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The Risks of Teen Drug Abuse: Why Experimentation Isn’t Worth It

No matter how many times you hear the “just say no” message, it can feel like everyone in your life is saying “yes” to trying drugs and alcohol. Each year, the National Institute on Drug Abuse surveys high schoolers in the United States about drug use. In 2014, 37% of 12th graders reported that they had used alcohol in the past month, with 21% saying that they had used marijuana during that time. With the easy availability of drugs and alcohol, it’s important to weigh the risks of drug use and make smart choices that are right for your situation.

Experimentation Seems Normal and Temptation is Strong

By 8th grade, 37% of people said that it was “easy” to obtain marijuana, suggesting that drug experimentation may begin in middle school. Having friends who drink or use drugs can make it difficult to avoid. The desire to fit in and have a good time with your friends may be tempting you to try alcohol or other drugs. However, there are some very real consequences to substance use that are worth evaluating before experimenting with drugs.

5 Reasons Why Using Drugs as a Teenager Isn’t Worth the Risk

1. Drugs Can Affect Your Memory and Other Thinking Abilities

  Your brain doesn’t actually finish developing until you are in your early 20s. Some of the most critical pathways in the brain — long-distance connections between different brain regions — are being created during your teenage years. Researchers have found that teens who use drugs or alcohol have poorer development of the white matter that makes up these connections. This leads to problems with memory, complex reasoning, and other thinking abilities.

2. Using Drugs or Alcohol Increases Risk of Depression and Other Mental Health Problems

Drugs enter the brain, binding to cells that trigger the desirable “high” feeling you get when you take them. However, they also change the brain areas responsible for emotional processing. This causes many people who use drugs to feel depressed, irritable, anxious and uninterested in things they used to enjoy. Using drugs as a teenager can result in long-lasting struggles with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues.

3. Drug Use Makes You Perform Worse at School

  The memory problems and thinking changes that result from drug use can make you do worse at school. Additionally, skipping school or neglecting your classes may make it difficult for you to get a good job or continue your education.

4. Experimenting with Drugs May Lead to Run-ins with the Law

Trying drugs or alcohol may seem like harmless fun, but it can have serious long-term consequences if you are caught. Citations for possessing drugs or driving under the influence may stay on your permanent record. That means you need to report them when you apply for jobs or college, which can significantly limit your future opportunities.

5. It Can Be Deadly

Sadly, thousands of people each year die from drug overdoses. Some of these people were trying drugs for the first time, but many of them had been using drugs for years and thought they were “safe” users. To learn more about teen drug abuse and our addiction treatment services, give us a call at 877-466-0620.


  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse, High school and youth trends, DrugFacts, December 2014,
  2. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Teens: alcohol and other drugs, Facts for Families, July 2013,