NIDA for Teens: The Science Behind Drug Abuse
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Legal Doesn't Mean Harmless

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This module focuses on how two drugs, nicotine and alcohol, change the functioning of the brain and body. Both drugs are widely used and can cause a number of negative effects on the body and brain, ranging from mild symptoms to addiction.

Through the media, students are exposed to a great deal of information about alcohol and tobacco, much of which is misleading or scientifically inaccurate. This module will provide information on what researchers have learned about how nicotine and alcohol change the brain, and the resulting implications for safety and health.

The goal of this module is to help students understand that, although nicotine and alcohol are legal for adults, they are not harmless substances. Students will learn about how nicotine and alcohol change or disrupt the process of neurotransmission. Students will explore information on the short- and long-term effects of these two drugs, and also learn why they are illegal for children and teens.

Learning Objectives

At the end of this module, students can:

  • Explain how nicotine disrupts neurotransmission.
  • Explain how alcohol use may harm the brain and the body.
  • Understand how alcohol can intensify the effects of other drugs.
  • Define addiction and understand its basis in the brain.
  • Draw conclusions about why our society regulates the use of nicotine and alcohol for young people.


Download this entire module in PDF format at the following link: Module 2 (PDF, 764 KB).