Teens, like adults, take drugs for various reasons. Sometimes, teenagers may turn to drugs in an effort to “fit in” or show that they belong with a certain group. They may also begin using drugs because of friends, to seem cool or more mature, as a means to rebel, or out of simple curiosity. The decision to use drugs, however, can lead to serious problems that can ultimately have a negative impact on their future. In some instances, even the first use of a drug can lead to deadly consequences.
Although teens are largely aware that they should not take drugs, they may not fully realize the dangers or take them seriously. This is particularly true when teens are exposed to adults who regularly use drugs or if their parents do not take an active interest in what they are doing. Adults can help prevent teenage drug use by leading by example and not using drugs themselves. Educating themselves and their teens is the next critical step in helping youth fully understand how harmful drugs can be. In addition, when adults take an active interest in the lives of their teenaged children, they are better able to help resolve any issues that they may be having and steer them toward safer and more fulfilling activities.
Types of Drugs
Drugs come in many forms; they can be prescribed by a physician, purchased over-the-counter, or found in common household products. Over-the-counter (OTC) medications, such as cough syrup and diet pills are often considered harmless by teenagers. They are also increasingly popular to abuse, as they are readily available and they are relatively low-cost. Other common types of drugs include prescription pain killers, inhalants, stimulants, hallucinogens, and depressants. Although it is often discussed in a category of its own, alcohol is also a type of drug and is classified as a depressant. Tobacco, which contains the drug nicotine, and marijuana, are some of the first drugs that a teenager may use as they may also see them as harmless. Club drugs, which are drugs that are typically used at parties or in clubs, are also common types of drugs. These may include Ecstasy, methamphetamine, and Rohypnol (a.k.a the date-rape drug.)
- Drug Use and Abuse, Including Types of Drugs
- Drugs: What You Should Know
- Teens: Alcohol and Other Drugs (PDF)
- Common Types of Drugs
- What Parents Should Know About Prescription and OTC Drug Abuse
How Drugs Affect and Harm the Body and Teen Development
Whether it is outwardly visible or not, drugs are frequently accompanied by a devastating impact on a person’s body. Different drugs impact the body in different ways and the types of damage caused largely depend on the types of drug being abused and the frequency in which it is done. Visible damage to one’s body may include scarring or “tracks” from needle use, severe acne, or dental problems, such as “meth mouth.” Some drug use may negatively impact reproductive organs. For example, steroids can result in a shrinking of testicles. Drug use may further impact a teen’s health by causing irregular heartbeats, elevated blood pressure, and even cardiac problems. Damage to blood vessels in the brain may also cause stroke, seizures, or convulsions. Drugs such as inhalants can cause wheezing, coughing and lung infections. Teens may suffer from lost or diminished senses, such as their sense of smell. Drastic weight loss, tumors, stroke or seizures are all potential threats due to the damage caused by drugs. In the worst case scenario, death or coma may be the end result of teenage drug use.
Teens are still developing both physically and mentally. Adding drugs into their system during this development hinders the natural progress and negatively influences it. Drugs alter the brain’s chemical makeup and slow down its development; resulting in changes that may cause memory loss, an inability to concentrate and learn, and mood disorders – all of which ultimately impact one’s performance in school, sports, and work. The changes in the brain also influence and contribute to addiction. While it slows down brain growth and function, it can also slow down the development of the body as well. Teens who start using drugs before their growth spurt may be shorter than other teens as it may affect skeletal growth and maturation. Motor skills may also be affected or hindered.
- In Harm’s Way: More Facts About How Drug Abuse Puts Your Whole Body at Risk
- Effects of Drugs and Alcohol on the Adolescent Brain (PDF)
- Getting High on Prescription and Over-the-Counter Drugs is Dangerous (PDF)
Other Dangers and Risks of Drugs
In addition to direct health risks, there are many other dangers that pose an indirect risk to teens. Drugs lower inhibitions and negatively influence a teen’s decisions and thought processes. This can cause him or her to behave in a detrimental way and make poor choices; some of which may have lifelong consequences.
Heightened aggression can cause a teen to get into fights or result in other violent acts. The desire for more drugs and the need for money may cause a teen to steal from family, friends, stores, and strangers. Both violent crimes and petty theft put teens in danger of legal action and/or jail time. Sexual inhibitions may be lowered resulting in unprotected sex and, as a result, an elevated risk of pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases. Sharing needles with others or simply using dirty needles that the teen has found increases the risk of diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C.