How substance use affects teens’ health
Teens' use of substances (except for inhalants and prescription opiates) has dropped in recent years. But substance use still remains a leading cause of injury and death in young people. It also causes long-term social and health problems.1
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.
About 8% of teens smoke
cigarettes often (more than 20 days a month).2
A teen who uses tobacco for more than a year has more than an 80% chance of
becoming dependent on it.3
About 75% of
high school students have tried
alcohol, and about 26% of teens have had a
recent episode of heavy drinking (more than 5 drinks within a couple of hours).2
The leading cause of death for teens and young adults is car crashes related
to alcohol. Drinking also can lead teens to have
unprotected sex. This raises the chance of pregnancy and infection with
sexually transmitted infections, such as
About 38% of teens have tried
marijuana one or more times, and about 19% of teens
currently use marijuana.2 Marijuana can hinder
memory, problem-solving, and learning. It can also cause mood swings, anxiety,
About 7% of teens have tried
cocaine, while 3% use it currently (one or more times
in a month).2 It can cause
abnormal heartbeats, occasionally causing a deadly
Other substances teens abuse include:
- Inhalants (glues, aerosol sprays,
gasoline, paints, and paint thinners). These are some of the substances most
frequently abused by junior high students, because they don't cost much and are easy
to get. They contain poisons that can cause brain damage or, in rare
cases, even death with the first use.
- Club drugs, like
ecstasy (MDMA) and
date rape drugs such as gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) and flunitrazepam
(Rohypnol). These drugs are often used at all-night dances, raves, or trances.
The number of teens abusing these drugs is small compared with
cigarettes, alcohol, and marijuana. But these drugs can be dangerous, especially in
overdose or when combined with alcohol or other drugs.
- Methamphetamine (commonly called meth, crank, or speed). Methamphetamine can cause seizures; stroke; serious mental problems, including paranoia,
hallucinations, and delusions; and long-term health
- Hallucinogens, including
LSD, mescaline, psilocybin, PCP
(phencyclidine), and ketamine. Serious and lasting problems such
as psychosis or hallucinogenic flashbacks can occur after a teen uses
- Opiates, such as
heroin, morphine, and codeine. Teens who use these drugs
may steal, prostitute themselves, or resort to other dangerous or illegal
behavior to buy drugs.
- Prescription drugs, such as diazepam (for
example, Valium), methylphenidate (Ritalin), hydrocodone and
acetaminophen (Vicodin), and oxycodone (OxyContin). Teens also abuse nonprescription medicines,
such as cough syrups and cold pills.
- Anabolic steroids, which teens use to build muscle tissue and decrease body fat.
Steroids can cause liver cancer and increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.