7 Commonly Abused Drugs by Young Adults

Drug abuse among teens and young adults is a pressing issue that continues to affect communities across the United States. The allure of experimentation, peer pressure, and societal influences often lead young people down a dangerous path of substance misuse.

According to past studies, young adults have the highest rates of abusing alcohol, nicotine, marijuana, and other illegal drugs. To combat this epidemic effectively, it’s crucial to delve into the types of drugs commonly abused in this demographic, their effects on the body and mind, as well as prevention and treatment strategies.

Our Polysubstance Addiction Treatment Centers

Seeking help is crucial for recovery. Break free from addiction now.

Understanding Drug Abuse

Drug abuse is defined as the habitual misuse of substances, whether they are legal or illegal, leading to negative consequences for the individual’s physical and mental health, as well as their social and occupational functioning.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), substance use disorders affect millions of Americans annually, with a significant portion comprising teenagers and young adults.

Drug abuse in young adults often manifests in different signs and may vary depending on the substance. Some common warning signs include changes in behavior and declining academic or work performance. It can also manifest in physical signs such as:

  • Weight loss or gain
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Dilated or constricted pupils

Factors Contributing to Young Adult Drug Abuse

Numerous factors influence drug abuse among young adults. One of the most common being peer influence and pressure to experiment with drugs and other illicit substances. Other contributing factors include:

  • Family history of substance abuse
  • Stress and traumatic events
  • Environmental factors such as living in areas with easy access to drugs
  • Co-occurring mental health disorders
  • Lack of parental supervision
  • Lack of education and awareness
  • Socioeconomic factors like poverty and unemployment

Break free from the grip of substance abuse. Seek help and healing today.

Drugs Commonly Abused by Young Adults

According to recent studies, a significant percentage of young adults engage in substance abuse, ranging from alcohol and marijuana to prescription medications and illicit drugs. The allure of these substances lies in their perceived benefits, ranging from euphoria and relaxation to enhanced sociability and performance.


Alcohol remains one of the most commonly abused substances among young adults. While moderate alcohol consumption may not necessarily lead to harm, binge drinking, and heavy alcohol use can have severe consequences.

Young adults often engage in binge drinking, consuming large quantities of alcohol in a short period, increasing the risk of accidents, injuries, and alcohol poisoning. Long-term alcohol abuse can lead to liver disease, cardiovascular problems, and addiction.


Marijuana, also known as cannabis, is popular among young adults due to its recreational effects. Despite ongoing debates about its legalization and medicinal properties, marijuana abuse can have detrimental effects on health, especially among young individuals whose brains are still developing.

Short-term effects of marijuana abuse include impaired coordination, memory problems, and altered perception, while long-term use can lead to addiction and cognitive impairments.

Prescription Drugs

Misuse of prescription medications is a growing concern among young adults. Many individuals obtain prescription drugs from family members, friends, or through illicit means, unaware of the potential risks.

Commonly abused prescription drugs include:

  • Depressants: Opioids and benzodiazepines fall into this category, inducing feelings of relaxation and sedation as they affect the central nervous system.
  • Stimulants: Drugs like Adderall or Ritalin are commonly abused by young adults seeking heightened sensations or improved performance.
  • Dextromethorphan (DXM): Some OTC drugs cough and cold medicines with DXM can be abused due to its hallucinogenic effect when consumed in high doses.

The ease of access to prescription drugs, coupled with misconceptions about their safety, contributes to their common abuse among young people. Misuse of these OTC medications can lead to addiction, overdose, and even death.


Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant drug that is often abused by young adults seeking euphoria and increased energy. Despite its illegal status, cocaine remains accessible in many communities, contributing to its widespread abuse.

Short-term effects of cocaine abuse include increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and heightened alertness. Long-term abuse can lead to severe health problems, including heart attacks, stroke, and addiction.

Ecstasy (MDMA)

Ecstasy, also known as MDMA, is a synthetic drug popular in party scenes and among young adults attending raves and nightclubs. Ecstasy abuse can result in feelings of euphoria, increased energy, and enhanced sensory perception. However, the drug also carries significant risks, including dehydration, overheating, and serotonin syndrome, a potentially life-threatening condition.


Heroin abuse among young adults is a significant contributing factor to the ongoing opioid crisis. Many individuals who initially misuse prescription opioids turn to heroin due to its lower cost and accessibility.

Heroin abuse can result in addiction, overdose, and death. The prevalence of heroin-related fatalities among young adults has increased in recent years, highlighting the urgent need for intervention and support services.


Methamphetamine, commonly known as meth, is a potent stimulant drug that has seen a rise in abuse among young adults in recent years. Methamphetamine abuse can lead to devastating physical and psychological effects, including severe dental problems (often referred to as “meth mouth”), skin sores, paranoia, and psychosis. Long-term abuse of methamphetamine can cause irreversible damage to the brain and other organs.

Let’s make your second chance count. Say goodbye to drug addiction today.

Which Nonprescription Drug is Commonly Abused by Teens and Young Adults?

One nonprescription drug that pervades the lives of teens and young adults is marijuana. Despite its legalization in some regions for medicinal or recreational purposes, marijuana remains a divisive subject due to its potential for abuse.

Its psychoactive compound, THC, induces a range of effects, including altered perception, relaxation, and heightened sensory experiences. However, prolonged and excessive marijuana use can lead to cognitive impairments, addiction, and mental health disorders.

What are the Most Commonly Abused Drugs in the United States?

The most commonly abused drugs in the United States can vary over time and across different demographics, but some of the substances that have consistently been prevalent include:

  • Alcohol
  • Nicotine or Tobacco
  • Marijuana
  • Prescription Drugs
  • Heroin
  • Cocaine
  • Methamphetamine
  • Synthetic Drugs
  • Hallucinogens
  • Inhalants

Reclaim your life today. Overcome substance abuse at HART Rehab.

How Can Parents and Guardians Support Young Adults Struggling with Substance Abuse?

Education, open communication, and fostering supportive environments are key to preventing teen drug abuse. Additionally, early intervention and access to mental health services are also important in addressing underlying issues contributing to substance misuse.

Parents and guardians can also encourage young adults to seek professional help and accompany them to appointments if needed. Staying involved in their life and demonstrating healthy behaviors can help them feel reassured.

Recovery from substance abuse is a challenging and ongoing process. Be patient, understanding, and supportive throughout the journey, and celebrate their progress no matter how small.

Prevention Strategies

Preventing teen drug abuse requires a comprehensive approach that addresses individual, familial, and societal factors. Education campaigns, parental involvement, and community-based programs play crucial roles in promoting drug-free lifestyles and providing support to at-risk youth.

Early intervention and access to mental health services are vital in identifying and addressing underlying issues driving substance misuse. Additionally, creating supportive environments within families, schools, and communities can help reduce the prevalence of substance abuse and promote positive alternatives.

: Empower yourself with a healthy life. Your recovery starts today.

Young Adult Rehab Near Me

For young adults grappling with substance abuse disorder, there are different addiction treatment options available. This ranges from outpatient counseling to residential rehabilitation programs.

Situated in Scottsdale, Arizona, HART Rehab caters to young adults and guides them in their journey to recovery. We offer comprehensive treatment options in a conducive environment for healing and recovery.

Reach out to our dedicated team and let’s embark on a path toward a healthy, drug-free life.

It’s time to make a positive change. Let us help you rebuild a brighter future.