Teen Depression

The Link Between Teen Depression & Drugs and Alcohol

Parents often assume that teens try alcohol and drugs to rebel or to “fit in” with their peer group.

However, teens with undiagnosed emotional or behavioral problems often use drugs and alcohol as a way to relieve their frustrations.

A depressed teen may self-medicate with alcohol and drugs to escape the terrible sense of hopelessness.

Unfortunately, alcohol and drugs will only accelerate the problem.

Drugs like ecstasy and other club-drug uppers may even make them feel “normal” when for weeks they have felt miserable. The impact of such drugs on serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins, chemicals in the brain that regulate mood can be devastating for children and adolescents. The damage they do to receptors in the brain can make the road back from depression even harder.

Teen Depression Statistics

Young people who have a major depressive episode of two weeks or longer are twice as likely to use drugs for the first time or take their first drink than those who are not depressed.

A study of teens 12 to 17 years of age revealed that 2.2 million young people face major depression each year.

  • Of the teens studied who had never drunk alcohol before, 29.1 percent who were depressed took their first drink in the past year compared with 14.5 percent who did not have a depression episode.
  • Of those who had never used drugs before, 16.1 percent with depression started using drugs for the first time, compared to 6.9 percent of the non-depressed teens.

A Major Depressive Episode Is Defined As:

A period of two weeks or longer during which there is a depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure. There are five other symptoms that reflect a change in functioning, such as:

The National Survey On Drug Use And Health Found: 2.7 Million New Drinkers

  • Of teens 12-17, a total of 8.8 percent reported depression in the past 12 months.
  • Reported depression increased with age, with 4.3 percent of 12-year-olds and 11.9 percent of 17-year-olds having episodes.
  • Teen girls were three times more likely than boys to report depression – 13.3 percent compared with 4.5 percent.
  • All total 2.7 million teens took their first drink and 1.5 million used drugs for the first time in 2005.

Signs And Symptoms Of Teen Depression

It is difficult to understand when teenagers suffer from depression. As they grow, they try to find who they are and what they believe in. Such changes in behavior are normal. However, problems arise when an adolescent feels helpless and hopeless much of the time.

If a teen faces any of the following signs of depression for more than 2-3 weeks, he or she may be depressed.


  • Teen Depression Family And Genetic Factors. It is still under research whether the relationship between parent and teen depression derives from genetic factors, or whether depressed parents create an environment that increases the chances of depression in their children.
  • Teen Depression Gender Differences.One reason for depression in adolescent girls may be that they are more socially oriented, more dependent on positive social relationships,
    and more vulnerable to losses of social relationships than are boys.
  • Teen Depression Biological Factors. Some of the core symptoms of depression, such as changes in appetite and sleep patterns, are related to the functions of the metabolism. The functioning of the metabolism is well associated with depression in adults. However, far less research has been done in this area among teens and adolescents.
  • Teen Depression Cognitive Factors. A person with negative mindset is one who readily assumes personal blame for negative events. This mindset is known as pessimistic. Individuals with this mindset react more passively, helplessly and ineffectively to negative events than those without a pessimistic mindset.

In addition to those found in adult depression, causes of teen and adolescent depression, or apparent triggers, include additional and often unique situations. Some of them could be:

  • Social rejection
  • Family turmoil
  • Failing exams


It is extremely important that depressed teens receive prompt, professional treatment. Depression is serious and, if left untreated, can worsen to the point of becoming life-threatening. If depressed teens refuse treatment, it may be necessary for family members or other concerned adults to seek professional advice.

Drugs And Alcohol Can Bring About Depression

While some teens self-medicate to treat depression, other teens end up with a serious mental disorder due to abuse of drugs or alcohol. Abusive drinking or drug use can seriously undermine your child’s physical, emotional, and psychological health. Some drugs, such as methamphetamines, can seriously affect the neurotransmitters, which are known as the “messengers of the brain.” Recent studies suggest this damage can be long-lasting and even permanent.

Many teens have the mistaken notion that drugs won’t hurt them. The fact is, although they might feel “good” while taking them, they can make it difficult for the teen to feel good naturally without drugs or alcohol.

The longer a teen abuses substances, the more difficult it will be to achieve successful treatment.

Helping A Depressed Teenager

If you suspect that a teenager in your life is suffering from depression, take action right away. Depression is very damaging when left untreated, so don’t wait and hope that the symptoms will go away.

Even if you’re unsure that depression is the issue, the troublesome behaviors and emotions you’re seeing in your teenager are signs of a problem. Whether or not that problem turns out to be depression, it still needs to be addressed.

Talk To Your Teen

The first thing you should do if you suspect depression is to talk to your teen about it.

In a loving and non-judgmental way, share your concerns with your teenager. Let him or she know what specific signs of depression you’ve noticed and why they worry you. Then encourage your child to open up about what he or she is going through.

If your teen claims nothing is wrong but has no explanation for what is causing the depressed behavior, you should trust your instincts.

Remember that denial is a strong emotion.

Furthermore, teenagers may not believe that what they’re experiencing is the result of depression. If you see depression warning signs, seek professional help. Neither you nor your teen is qualified to either diagnosis depression or rule it out, so seek outside help from a psychologist or treatment facility.

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