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Where Do Teens Get Drugs?


teens at a drug deal

Adolescence is a formative time in a young person’s life. It is filled with countless lessons, physiological maturation, insatiable curiosity, and a newfound need for autonomy. Teenagers are notoriously known as hypersensitive, impulsive, wildly emotional beings. Though teenagers may visually morph into adults during adolescence, their brains do not fully develop until at least age twenty-five. With an underdeveloped pre-frontal cortex (area of the brain that reigns rational thought, impulse control, executive planning, etc.) teenagers are innately programed to rely on the amygdala (area of the brain that governs one’s emotions, impulsivity, emotional behavior, and motivation). Every young person is unique, and each will encounter distinctly challenging situations during adolescence, test a different combination of boundaries, and experiment with different stimuli (e.g., drugs, alcohol, sex, etc.). The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH) reported findings from a survey that found 58.8% of teenagers had consumed alcohol by their senior year in high school, and 47% had used illicit drugs. For those on the prowl, there are a variety of sources for which a teenager can obtain illegal substances. 

Where Teens Get Drugs

There are many different types of types of drugs teenagers can abuse during adolescence, and some substances are more easily accessible than others. The most common places for teenagers to get drugs include:

  • At home: most homes have medicine cabinets that contain drugs of various kinds, which can make some prescription medications easy for teenagers to source. It is also not uncommon for homes to contain an array of alcoholic beverages.
  • At school: The New York Times reports that “many teen-agers find illegal drugs more common at school than in their neighborhood, according to a new national survey that concludes that drugs are a barrier to better education.” The survey goes on to illuminate findings that “forty-one percent of the high school students surveyed said they had seen drugs sold at their school.” Teenagers have access to a wide variety of different drugs provided by teen distributors that are operating under the radar of school authorities. 
  • Online: there are many illegitimate online vendors that allow consumers to purchase a variety of prescription medications without providing proof of a valid prescription. Tech-savvy teens could also turn to the dark web to purchase drugs.
  • In stores: some teenagers present fake IDs to purchase alcohol or other substances in stores.

It is important to be mindful of the fact that teenagers are highly resourceful, and many are extremely persistent. 

For Information and Support

Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person for the long term. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives.

Our admissions team is available to answer any general questions regarding mental health issues, treatment, and/or specific questions about the program at Pacific Teen Treatment and how we might be able to help your family. We can be reached by phone 24/7 at 800-531-5769. You can also contact us via email at

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