Why Are Teens in New York Using Drugs?

As a parent, the thought of your teen using drugs can be stressful and overwhelming—you want the best for them, but you cannot control their actions. However, a little awareness can go a long way. If both you and your teen are aware of the drug use in your area, along with the effects of those drugs, it may help influence your teen to make positive and healthy decisions.

In New York City, drug and alcohol abuse amongst teenagers is lower than the national average and statistics throughout the state are similar. That being said, the numbers are still concerning as an estimated 93,000 of the 280,000 public high school students in New York City stated they have experimented with alcohol, while more than 30,000 have experimented with marijuana.


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Prescription drug abuse also commonly affects teens in New York. This is especially important, as accessibility is a key factor for teen drug use and prescription drugs are relatively easy for them to get their hands on. Many teens also attempt to use prescription drugs in the same way that they consume marijuana or alcohol—recreationally and in large quantities—which leads to quick withdrawal and addiction. Accessing prescription drugs can be done as simply as lying about symptoms of illness to the doctor, finding drugs in the family medicine cabinet, getting them from friends or purchasing them illegally on the street. Often, however, purchasing prescription drugs (like painkillers) on the street are expensive, so many young people transition to heroin.

Generally speaking, however, there are a variety of reasons why teens might abuse drugs. These reasons can include:

Peer Pressure

Teens might try drugs or alcohol if they feel pressured to do so by their peers or if they find themselves in social situations where it’s the popular thing to do.


If teens are unhappy, anxious or depressed, they might turn to drugs to feel contentment, warmth, happiness, euphoria, pleasure or a sense of escape.


This one is difficult for parents to navigate, but one reason teens might abuse drugs is simply as an act of rebellion, to express anger or to feel freedom.


The risk associated with taking drugs or the feelings they give might relieve teens from a sense of boredom.

To Boost Confidence

Many shy or socially excluded teens might participate in drug-related activities to fit in or because they enjoy the feelings of confidence the drug gives.

In all cases, it’s helpful to communicate openly with your teen about the risks and realities of drugs. While trends might change from area to area, the effects and consequences are often the same.

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