Gen Z and Substance Abuse

What’s really going on?

By: Annabel Sumardi

In the most recent years, there has been a large rise in teenagers vaping. Substance abuse is a highly present issue, and with drinking being considered ‘cool,’ along with the rise of kids with Juuls, dab pens, and more, it seems like the problem keeps recurring in younger generations. At my school, 50 8th graders had to be suspended because they had all Juuled in class. A lot of those kids were probably under the pressure of peer influence, but no matter their reasons they will still be affected. Addiction is a colorblind and status blind disease. It can affect anyone and everyone, but by raising awareness and lowering substance abuse in the younger generations, our future will look brighter than ever.

Addiction is a complex but treatable disease that affects brain function and behavior.”

-National Institute on Drug Abuse

Possible symptoms of substance abuse (from MedlinePlus in citations):

  • Slow or slurred speech (from using downers or depressants)
  • Rapid speech (from using uppers)
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Cough that does not go away
  • Unusual odor on breath (from using inhalant drugs)
  • Pupils that are extremely big (dilated) or extremely small (pinpoint)
  • Rapid eye motion (nystagmus), a possible sign of PCP use
  • Loss of appetite (occurs with amphetamine, methamphetamine, or cocaine use)
  • Increased appetite (with marijuana use)
  • Unsteady gait
  • Lost interest in social gatherings or change in friend groups

Check out this video with the statistics behind teenage substance use

Community statistics: Take the poll:

In a poll sent to 36 Buckhead students under the age of 18 and of high economic status, the results showed that 47.2% of those teenagers had vaped in their lifetime.

In the same poll, a total of 56% of the same group of students had alcohol and only 36% of students had done no kind of substance in their life.

Purpose statement:

Take this analogy: There is a batch of brownies being made. In one scenario, there is a large amount of salt added while the batter is still being mixed. In this case, the taste of the salt will be near impossible to get rid of. In a second scenario, there is a large amount of salt poured onto the already baked brownies. Although still hard to get rid of the taste, in this case you would be able to wipe the salt off the top of the solidified brownie. In this analogy, the salt would represent substances and the stage which the brownies are in would represent age. Starting drugs at a young age increases the risk of addiction since the brain is less equipped to deal with the drugs. Though drugs still affect all ages, one of the best methods of prevention of addiction and substance abuse is simply to hold off until the brain can mature more.

I want to work on raising awareness for the high presence of youth substance abuse. Especially in my community, with the rise of laced drugs and the all around high prevalence and availability of alcohol, it seems like substance abuse is a large problem for adolescents and youth. Adolescents struggling with anxiety or depression might find it easier to forget their problems with drugs than to really tackle them head on. The disease does not discriminate against the rich or poor or the ethnically diverse. It’s present in all communities and should be addressed. In my friend group, I see a lot of my friends acting strangely due to the reliance on drugs or substances. Substance abuse is somewhat ignored in schools and media. A thirty minute seminar that kids either skip or don’t pay attention to is not enough. Honestly, substance abuse isn’t just going to die out anytime soon, but with awareness and action, progress on deterring the disease will be made.

What can you do?
Helping a friend or family member:
Helping yourself:Reaching out further:
– Reliable support
– Responsiveness
– Set behavioral expectations
– Provides structure, limits, rules, and monitoring
– Financially back up treatments
– Try to notice mental illness symptoms early on
– Emotional Self-Regulation
– Secure community to rely on
– Attend support groups
– Engagement in school, with peers, athletics, work, etc.
– Rehab centers (Inpatient or outpatient treatment)
– If you struggle with a mental illness, reach out to a doctor or a therapist before trying the nearest available substance

– Discover and support nonprofit organizations in your area:
– Raising awareness of the issue: as simple as using a hashtag on social media


I want to let people know the risks, prevention, and help tactics for substance abuse. There can be a lot of stigma around having a mental illness, and that can sometimes lead to using drugs to hide from the problems. Know that there is always someone willing to help and it’s a necessity to reach out to these support systems. There can also be pressure to fit into social situations, but sometimes ‘just this once’ can turn into a lifetime of substance abuse. Whatever the reason for starting to use substances, the best way to end the problem is to know it exists and learn how to defend yourself and others from addiction and substance abuse. Substance abuse and addiction have been present for a long time, and recently some action has been taken to end this problem. In the end, there’s not something that one person can do that will end all substance abuse, but each individual should be accountable for helping someone else out or getting help for themselves. If treatment were more readily available and more people were aware of the disease and its prevention, we could slowly end the epidemic.

Further links you can explore:

Works Cited:

  1. NIDA. “Trends & Statistics.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 24 Apr. 2017, Accessed 11 Apr. 2019.
  2. Sarah. “The Effects of Drugs on Adolescents.” The Westminster Schools, Oct. 2017, Kellett Theater, Atlanta. Lecture.
  3. “Teenagers and Drugs.” MedlinePlus, A.D.A.M., 2019. MEDLINE, Accessed 13 Apr. 2019.
  4. Newton, David E. Youth Substance Abuse: A Reference Handbook. Santa Barbara, ABC-CLIO, An Imprint of ABC-CLIO, 2016
  5. Kiesner, Jeff & Poulin, François & Dishion, Thomas J.”Adolescent Substance Use With Friends: Moderating and Mediating Effects of Parental Monitoring and Peer Activity Contexts.” Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, vol. 56 no. 4, 2010, pp. 529-556. Project MUSE
Share this project
  1. April 25, 2019 by sophia.Beardsley

    Hello Annabel,
    This is a very prevalent topic in todays society. I liked how you focused on this specific generation but made it broad saying that it can effect any ethnicity. The poll you did in your community was very helpful to me in realizing how it effected your community. The fact that 50 students got suspended from your school shows how very real this topic is. Thank you for sharing this was very eye opening for me. it makes me curious if I can help anyone in my community.

    • April 28, 2019 by Annabel Sumardi

      Thank you, Sophia! If there is anyone in your community who could be struggling with substance abuse, reach out to them. It’s better to say something than nothing, and I’m glad this topic is of interest to you.

  2. April 25, 2019 by Riley.Weinstein

    Substance abuse is also taking over my community as well. It seems as though everyone is inhaling nicotine and sometimes drinking dangerous amounts on the weekend. Your presentation really addressed these issues and showed how common its becoming. It would be interesting to figure out how many high schoolers around the US had tried different substances.

    • April 28, 2019 by Annabel Sumardi

      That would be really interesting to figure out. Glad you liked the page, Riley!

  3. April 25, 2019 by Anika Stenberg

    Hi Annabel,
    I found this issue really interesting. Vaping has become a huge issue at my school too. It seems like marijuana is on the rise too, with legal dispensaries all over at least where I live. I would be interested in seeing which substances are considered the most harmful and which are being used most frequently, especially among students.

    • April 28, 2019 by Annabel Sumardi

      I looked into it and found a really good source if you want to check it out really fast! This not only includes which drugs are considered the most harmful, but it is also a study sorted by the popularity of each drug.

  4. April 28, 2019 by Rachel

    Hey Annabel,

    I really enjoyed reading your page, especially the videos and other sources that are included. Thank you for bringing awareness to this issue that is so common, especially among teenagers.

    • April 28, 2019 by Annabel.Sumardi

      Thanks, Rachel!

  5. April 29, 2019 by Caroline Glahn

    Hello Annabel,
    I think that this is an extremely important topic that needs to be brought up more to teenagers instead of focused mostly around adults and I think your project does a great job of doing this. Your poll and statistics were a very helpful visual. You did an amazing job!

    • April 29, 2019 by Annabel.Sumardi

      Thanks for the comment Caroline. I’m glad you liked it 🙂

  6. April 29, 2019 by Emma.Sheldon

    Hi Annabel, I loved your project. The brownie analogy was extremely effective and creative! It really communicated the severity of youth addiction. Substance abuse is a huge problem at my private school as it is a pressure cooker of stress, wealth, and privilege. Your presentation really complements mine. It goes into depth about things I merely touch on, so I enjoyed it a lot.

  7. April 30, 2019 by Taylor.Hurt

    This is such a great project Annabel! In my city I definitely have seen the growing issue of vaping as well as more accessibility to alcohol and marijuana. I think you have a lot of great resources here and I especially found the animated infographic quite mind-blowing. Great job:)

    • April 30, 2019 by Annabel.Sumardi

      :)Thanks Taylor. Do you happen to live in a state which has legalized marijuana and if so, how do you feel about it?

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.