Nexus Academy | Personalized Drug & Alcohol Rehab

Most Common Drugs Used by Teens in 2024

Most Common Drugs Used by Teens in 2024

Table of Contents

Teenagers are increasingly getting exposed to commonly abused drugs such as marijuana, heroin, and cocaine. Common reasons behind this increased exposure include peer pressure, a desire to experiment, and increased adoption and consumption of digital technology such as social media. Therefore, it’s important for you as a parent to proactively protect your children from harm by helping them make healthy choices and seek treatment if they have a substance abuse issue.

At Nexus Teen Academy, our hearts go out to teenagers in Arizona struggling with substance abuse. We understand the pain and frustration families face, and we believe that with the right information and support, parents can play a crucial role in helping their teens overcome addiction.

Early Intervention is Key.

We often hear the regretful wish that parents could have intervened sooner. This is why we’re dedicated to empowering parents in Arizona with the knowledge they need to recognize the signs of substance abuse in teens and take teen substance abuse treatment early on. Join us as we discuss the most common drugs used by teens in 2024, their warning signs, and the available treatment options.

Overview of the Most Common Drugs Used by Teens


Opioids interact with opioid receptors in nerve cells to help alleviate pain. They can be made in a laboratory or directly harvested from the poppy plant. Despite their success in acute pain management, their use must be regulated for the following reasons:

  • Chronic and regular use can lead to increased tolerance and dependence, making users require more doses.
  • They can restrict users’ ability to breathe when taken in higher doses.
  • They can cause fatal overdoses when misused or abused.

Common Types of Opioids

Commonly prescribed opioids include oxycodone, morphine, hydrocodone, and oxymorphone, sold as Percocet, Vicodin, Palladone, and OxyContin. Their prescription and administration vary depending on the patient’s situation and level or type of pain. Common medical uses include post-surgical or chronic pain management, and relief of symptoms such as coughing and diarrhea.

Opioids’ Effect on the Brain

Opioids mostly target the brain’s reward system. They attach to the mu-opioid receptors in the brain, and flood the brain’s circuit with dopamine. This causes users to experience feelings of euphoria.

Common Risks of Long-Term Opioid Use Among Teens

Long-term opioid use can lead to addiction and overdose. Other medical risks include hyperalgesia, severe fractures, chronic constipation, immunosuppression, breathing problems during sleep, myocardial infarction, and bowel obstruction.


Cannabis, commonly known as marijuana is one of the most popular drugs among teens because of its euphoric effects and easier accessibility. Most teenagers use it to feel good, cope with boredom, look ‘cool,’ and satisfy their curiosity. Most teen users have a misguided belief that marijuana isn’t addictive, when in reality, 25-50% of daily users end up addicted.

Effects and Risks Associated with Marijuana Use

Prolonged marijuana use can lead to the following risks and effects:

  • Permanent IQ loss by up to 8 points for young abusers
  • Mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, paranoia, and psychosis
  • Coordination, timing, and movement problems among teenagers
  • Reduced quality of life

Signs of Marijuana Use

The following are common in frequent teen marijuana users:

  • Neglect of personal hygiene
  • A decline in work and school performance
  • Binge eating
  • Poor coordination
  • Dry mouth
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Fatigue
  • Delayed reaction time
  • Impaired monitor skills
  • Bloodshot/glossy eyes
  • Paranoia, fear, and panic

Is Marijuana/ Cannabis Addictive?

Long-term marijuana use can lead to a marijuana use disorder which mostly takes the form of addiction. Studies show that 1 in 6 users below 18 years and 1 in 10 adults risk getting addicted to marijuana following prolonged usage.

Can Marijuana Use Lead to Other Drugs?

Studies have shown that most Cannabis users including teens, end up using other illegal drugs. This is particularly common in those with mental health disorders.

What Are the Long-Term Effects of Marijuana Use on the Brain?

Studies have suggested that long-term marijuana use can lead to lengthy and potentially permanent changes in the brain, including functional impairment in cognitive abilities.

Synthetic Drugs

Synthetic drugs are laboratory-made chemical compounds that mimic the effects of illicit drugs like cocaine, marijuana, LSD, and MDMA. They are divided into two categories depending on their chemical compositions: cannabinoids, such as Spice and K2, and stimulants, such as Bath Salts.

Short-Term Effects and Risks Associated with Synthetic Drug Use

Short-term effects of synthetic drugs include psychotic episodes, memory loss, blackouts, hallucinations, brain damage, paranoia, seizures, violent and erratic behavior, and rapid heartbeat. Risks associated with synthetic drug usage include addiction, heart attack, suicidal ideation, and suicide.

Long-Term Effects of Synthetic Drug Use

  • Paralysis
  • Memory loss
  • Severe withdrawal symptoms when attempting to quit
  • Suicidal ideation and attempts
  • Cognitive impairments
  • Death
  • Stroke
  • Brain damage.

Signs of Synthetic Drug Addiction

  • Compulsive use despite attempts to quit
  • A ‘zombie-like’ look
  • Muscle spasms
  • Extreme numbness
  • Disorientation
  • Depersonalization

How Are Synthetic Drugs Made?

Synthetic drugs are produced in the laboratory by combining several chemical formulas or compounds. For example, combining 1-benzylpiperazine (BZP) and trifluoromethylphenylpiperazine (TFMPP) can lead to a synthetic compound with similar effects as MDMA.

Prescription Drugs

Prescription drugs are legal medications given by doctors or healthcare professionals to help treat illnesses or manage different health conditions, such as hypertension, cancer, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and diabetes. Most teenagers abusing prescription drugs believe they are safer than street drugs because they are legal. Commonly abused prescription drugs include painkillers, sedatives, stimulants ( like Ritalin and Adderall), and anti-anxiety medications.

Signs of Prescription Drug Addiction

  • Forging prescriptions or stealing prescription medications meant for others.
  • Taking higher doses of prescription drugs than prescribed
  • Drug-seeking behaviors
  • Increased alcohol use
  • Changes in eating and sleeping patterns
  • Increased hostility
  • Breaking/crushing pills
  • An intoxicated appearance
  • Irritability caused by lack of prescription medicine
  • A faster rate of prescription usage
  • Borrowing prescription drugs from others
  • Buying prescription drugs from Internet pharmacies
  • Hiding medicine in several places around the house

Short-Term Effects and Risks Associated with Prescription Drugs Abuse

  • Prescription drugs such as painkillers can cause respiratory failure, hypertension, extreme mood swings, depression, respiratory depression, hypertension, coma, and poor bodily response to pain if abused.
  • On the other hand, prescription stimulant abuse can lead to dehydration, malnutrition, extreme weight loss, tremors, chronic insomnia, dangerous hyperthermia, cardiovascular complications, psychotic behaviors, and aggressiveness.
  • Teens also abuse sedatives and anti-anxiety medications, which can cause seizures, impaired motor function, chronic fatigue, memory impairment, respiratory depression, insomnia, and chronic fatigue.

Risks and Effects of Long-Term Prescription Drug Use

  • Reduced cognitive function
  • Legal issues
  • Kidney damage/failure
  • Social isolation
  • Academic failure/dropping out of school
  • Co-occurring disorders like depression and anxiety
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Addiction
  • Physical drug dependence
  • Overdose
  • Death


Roughly 4.8 million people aged 12 and above reported using cocaine in 2021. Although teen cocaine use may not be as prevalent as marijuana use, it is still quite common, especially among adolescents who frequent nightlife scenes, social events, and party settings. Cocaine is also easy to use at home compared to marijuana as it is mostly snorted.

However, some teenagers may choose to dissolve it in water and inject themselves for heightened feelings of euphoria or smoke its rock form, popularly known as crack.

Signs of Cocaine Addiction

  • Frequent nose bleeds
  • Dilated pupils
  • Changes in sleep and eating patterns
  • Noticeable weight loss
  • Unexplained money problems/ theft
  • Extreme mood swings and irritability
  • Paranoia
  • Anxiety
  • Hyperactivity followed by periods of fatigue
  • Cocaine residue and rolled-up bills
  • The presence of cutting tools, such as razor blades

Short-Term Effects and Risks Associated with Cocaine Addiction

  • Teenagers are likely to experience increased body temperature, high blood pressure, an elevated heart rate, dilated pupils, and constricted blood vessels following short-term cocaine use. Other possible effects include nausea, vomiting, stomach ache, reduced appetite, and constipation.
  • The elevated blood pressure and heart rate associated with cocaine use can increase the risk of a heart attack.

Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Addiction

  • Chronic cocaine use can lead to increased tolerance, forcing teens to either up the dosage or snort more frequently to feel the same effects, ultimately leading to addiction.
  • Physical issues such as severe damage to nasal tissues and cartilage, septum perforation, and collapse of the nasal structure or upper palate.
  • Loss of smell
  • Swallowing problems
  • Pulmonary embolism, strokes, and deep vein thrombosis.
  • Inflammation and death of the heart muscle
  • Aortic ruptures
  • Heightened risk of pneumonia, asthma, and acute respiratory distress
  • Brain damage and increased risk of aneurysms
  • Cognitive issues and long-term memory problems
  • Tears and ulcers in the stomach
  • Inflammation of the large intestines

Warning Signs of Teen Drug Addiction

Physical Signs

Here are the common physical signs associated with different drugs:


  • Decreased appetite
  • Extreme flu-like symptoms such as vomiting, nausea, sweating, and shaking hands
  • Decreased respiratory rate
  • Noticeable weight loss
  • Drowsiness
  • Non-responsiveness
  • Small pinpointed pupils that signify opioid intoxication or use and enlarged pupils during withdrawal


  • Red/Bloodshot eyes
  • Unexplainable weight gain
  • Increased heart rate
  • Dry mouth
  • Slowed reaction time
  • Poor coordination
  • Sleepiness
  • Increased appetite/ binge eating
  • Memory impairment

Synthetic Drugs

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Tremors/seizures
  • Uncontrolled bleeding
  • Loss of consciousness

Behavioral Signs

Here are common behaviors associated with the drugs we have discussed above:


  • Attitude changes
  • Poor academic performance
  • Reduced contact with family/friends
  • Change in hobbies and friends
  • Worrying behaviors
  • Frequent mood changes
  • Isolation
  • Changes in mannerisms like increased irritability
  • Nervousness


  • Lack of/reduced motivation
  • Paranoia
  • Nervous behavior
  • Poor perception
  • Concentration problems
  • A sense of euphoria

Synthetic Drugs

  • Frequent runny nose and watery eyes
  • Exhaustion
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Increased blood pressure

Environmental Signs

You’ll notice the following items or signs in teens addicted to the following drugs:


  • Syringes
  • Missing medications
  • Missing belts or shoelaces
  • Burnt or missing bottle caps and spoons
  • Tiny bags with powder residue


  • Burnt marijuana remains, popularly known as roaches
  • Frequent pungent, skunk-like odor
  • Stashed rolling papers
  • Smoke emanating from the room or backyard
  • Matchboxes/ lighters
  • Strong deodorants, perfumes, colognes, or incense to cover up the smell

Synthetic Drugs

  • Drug paraphernalia, such as vapes (for synthetic marijuana sold in vials)
  • Synthetic drugs remain

Treatment Options for Teen Drug Addiction

We use the following treatment interventions at Nexus Teen Academy to help teens overcome addiction or substance use disorders:


Detoxification is the safe and effective withdrawal from a psychoactive substance. Here is how we help teens withdraw from different drugs:


Medication is generally administered during opioid detoxification to help reduce the severity and duration of the following withdrawal symptoms: anxiety, gastrointestinal distress, tachycardia, drug craving, and diaphoresis. Common detox medications used include alpha-2 adrenergic agonists, such as lofexidine and clonidine, and opioid agonists, such as buprenorphine and methadone.


Common medications used during marijuana detox include CB receptor agonists, anti-anxiety drugs, and painkillers. These are often used because just like opioids, detoxing from marijuana after years of dependence can cause several withdrawal symptoms requiring pharmacological, behavioral, and personal therapy interventions.

Doctors may also recommend tapering the amount of marijuana intake to help lessen the severity of symptoms including restlessness, anger, aggression, insomnia, irritability, poor appetite, decreased weight, restlessness, nervousness, depression, anxiety, unsettling dreams, headaches, nausea, and tremors.

The time needed to detox from marijuana can vary from one person to the next depending on their metabolism, frequency, and duration of usage, and individual characteristics. Although THC, the psychoactive compound, may become undetectable in the urine within a week to a month, complete detoxification can take several weeks to a few months.

Synthetic Drugs

Synthetic drug detoxification should be medically monitored to counter possible severe and unpredictable withdrawal symptoms. People detoxing from synthetic drugs report experiencing panic attacks, sleep disturbances, persistent headaches, changes in eating patterns, hyper-intense cravings, feelings of physical discomfort, and uncontrollable shaking or body tremors. The severity of these symptoms often depends on the presence/absence of underlying conditions and the severity of substance abuse disorder.

Common medications used during synthetic drug detoxification include the following:

  • Antipsychotic medications
  • Antidepressants
  • Anti-anxiety medications
  • Non-narcotic sleep aids
  • Anti-seizure medications

Note that although physical symptoms fade away within 7 days, some psychological symptoms, such as depression, drug cravings and anxiety can last several months or longer.


At Nexus Teen Academy, we offer teen residential treatment in Arizona, intensive outpatient treatment, partial hospitalization, and extended care programs for rehabilitating teens. Some of our programs may be as short as 4 weeks, while others, such as residential treatment, may last up to 45-60 days.


Therapy can be defined as a collaborative treatment approach between a teenager and a psychologist grounded in dialogue. The two parties have regular sessions to help resolve problematic behaviors (such as drug use). Therapy options used in commonly abused drugs treatment include:

Evidence-Based Therapy

Our facilities offer evidence-based therapies, including cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, dialectical behavioral therapy, family therapy, and skills training to treat substance use disorders and encourage long-term recovery.

Holistic and Recreation Therapy

Holistic and recreation therapy target patients’ attitudes. They include surf therapy, art therapy, hiking, and music therapy

Benefits of Family Therapy in Addiction Treatment

  • It helps improve family communication skills
  • Family members get a chance to learn more about their loved ones’ addiction
  • It helps address any mental health issues within the family system, such as anxiety and depression
  • It helps ease addiction-induced fear, stress, confusion, or anger
  • It helps keep teens with substance use disorders motivated and engaged during treatment
  • Teens in recovery enjoy a high level of support
  • It allows families to voice their feelings and concerns
  • It helps strengthen familial bonds
  • It teaches family members how to resolve conflicts constructively

At Nexus Teen Academy, we administer family therapy sessions during teen treatment to improve relationships and support systems. We also conduct family psychoeducation sessions to educate family members on their loved one’s conditions and how to support them best.

Medication-Assisted Treatment

Medication-assisted treatment combines medication and therapy/counseling to ensure the safe treatment of substance use disorders. Types of medication used in this treatment approach include naltrexone, buprenorphine, and methadone.

Benefits of Medication-Assisted Treatment

  • It helps lessen physical and psychological cravings
  • It promotes safer discontinuation of substance misuse
  • It helps lessen the severity or duration of withdrawal symptoms
  • It reduces the risks of overdose death
  • It mitigates relapse risks
  • It increases treatment retention

Risks Associated with Medication-Assisted Treatment

  • It may lead to an overreliance on the treatment medications
  • Patients may switch from one addiction to the other
  • Medications, like methadone and buprenorphine, have potential side effects including dizziness, constipation, and drowsiness.

Support Groups

Support groups are formed when people with similar addictions or substance abuse disorders come together to share their experiences and keep each other accountable. Common support groups for teenagers addicted to drugs include Alcoholics Anonymous for Teens, SMART Recovery, alumni programs, Narcotics Anonymous, and teen-specific support groups.

How Families Can Find Support Groups for Teens

  • Using the Behavioral Health Treatment Services Program Locator by SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)
  • Identifying community centers, local nonprofit groups, churches, and community-based programs focused on strengthening local communities and preventive measures
  • Asking school counselors and educators
  • Enquiring surrounding mental health care and medical providers
  • Finding out from the rehab
  • Joining the treatment center’s alumni programs

Prevention and Education

Importance of Prevention

Teenage drug addiction prevention saves teens from potentially life-threatening habits and the harmful effects of drug abuse. It can also help teenagers develop their identity, life skills, and interests without interference.

Benefits of Prevention Programs for Teen Addiction

Prevention programs for teen addiction help reduce suffering and premature deaths, promote higher productivity, and allow teenagers to grow into happier, healthier, and well-adjusted individuals. They also lower treatment costs and promote family cohesiveness.

How Families and Educators Can Help Prevent Drug Addiction

  • Explaining the consequences of drug and alcohol abuse to teenagers
  • Teaching adolescents how to say no to harmful substances
  • Teaching personal, social, and drug resistance techniques
  • Providing interventions for teenagers at risk of substance abuse through selective programs
  • Creating an open and supportive environment fostering open communication

Understanding the Risks and Consequences

Parents should help teenagers understand the long-term and short-term consequences of teen drug addiction and the effects of drugs on teenagers’ future through open, factual discussions. Let’s shed light on some.

Short-Term and Long-Term Effects of Teen Drug Addiction

Short-term effects of teen drug addiction include hangovers, anxiety, withdrawals, panic attacks, paranoia, irritability, depression, hallucination, drowsiness, slow brain functioning, appetite loss, high body temperature, increased heart rate, and exhaustion, among others.

However, with long-term usage, drugs can lead to permanent disability, strained relationships, decreased bone density and muscle mass, eating disorders, damage to vital organs (such as the heart, lungs, and kidneys), stroke, jail term, and gastrointestinal damage.

How Understanding the Risks and Consequences of Drug Addiction Helps with Prevention

  • People who know or have witnessed the risks and consequences of drug addiction are likely able to help create awareness
  • It makes counseling and offering moral support easy
  • It prevents experimentation which may lead to addiction

Parental Involvement

Importance of Parental Involvement in Preventing Teen Drug Addiction.

Parents who talk to their teenagers early about the risks of drug use, establish clear rules, and perform monitoring activities are less likely to end up with addicted teens.

How Parents Can Prevent Their Teens From Using Drugs

  • Regularly spending time with them
  • Offering guidance and setting clear rules
  • Being good role models
  • Regularly talking with and listening to them
  • Helping them make good choices and friends
  • Teaching them how to say no.
  • Learning about the harmful effects of drugs and sharing with them
  • Being clear and consistent about family rules
  • Correcting any wrong drug-related beliefs the child may have
  • Monitoring how they spend their free time and paying attention to any behavioral change
  • Helping them understand the importance of being responsible.
  • Creating a drug-free environment by keeping alcohol, prescription drugs, and other substances out of reach or having a no-drugs-in-the-house rule.

School Programs

Research shows that school-based prevention programs help improve academic outcomes in some instances and reduce the use of drugs, such as alcohol and tobacco. Common school-based prevention programs include Positive Action, Life Skills Training, and Project Towards No Drug Abuse. Evidence-based programs certified by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) also exist.

Benefits of School Programs in Preventing Teen Addiction

  • They help prevent and diminish drug use among students and teenagers
  • They offer teens a safe space to discuss their problems with friends and peers instead of resorting to drugs
  • They allow teachers and administrators to easily identify at-risk children and work with them to prevent drug-related problems

Community Involvement

Benefits of Community Involvement in Preventing Teen Drug Addiction

  • Reduced crime rates
  • Teenagers grow up to be responsible adults
  • Allows for the thriving and advancement of the community
  • Promotes safer communities
  • Allows young children to have good role models

Examples of Community Programs Available for Preventing Teen Drug Addiction

  • All Stars community-based intervention program
  • The Strengthening Families Program: For Parents and Youth 10-14( SFP-10-14)
  • Strong African American Families

Effectiveness of Community Programs in Preventing Teen Addiction

Research has shown that adults who grow up in communities with a coordinated science-based approach to prevention are less likely to engage in substance abuse, antisocial behaviors, and violence.


The most common drugs used by teens include cocaine, marijuana, opioids, prescription medications, and synthetic drugs. Substance abuse can have lasting effects on your child’s physical and mental health. Therefore, take some time to learn about the effects and consequences of different drugs and openly talk to your teen about the dangers of substance abuse as early as possible. We count on your support and guidance in creating a drug-free society.

At Nexus Teen Academy, we offer a range of treatment programs for teens struggling with different substance use disorders. Feel free to contact us if you need help with teen marijuana, opioid, cocaine, and prescription drug use disorders.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. How Can Parents Talk to Their Teens About Drug Use and Addiction?

Talking to teens about drug use is an effective prevention strategy. Here are a few things parents can do to have a successful conversation about drugs:

  • Offering factual information to help teenagers make good healthy decisions
  • Making the conversation as age-appropriate as possible
  • Mentioning the short and long-term effects of drugs on both the mental and physical health of teenagers
  • Focusing on facts rather than evoking fear or emotions
  • Finding the right time and place. It’s important to inform your teen beforehand
  • Setting the right tone by being casual and wary of body language
  • Making the conversation 2-way by allowing them to participate
  • Ensuring that the teenager feels respected and understood during the conversation
  • Reassuring the teenager of their concern about their well-being
  • Being positive, open, and calm during the conversation
  • Answering any questions honestly.

2. Can Synthetic Drugs Be as Dangerous as Opioids?

Yes. Most synthetic drugs have deadly consequences including fatal overdoses, coma, and death. It is, therefore, important to avoid synthetic drugs.

3. Can Teen Drug Addiction Be Genetic?

Genetics plays a role in teen addiction. Teenagers that have families that struggled with drug and substance disorders are more predisposed to addiction. The American Psychological Association even links 50% of a person’s susceptibility to drugs and alcohol addiction to genetic factors. However, teens from families without any history of drug abuse or addiction can also easily get addicted to drugs and substances after prolonged use.

4. Can Addiction Treatment Be Tailored to Fit My Teen’s Needs?

Yes. At Nexus Teen Academy, we thoroughly assess teenagers’ medical and drug use history to determine their treatment needs before recommending the right treatment options and interventions.

5. How Can I Find a Rehab Center That Specializes in Teen Addiction?

Feel free to fill out our contact form or reach us at (480) 485-3424 if you are looking for a treatment center for your teenager’s addiction. We have different treatment programs and therapy options that can help your teenager recover.

6. What Are the Risks of Self-Detoxing from Drugs?

Unsupervised drug detox can lead to relapse and subsequent overdose due to intense cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Additionally, co-occurring mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression can escalate when self-detoxing. Lastly, certain health conditions, such as seizures and psychotic symptoms that require immediate medical attention, can occur during detox. Your teenager should therefore undergo supervised medical detox to stay safe.

7. Can Addiction Treatment Be Covered by Insurance?

Yes. We understand that addiction treatment can be costly, so we have partnered with several insurance providers to make it easier for you to pay for your teenager’s treatment costs. You can verify your insurance with us to learn more about your coverage.

8. What are the Differences Between Inpatient and Outpatient Rehabilitation Programs?

Inpatient rehabilitation deals with serious cases of substance use disorder. It is conducted in residential treatment centers where teens stay for the entire treatment period, which can be 45-60 days. On the other hand, outpatient rehabilitation treats moderate cases of substance use disorders. Patients don’t have to stay in the treatment center and can continue with their work or responsibilities undisturbed.

author avatar