Definitions and Characteristics of Adolescent Substance Use and Abuse.
According to "Adolescent Substance Abuse," author Bernard Segal states, "substance abuse is the excessive use of a substance, especially alcohol or a drug."" (Segal 194) Many American teenagers use more than one substance, whether it is using multiple drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol. Being dependent on more than three substances, is called polysubstance abuse, and most teenagers who are classified and treated for drug abuse fall into this category. .
Statistics and Epidemiology: Patterns of Abuse.
Although the United States is home to only 5% of the world's population, we use a staggering 50% of the illegal drugs available on the planet, and teenagers are a large percentage of this statistic. As stated in "Adolescent Substance Abuse," over the past 30 years, teen drug use has turned from an national phenomenon to an epidemic situation (194). The number of adolescents who know someone who uses illegal drugs has nearly quadrupled over the past decade. Adolescent substance abuse usually starts with the teenager drinking alcohol with his/her friends or family. This is often followed by smoking cigarettes and/or marijuana. Habitual marijuana users may progress to the next level and begin experimenting with cocaine, inhalants, hallucinogens, or amphetamines. As stated by Helen Beiser, "two-thirds of American adolescents experiment with illicit substances before they graduate from high school."(212) It is also common for adolescents to be involved with multiple drugs at a time. Adolescence is the most risky period for drug use. Statistically, males surpass females in the use of drugs - with the exception of tranquilizers and stimulants. According to Monica Hernandez, African Americans and Hispanics that live in the inner cities are reported to have the highest drug use."(475) .
The Causes of Youth Substance Use and Abuse.