cannabis becomes increasingly legal in the U.S., it has become easier than ever before for underage youth to get their hands on it.

Social Media Addiction

Everyone has a smartphone today, and most people use apps like TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat. Surveys suggest that 90% of teenagers are on social media. Social media is such a normalized component of society that spotting an addiction may be difficult. As of 2024, approximately 70% of teens and young adults in the US are addicted to social media. This rising number is causing a division between being present in reality as well as comparisons to unrealistic expectations displayed online.

Gaming Addiction

Playing video games isn’t a bad thing in itself, but when it’s used to cope with stress and escape reality, this is when addiction can develop. Around 8.4% of children and teenagers are addicted to gaming. Like social media, prolonged video gaming can result in missing out on real-life experiences and harm mental health and relationships.

Mental Health Disorders in Adolescents

Adolescents are going through a lot of life changes. Each year from age 10 to 19 comes with new learning and experiences as the mind and body develop. Along with this, many stressors and situations can leave them unsure of how to cope or communicate their emotions. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that one in seven 10-19-year-olds worldwide experience a mental disorder.

Another statistic from 2021 found that over 42% of students felt persistently sad or hopeless, and nearly 29% experienced poor mental health. When adolescents aren’t given a safe place to express their emotional struggles and learn effective coping mechanisms, this can lead to worsening symptoms.

Why Adolescents Are Vulnerable To Mental Health Disorders

Mental health disorders are a global crisis that affects all age groups. Still, adolescents are especially at risk due to being exposed to issues at school and in the home with limited independence.

Adolescence is a time when individuals are trying to fit in with their peers and make connections. This can make them especially vulnerable to problems like bullying, family dysfunction, and social peer pressure. Any trauma they experience at this age can significantly impact their brain development as well and lead to problems regulating their emotions.

Specialized Addiction Treatment For Adolescents at Fifth Avenue Psychiatry

At Fifth Avenue Psychiatry, we offer specialized adolescent services that target their unique needs and experiences. With behavioral therapies, medication management, counseling, and more, we can help your loved one with addiction or mental health conditions hindering their development.

We offer several treatments for addiction, including gaming, social media, and marijuana. We also have an ADD/ADHD program designed just for adolescents. Our kids are the future, and it’s important we provide them with the tools they need to overcome barriers and thrive. Learn more today by contacting us; we’d love to learn more about your concerns and see how we can help.


Addiction typically begins as a means of coping with difficult emotions or situations, but this isn’t always the case. Addiction can develop due to multiple factors, such as family history of addiction, peer pressure, ongoing stress or trauma, and so on. What may start as escapism through substances or partying can quickly spiral into a full-on dependency when it becomes a tool to cope.

Family history of addiction is one of the biggest factors contributing to its development. Having an alcoholic parent puts a child at a much higher risk of developing alcohol dependency. Similarly, family can play a role in addiction through enablement, which is commonly seen in substance use disorders. Because of how intertwined family becomes in addiction, it’s important to involve them in treatment as well through family therapy.

It’s common for depression to lead to substance abuse as a way to cope with negative emotions. That said, substance use can contribute to poor mental health as well, especially drugs like alcohol, which are depressants. Having an addiction and mental health disorder is called a dual diagnosis, and the two are treated as co-occurring conditions, regardless of which one started first.

Teens and young adults tend to be more vulnerable to developing addiction due to being in the midst of their cognitive development and finding an identity. They’re experiencing school stress, peer pressure, family problems, and much more that adults tend to have less of being more independent. Because of this, their risk for addiction is typically higher.