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How Has the COVID-19 Pandemic Impacted Substance Use Among Adolescents?

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, adults have struggled with addiction at higher rates, but does this extend to adolescents as well? If you’re among the parents or families of a teen who is struggling with substance abuse, you’re not alone. 

In this brief article, our team with drug and alcohol treatment centers in Tampa at Phoenix House Florida shares some insights into how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected substance abuse among adolescents, and what to do if your family member needs help.

Have Adolescents Faced Rising Substance Abuse?

A recent study found that drug and alcohol abuse remained steady among adolescents during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite their limited availability due to lockdowns and school closures. That is significant for two reasons: 

  1. It showed that the idea of scarcity does not factor into substance abuse. By that, we mean that the idea that limiting access to places or people who make these substances available doesn’t actually stop young people from finding and using them. 
  2. It may actually indicate a slight increase in the number of people using substances, if you factor in those who were hospitalized or sick from COVID, teens who were locked down in a more strict environment, and those who moved to a permanent homeschooling model. 

All of this to say: COVID-19 didn’t stop substance abuse in teens and young adults, and while it didn’t cause the significant increase we’ve seen in adults, it also didn’t create a significant dip in users either. 

It should also be noted that the COVID-19 pandemic did create a sharp increase in the frequency of drug overdoses across the board in both teens and adults. This could be in part because studies found that while the number of younger people using drugs stayed steady, the types of drugs being used became more severe. For example, there was an increase in cocaine, heroin, and fentanyl use.

Possible Causes of Substance Abuse in Adolescents during COVID-19

Just like it did in adults, COVID-19 created extreme stress in young adults and adolescents. This was due to a variety of factors including:

  • Sudden school closures
  • Fear of the virus itself
  • Loss of family members/grieving loss
  • Loss of social interactions
  • Possibly abusive situations at home
  • Lack of work opportunities, which can create difficulty paying for college tuition and other necessities

All in all, these factors created a perfect storm of stress for everyone.

What to do if a Loved One Struggles with Addiction

If your teen is struggling with substance abuse, drug addiction recovery in Tampa is available with Phoenix House Florida. Licensed therapists are available in an inpatient or outpatient setting and will help guide your teen in making safer choices, no matter what happens with COVID-19.  

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, speak with specialists of drug addiction recovery in Tampa, Phoenix House Florida. To schedule a consultation with Phoenix House Florida, please request an appointment today. You can also give us a call at (813) 881-1000, option #1 or email our admissions team at


Disclaimer: The contents of this website are for general educational purposes only. All content and media on the Phoenix House Florida website does not constitute professional medical advice nor is the information intended to replace the services provided by Phoenix House Florida or other qualified medical professionals. If you believe you are having a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.

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At Phoenix House Florida, we have a passion for healing. If you or your loved one are in need of subtance use treatment, we are here to help. Give us a call or submit our appointment request form today.

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How Can We Help?

At Our House

For some patients, stepping away from the buzz of everyday life is the only way to make a full recovery. Inpatient treatments help patients refocus their recovery efforts to achieve positive, long-lasting outcomes.

The Derek Jeter Center

The Derek Jeter Center Adolescent program in Brandon, FL provides comprehensive outpatient services that help families deal with teen substance use and related mental health conditions.

At Your House

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to recovery. Outpatient treatment must follow a continuum of care that starts with a thorough needs assessment and ends with recovery monitoring.