Female Teens Are More At Risk for Substance Abuse Due to Mental Health

No matter the age or gender, drinking and drug use can eventually lead to an addiction. Although this doesn’t happen for everyone, the choice to drink or use drugs inherently comes with risk of developing one.


However, recent research shows that women are the fastest growing segment for substance abuse in the United States. Most men and women were struck by the death of Whitney Houston, for instance, a woman of beauty and glamour, and yet she had a long history of drug use. On February 11, 2012, she drowned in a hotel bathtub with cocaine as a contributing factor.


According to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), about 57,000 female teens admitted to using drugs and of these adolescents, four percent of them were pregnant. Sadly, it seems that female teens are finding more reasons to use drugs and alcohol – more reasons then male adolescents. In a study done by Partnership for a Drug-Free America and the MetLife Foundation, teenage girls were found to be more likely to see benefits from drug use than boys. For this reason, they may be more at risk for using drugs and alcohol.


The study was done in 2010 and found that teen females are more likely to associate self-medicating benefits with drinking and drug use. Of those surveyed in the study, two thirds agreed that using drugs helps deal with problems at home. One half agreed with the statement that drugs could help teens forget their troubles in general. Furthermore, the study found that stress was a major contributor to substance abuse, including the presence of depression. More than three times as many female teens than boys reported having symptoms of depression.


On the other hand, the study found that teen boys use drugs for other reasons such as helping them to socially relax and to have fun. For instance, 34% of male adolescents agreed with the statement “parties are more fun with drugs”.


It was clear from the study that the moods and mental health of females have a direct influence on their choice to drink or use illicit substances. “Parents can help prevent alcohol and drug abuse,” said CEO of Partnership for a Drug-Free America Steve Pasierb, “by recognizing and addressing their daughter’s worries and stresses, by supporting her positive decisions and by taking immediate action if they suspect or know she has been experimenting with drugs and alcohol.”


Furthermore, females who have been sexually or physically abused are more prone to developing an addiction. They might be unconsciously attempting to manage the intense feelings, such as powerlessness, that frequently accompany unresolved trauma. A young female teen might find escape from feelings such as shame, anger, resentment, hurt, or unworthiness in drinking or drug use.


It’s common for female teens to present as though they have it all together, as in the case of Whitney Houston. In 2002, Houston was interviewed by Diane Sawyer and admitted using various types of drugs including cocaine. However, aside from “stress” which she admitted to the media, many of the reasons behind her drug use remain unclear. Yet, she is a good example of having a façade of togetherness while underneath existed a dangerous relationship with drugs.


It’s clear that substance abuse among teens puts them at risk. As Pasierb suggested, if parents suspect drinking or drug use in their daughters, talking to them about it and having them assessed for substance abuse could ultimately save her life.




Feliz, J. (July 7, 2010). National Study: New Data Show Teen Girls More Likely to See Benefits in Drug and Alcohol Use. Partnership for a Drug-Free America. Retrieved on June 16, 2014 from: http://www.drugfree.org/newsroom/national-study-new-data-show-teen-girls-more-likely-to-see-benefits-in-drug-and-alcohol-use/

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (May 9, 2013). The TEDS Report: Characteristics of Pregnant Teen Substance Abuse Treatment Admissions. Rockville, MD. Retrieved on June 16, 2014 from: http://www.samhsa.gov/data/2K13/TEDS121/SR121-pregnant-teen-treatment.htm