Teenage Depression and Substance Abuse


Isabella talks about the relationship between depression and substance abuse and how meditation can help.

It’s an unfortunate reality that while fewer teenagers are taking up smoking, they tend to be increasingly likely to indulge in drug or alcohol abuse. What for many may be termed a ‘rite of passage’, as teenagers have always been prone to experimenting with intoxicants as they grow older, can become a serious issue for those who are suffering from depression. The temporary relief that alcohol and drugs appear to offer from the pressures and worries of life can quickly become a crutch that is difficult to let go. The paradox is that alcohol, marijuana (especially strains of skunk) and, in extreme cases, opiates are all physical and mental depressants that ultimately serve only to reinforce feelings of isolation and distance from friends, family and interests.

British teenagers are the heaviest consumers of drugs and alcohol in Europe, with tens of thousands being admitted to drug treatments programmes every year. Alcohol and marijuana are by far the most common sources of these addictions, most likely because they are the easiest to procure. Of course not all of these teenagers are going to be suffering clinical depression. However there is clearly a motive – whether apparent or hidden – for their seeking such degrees of intoxication.

How meditation can help teenagers suffering from substance abuse related depression

Depression can in some cases initially be both a catalyst and a consequence of substance abuse that ultimately becomes a cycle of self-abuse. A teenager may choose to drink or take drugs to make them temporarily feel better about themselves, and the next morning be depressed both mentally and physically as a consequence of having ingested the intoxicants. By far and away most referrals for counselling in this age group are for dependence upon alcohol or marijuana, both of which affect the way the brain processes information. In addition to the mental aspect, they can even have a depressant effect upon the body. Naturally for someone already feeling depressed, inadequate, confused or angry taking such substances can only serve to add a physical element to what may already be severe mental anguish.

There are plenty of good reasons why meditation plays a prominent role in all forms of recovery and detoxification programs, and is an ideal way of helping teenagers who may be struggling with a real or potential addiction brought about by their inner depression. Meditation assists the individual to focus upon why they feel that they need alcohol or drugs to feel better about themselves and their day-to-day lives. Taking the time to get into a state of mindfulness can help people to take an introspective look at the reasons that drive their thirst for intoxication. Usually these sessions are led by a trained counsellor who will gradually steer the sessions into trying to compartmentalise and detach the person away from their dependence, and instead encourage them to focus upon themselves and their bodies as being more important than drink or drugs.

The following website provides an excellent source of information for anyone concerned that a teenager in their life is struggling with a dependency, whether depression related or not:


Of the many forms of meditation some will work better than others depending on the interests and scale of depression of the individual concerned. Yoga and Pilates offer a more physical means of learning meditation, while mindful meditation is probably the most effective and straightforward to learn. Whichever discipline is chosen, there’s no doubt that meditation can be a valuable ally for any teenager struggling to overcome depression – especially for those struggling to beat an addiction at the same time.

Isabella is a freelance writer who dreams of travel, but never seems to get the opportunity to do so. Italian food makes up for it.

Image by Wiros/Flickr