Thinking about using? Try this instead.

There are lots of reasons why someone might start drinking alcohol or using drugs. While substances might make you feel good for a brief moment (and that’s actually not true for everyone), there are unfortunately lots of short- and long-term effects that are pretty unpleasant. On top of that, because many of these substances are addictive, it becomes way harder to stop using once you’ve already started.

If you’re thinking of using, ask yourself why. What feelings are prompting you to want to make that choice? If you can take a moment to identify what you’re feeling, you can find alternative ways of getting your needs met that don’t end up hurting you. And that is a really big win.

Below are just a few reasons why teens start using drugs. If you feel like you can relate to one or more of them, ask yourself what else you can do to get your needs met. This could be a great opportunity for an “A-ha!” moment and might even lead to a new hobby or outlet.


We’ve all experienced some degree of boredom, and it’s probably more likely now in quarantine than it ever has been before. You might be missing your friends and your routine and have no idea what to do with yourself. Instead of passing the time with using, this is a great time to ask yourself if you’ve always wanted to do or learn something that you haven’t been able to before. This isn’t necessarily about school but about learning something that excites YOU. Have you always wanted to learn to cook? Do you have an interest in art? Maybe you have an instrument that you’ve always wanted to learn to play. Make a list of a few things and see what sticks.


With everything going on, it’s easy to feel sad and depressed right now. Not only are we probably seeing our friends less, but our families might be going through hardship, too. Maybe there is a job loss in the family and you’re not sure where your next meal is going to come from. Some teens turn to drugs and alcohol to escape from the tough realities they are facing. They hope to feel better and get release from the pain, even temporarily. Instead of using, which could lead to life-long problems, try talking to someone. If you have friends or family you feel comfortable with, great. If not, be sure to check out this post on really great resources to use if you’re feeling down.


Maybe you’re just curious about substances. You hear about them all the time, along with all the warnings. You might be wondering what the big deal is and they affect you the same as others.

That’s a fair point. But what’s tough about addictive substances is that even one or two uses can plant a seed that turns into a habit that is hard to break. And what can also be scary is that our brains keep developing until we reach our mid-20s, so imagine what might happen if you ingested something that could permanently inhibit your brain growth. And you’re gonna need all your brain cells to go and rock the world with your talents when you’re older.

So, if you’ve got the curiosity big, ask yourself what other things you’re curious about. Maybe there is a subject you would like to know more about. Maybe there is a new skill you would like to learn. If you’re not sure where to start, pick a few documentaries to watch (Netflix is great for this!) and see which ones make you want to know even more about a certain topic.

Weight Loss

Some believe that substance use can lead to weight loss. While this may be less common in guys, body-conscious gals can sometimes turn to hard drugs like cocaine in an effort to be skinny. Given the COVID-19 pandemic, this urge may be even stronger if we find ourselves snacking all day at home.

While substance use may lead to a little weight loss, the negative effects on the inside just aren’t worth it. The good news is that anyone can lose weight by making conscious food choices and getting consistent exercise. If you’re looking to get fitter, be sure to check out “How to stay active without the gym.”


Aside from the normal stresses of school like packed schedules of exams, jobs, and extracurricular activities, the stress of social distancing is also real. And no one can blame anyone else for wanting to get rid of that stress as quickly as possible. Instead of turning to drugs or alcohol, try exploring some mindfulness exercises. You might be surprised at how quickly these moves can help you, and instead of harming your health, these techniques can really boost your health in the long run if you make it a habit.

Low Self-Esteem

The teenage years can be a challenging time. There can be a lot of social pressure on top of family pressure to do or look or act a certain way, and it’s easy to feel like you’re not good enough. That stinks, and no one deserves to feel like that.


We get so little social interaction these days that when we do, we want to soak it all up and not miss a second. It might feel so good to see your friends virtually or hear their voice on the phone that you would do anything with them just to have a shared experience. After all, it’s fun to be part of something.

But what’s not fun is feeling like you need to use to fit in. If you wouldn’t hang out with these folks when you’re not using, they’re probably not real friends. If they are real friends and you would hang out with them anyway — with or without drugs — suggest an alternative activity you could all do together instead. Are there online games you could play together? Could you watch movies online together and then share your opinions afterwards? Maybe you could all learn a new hobby or skill together and then report back. The possibilities are endless. Have fun with it!

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