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How significant is teen drug use? age 14 or younger, 13.

ger, 13.0 percent were What are some risks associated with the
classified with illicit drug dependence or use of other illicit drugs?
Drug use among teenagers in the abuse compared with only 2.8 percent
United States is a serious concern. In of adults who had first used marijuana Any illicit drug use by adolescents
2003 more than 7.5 million individu- at age 18 or older. can have immediate and long-term
als aged 12 to 17 reported having health and social consequences.
used an illicit drug at least once in Teens who first used marijuana Overall, mental health problems
their lifetime. In the same year stu- before age 17 were shown to have including depression, developmental
dents in grades nine through twelve smaller brains and to be physically lags, apathy, withdrawal, conduct
indicated that 40.2 percent of respon- smaller in height and weight than teens problems, personality disorders, sui-
dents had used marijuana, 12.1 who first used marijuana after age 17. cidal thoughts, attempted suicide,
percent had used inhalants, 11.1 Exposure to marijuana and other drugs suicide, and other psychosocial
percent had used MDMA (also known at certain critical periods, such as early dysfunctions are frequently linked to
as ecstasy), 8.7 percent had used adolescence, may alter normal patterns substance abuse among adolescents.
cocaine, 7.6 percent had used meth- of development. Drug abuse has been shown to
amphetamine, 6.1 percent had ille- increase the likelihood of psychiatric
gally used steroids, 3.3 percent had What are some of the risks specific to disorders.
used heroin, and 3.2 percent had marijuana use?
injected an illegal drug one or more Abuse of specific drugs exposes
times during their lifetime. Marijuana use, which is prevalent users to a range of serious conse-
among youth, has been shown to inter- quences. Cocaine use is linked with
Furthermore, 9.9 percent of stu- fere with short-term memory, learning, health problems including eating
dent respondents nationwide tried and psychomotor skills. Motivation and disorders, disabilities, and death from
marijuana for the first time before the psychosexual/emotional development heart attacks and strokes.
age of 13, 28.7 percent had been also may be affected. Hallucinogens can affect brain chemis-
offered, sold, or given an illegal drug try and result in problems with learn-
on school property during the year Early adolescent marijuana use ing new information and memory.
preceding the survey, and 5.8 percent increases the risk in late adolescence of Methamphetamine can cause rapid
had used marijuana on school prop- not graduating from high school, delin- heart rate, increased blood pressure,
erty one or more times during the 30 quency, having multiple sexual partners, and damage to the small blood vessels
days preceding the survey. and not always using condoms. Such in the brain that can lead to stroke.
marijuana use can result in perceiving Heroin use can result in slow and
What is the correlation between age of drugs as not harmful, having long-term shallow breathing, convulsions, coma,
problems with cigarettes, alcohol, and and even death.
first drug use and dependence? marijuana, and having friends who
Adults who first used drugs at a exhibit deviant behavior. Young people who inject drugs
younger age were more likely to be expose themselves to additional risks,
In addition, early adolescent mari- including contracting HIV (human
classified with illicit drug dependence juana use is related to later adolescent
or abuse than adults who initiated immunodeficiency virus), hepatitis B
problems that limit the acquisition of and C, and other blood-borne viruses.
use at an older age. skills necessary for employment and Chronic injection drug users also risk
For example, among adults aged 18 heighten the risks of contracting HIV and scarred or collapsed veins, infection of
or older who first tried marijuana at abusing legal and illegal substances.
the heart lining and valves,

Teens and
abscesses, pneumonia, tuberculosis, Other products of interest:
and liver and kidney disease. , Huffing—The Abuse of Inhalants
Substance abuse among youth , Prescription Drug Abuse and Youth
has also been strongly linked to

delinquency. Arrest, adjudication,
, Drugs, Youth, and the Internet
and intervention by the juvenile
justice system are eventual conse-
quences for many youths engaged in
alcohol and other drug use.
Fast Facts
What are some common signs of teen
drug abuse?
Sudden and extreme changes in
personality, physical appearance,
social activity, or school performance For more information on illicit drugs
may signal teen drug use.
Personality changes may include check out our web site at:
becoming disrespectful and verbally
or physically abusive, extreme mood
swings, paranoia, confusion, anger, National Drug Intelligence Center
depression, and secretive behavior. 319 Washington Street, 5th Floor
Teens who abuse drugs may lie Johnstown, PA 15901-1622
about what they are doing and where Telephone: 814-532-4601
FAX: 814-532-4690
they are going. They may also steal, NDIC Washington Liaison Office
claim to lose possessions they once 8201 Greensboro Drive, Suite 1001
valued, have a lot of money, ask for McLean, VA 22102-3840
money, and withdraw from family
and family activities. With regard to
physical effects, teens using drugs
Telephone: 703-556-8970
FAX: 703-556-7807
NDIC publications are available on the following web sites:
may exhibit a lack of hygiene and
grooming, weight loss or gain, hyper-
activity or lethargy, and insomnia or
excessive sleeping. These teens may
also drop old friends and activities, Call 814-532-4541
skip school, lose interest in school, to request NDIC products
receive low grades, sleep in class, National Drug Intelligence Center
lose concentration, and have trouble a component of the
with memory. NDIC Product No. 2004-L0559-011 U.S. Department of Justice

Cover photo © Rubberball Production, 1998.