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Teen Alcohol and Drug Abuse - Facts About Teen Drug and Alcohol Abuse

How substance use affects teens' health

Substance use can lead to long-term social and health problems, injury, and even death. Growth and development can be affected by tobacco, alcohol, and drugs. Teens who abuse these substances may have trouble finding their identity, building relationship skills, and becoming emotionally stable. They also may have trouble preparing for their future. Substance abuse can affect memory and learning, which can harm a teen's schoolwork.

And substance use can grow very quickly from experimenting or occasional use to abuse and addiction in teens at risk.

Tobacco

Nicotine is only one of the thousands of chemicals in tobacco, but it is the major component that acts on the brain. The lungs readily absorb nicotine from the smoke of cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. The tissues of the mouth can also absorb nicotine when a person smokes cigars or pipes or chews tobacco.

Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances. Some teens show early signs of addiction within days to weeks after starting to smoke. Repeated tobacco use causes a need for increasingly larger amounts of nicotine to feel the same effect (tolerance). And repeated use causes withdrawal symptoms if the person tries to quit.

Alcohol

Alcohol affects all organs of the body but has its most serious effects on the liver. Alcohol decreases the quality of sleep, especially if a person is using it often to help him or her fall asleep. It can cause problems with brain development in teens. Some teens who drink alcohol regularly may not learn how to handle stressful situations without drinking alcohol.

Alcohol is a sedative. So drinking alcohol makes it harder for a person to think and act quickly. It slows down thinking and moving, and it makes a person less alert. A car crash is more likely when a person drives after drinking alcohol.

Drinking can lead teens to have unprotected sex. This raises the chance of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Marijuana

Marijuana can hinder memory, problem-solving, and learning. It can also cause mood swings, anxiety, and depression.

Cocaine

Cocaine can cause abnormal heartbeats, sometimes causing a deadly heart attack, seizure, or stroke.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: July 20, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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