There’s a lot of misleading information about drugs and alcohol. Relying on movies, television, music, or word of mouth can create a false understanding of these substances and the effects that they have on individuals, families, and communities. It’s especially easy for teens to learn the wrong information about drugs and alcohol. National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week is dedicated to educating teens about drug use and addiction, and the risks involved with substance use.
Drugs and alcohol aren’t harmless
Drugs and alcohol affect the brain, body, and lives of those who use them. Substance use doesn’t just affect the individual, however. It also affects the lives of the people around them.
There are short term effects of drugs and alcohol, such as a loss of inhibitions and a hangover. For many kids, these are the effects that are top of mind, but there are also long term effects. Dependency, substance abuse, and damage to your health and body are just a few of the ways substance use can have a lasting effect. Drugs are harmful to everyone, but they’re especially harmful to teens who are still growing and developing, both mentally and physically.
All drugs and alcohol have some type of effect on your brain. Research suggests that the brain doesn’t fully mature until well beyond your teenage years. This means that drug and alcohol use is especially damaging for teenagers.
In addition to the physiological effects of substance use, the decisions that you make under the influence of drugs or alcohol can affect the rest of your life. If you’re a teen or a young adult, take some time to think about your own or your friends’ experiences that back this up. If you’re a parent, share the facts below with your teens. It can be hard to start the conversation, but it’s an essential conversation to have.
Tobacco and alcohol
Tobacco and alcohol are the two most commonly used drugs by adolescents.
- 4,300 Americans under the age of 21 die each year from injuries caused by underage drinking. More than a third of these deaths result from car crashes.
- 40% of people who drink before the age of 15 become alcoholics
- Research says that teens who watch a lot of movies with people smoking cigarettes are more likely to start smoking.
- Most people who smoke started before the age of 18.
- Nearly half a million Americans die each year from tobacco use.
A recent survey found that the percentage of teens smoking and drinking has decreased significantly over the past 20 years. In 1996, more than 22% of high school seniors said that they smoked tobacco daily. That figure for 2016 was below 5%. High school seniors who said they drank alcohol in the past month decreased from over half in 1996 down to a third in 2016. Celebrate these changes with your family!
Prescription drugs aren’t bad when used properly. A doctor prescribes medicine to a patient when it can help them with their medical issues. However, taking prescription drugs that have not been prescribed to you, or taking them in a way that has not been prescribed, is incredibly dangerous. More people die from prescription pain reliever overdoses than from cocaine and heroin combined.
After tobacco and alcohol, marijuana is the most commonly used drug by adolescents. While marijuana is now legal for both medical use and recreational use in many states, it can still be harmful. Smoking damages the lungs and marijuana can increase heart rate and decrease short-term memory, coordination, and the ability to focus. Research suggests that addiction is more likely for people who begin regular marijuana use at a younger age.
Simply knowing that drugs and alcohol are bad for you isn’t always enough. People often choose to drink, smoke, or use drugs despite knowing the negative consequences. Many teens choose to use drugs or alcohol to fit in. Peer pressure is a powerful thing. Learn how to help your child manage per pressure.
Educating teens about drug and alcohol use can help prevent the use of substances, which can prevent substance abuse and the problems that come from the use of drugs and alcohol.