Just For Teens - Substance Abuse


Just for Teens - About Drugs and Alcohol

A large majority of teens stay away from drugs and alcohol. In fact, more than 7 out of every 10 teens have not used alcohol or any other drug in the last 30 days. Below are more facts to help you make decisions about substance use.

Quick facts:


  • It affects the brain. Use decreases coordination, limits sound judgment, slows reflexes, distorts vision, and can cause memory losses.
  • It affects the body. Use can damage body organs and is absorbed directly into the bloodstream. Alcohol poisoning occurs from too much ingestion and can cause death.
  • It can lead to tragedy. Many injuries, car crashes, and violence are directly caused by one or more person’s use of alcohol.
  • Alcohol is a drug. Mixing it with other drugs can multiply the effects of both substances and lead to serious organ damage and overdose.


  • It affects the brain. Nerve cells in the brain where memories are formed are affected by the THC in marijuana. Regular use can lead to a decrease in intelligence scores.
  • In affects the lungs. Use deposits four times the amount of tar in the lungs than tobacco smoke and 70% more cancer-causing substances.
  • It can affect your mental health. Use has been linked to depression, anxiety, and personality disturbances.
  • It can include unknown substances. It can be laced with other substances such as PCP without the user knowing it.
  • It can be addictive. Researchers report that about 2 out of every 5 regular users become addicted and many thousands of individuals seek help for marijuana addiction every year.

Prescription Drugs

  • Drugs prescribed by a doctor are expected to be used only in the amount and for the time period directed to provide relief to diagnosed medical conditions.
  • Any use other than what is directed by a doctor is considered abuse and can lead to devastating consequences including addiction and overdose.
  • Mixing prescription drugs can multiply effects and cause immediate overdose and death.
  • Sharing prescription drugs with others is illegal.

Synthetic Drugs (spice, incense, bath salts, molly, k-2, etc.)

  • These are dangerous chemical substances produced by amateur chemists and sold to mimic other drugs like hallucinogens, speed, marijuana, and narcotics.
  • The chemical formulas and names given these drugs change nearly daily but all have potential for tragic consequences.
  • These drugs can be hundreds of times more potent than the drugs they are designed to imitate.
  • The potency of each package or dosage is unknown and use can lead to unintended overdose consequences because the strength can vary a great deal between similar packages.
  • Long-term effects reported include addiction, memory loss, confusion, hallucinations, and heart damage


  • It affects the brain. Long term effects include fatigue and paranoid or delusional thinking.
  • It affects the body. Use increases heart rate, blood pressure, and risk of stroke. Users often develop other physical problems from use including extreme dental consequences.
  • It is a powerfully addictive drug that often leads to aggression, violence, and even psychotic behavior.


  • It affects the brain. Heroin enters the brain quickly and slows thinking, reaction time, and memory. It affects behavior and decision making.
  • Heroin is highly addictive. It affects the parts of the brain that contribute to the development of physical dependence.
  • A single use is unpredictable. One dose of heroin can be much more potent than another and users do not know the difference at the time of use. Use of a more potent dose is what often leads to overdose and death of heroin users.

Helpful hints for staying away from alcohol and drug use situations:

There are four primary risk factors for young people to know about addiction. If a young person experiences any of these four factors, they are much more likely to struggle with an addiction as an adult. These risk factors include:

  1. A family history of addiction
    • If a person has a blood-relative who has struggled with alcohol or drug addiction, he/she is more susceptible to addiction. Addiction can run in families just like other physical and behavioral attributes.
  2. Use of alcohol or drugs at a young age
    • Scientists tell us that the brain continues to develop until a person is well into their 20’s. This is one reason why young people who begin use are much more likely to be adult addicts. If a teen begins drinking alcohol at age 15, they are 5 times more likely to be an alcoholic someday. It’s also telling that 9 out of every 10 adult addicts say they began using before they were 19 years old.
  3. Hanging out with others that use (Having friends that use)
    • If we spend time with friends that play video games, chances are very good we will play video games, too. The same is true about alcohol or drug use. If we hang out with those who are using, we are likely to use. It’s hard when you see friends making choices that you know are problematic. Often young people have to change some of their relationships when some begin making the wrong choices about drugs and alcohol.
  4. Using to cope with problems
    • Family problems, feeling depressed, struggling with anxiety, and angered by circumstances are often reasons individuals turn to alcohol and drugs. However, attempting to escape or cope with problems by using an addictive substance can lead to even more problems from the obvious, negative consequences related to substance abuse and addiction. Finding help from a counselor, other trusted adults, or even talking with friends can do more to help than turning to substance use for relief.

What’s addiction?

No one ever begins using alcohol or some other drug with the intention of becoming an addict someday. You will never hear someone say, “Well, I plan to start drinking beer this weekend with hopes I can be an alcoholic in the next three years.”

However, addiction is often a very subtle process that sneaks up on an individual without them being completely aware of the changes in their using behavior as well as the physiological changes that lead to physical addiction.

Although early use of an addictive substance begins with a resulting “high” from use, over time an addict must use more of the substance attempting to reach the same effect or “high”. This is what’s called “building a tolerance” to the substance and is related to changes occurring to the chemistry of the brain. This sometimes also results in the user turning to a stronger or more potent substance to satisfy their growing urge to use, or combining use of other substances.

An additional consequence the developing addict experiences is a growing change in how he/she feels when not using. Instead of returning to a “normal” state both physically and emotionally after use, an addict will feel less than “normal”, or uncomfortable, when not under the influence of their addictive substance. This too, is related to changes in the chemical makeup of the brain.

As a result of the physical and psychological changes described above, the sad irony of addiction is the hardcore addict no longer uses their drug to reach the “high” they once experienced, but they use to relieve the unbearable discomfort they experience when not under the influence of drugs. Because of the control addiction has over there thinking and behavior, they may have lost jobs, ended relationships, quit school, and have legal problems.

Where can I find out more?

The links below lead to websites with lots of good, accurate information about substance abuse prevention and help for those struggling with alcohol or drug problems.