It's official, teen girls now have more problems with drug and alcohol abuse than do teen boys; and they more than likely are using drugs or alcohol for completely different reasons. Additionally, because they don't often show the same type of behavioral disturbances as do teen boy substance abusers, girls often continue to use for longer at unsafe levels before parents ever know the real extent o the problem.
Firstly, teen girls don't use drugs and alcohol for the same reason that teen boys do.. Teenage boys tend to use drugs and alcohol recreationally, and use for the excitement, fun and experimentation that drugs promise. Girls are far more likely to take drugs or alcohol as a way to combat low self esteem, to gain self confidence in a group, to attract the attention of older teen boys who also use, and to use drugs as a way to combat feelings of depression and anxiety.
Girls suffer more from drug abuse
Unfortunately, teen girls also seem to be uniquely affected by their drug use, and teen girls (already at a higher risk for depression that teen boys) if using and abusing drugs or alcohol are two and a half times more likely to experience clinical depression. They are also far more likely to experience an unwanted pregnancy, contract an STD and also to use drugs for properties such as weight loss.
The problem with pills
Teen girls are especially attracted to prescription pills, attracted by the ease of access, the perception of safety, and the perception of positive side effects (decreased anxiety and weight loss). With some prescription pain killers every bit as addictive as heroin, this is problematic.
Additionally, teen girls tend to abuse for longer on average before receiving intervention and professional help. Teen boys using drugs and alcohol are more likely to get in trouble at school, more likely to get into fights or problems with the law, or more likely to have a DUI; while teen girl users tend to avoid most of these problems. The problem is that without some of these obvious signs of use, parents and teachers remain unaware of the level of use, and are unable to intervene in a timely manner.
Parents need to be on the lookout for drug and alcohol use and abuse in teenage girls, and understand that some of the signs may not obviously point to drug use.
Increasing moodiness and depression is a normal sign of drug use and abuse that very rarely gets identified as such, with parents misattributing changes in behavior to the normal expressions of adolescence. While some moodiness can obviously be expected during the formative adolescent years, excessive signs of depression are not normal; and very likely indicate a greater problem.
If your teen no longer has any interest in family activities or wants to spend all of their time in their room, you should be concerned.
If your teen no longer cares as much about their appearance, you should be concerned.
If your teen suddenly drops all old friends for an assortment of new, and seemingly unsavory friends; you should be concerned.
If grades suddenly slip, you should be concerned.
Any or all of these behavioral signs may or may not indicate a problem with drugs or alcohol, but they are worrying behaviors and they do need to be investigated; and if your child is not experimenting or abusing drugs or alcohol, they may be enduring some form of clinical depression. A professional diagnosis can be very helpful for parents concerned about the health and safety of an at risk teen.
You can never protect your teen from all of the dangers out there, but you can do a lot simply by staying involved and active in their life, by leading with a good example on drugs and alcohol use, and by having clear and understood rules on the use of any form of drugs or alcohol.
Talk to your teen, stay involved, make time for mutually enjoyable activities; you'll be in a far better position to evaluate what changes in behavior may mean, and how far from normal these changes really are.