Fast Facts about Marijuana

Long-term marijuana abusers trying to quit can have withdrawal symptoms including: irritability, sleeplessness, decreased appetite, anxiety, and drug craving, making it even harder to quit.

Marijuana users usually inhaled more deeply and hold their breath longer than tobacco smokers do, which further increases the lungs' exposure to chemicals in the smoke, resulting in irritated lungs.

Longtime marijuana users report being less satisfied with their lives, experiencing memory and relationship problems, poor mental and physical health, lower salaries and less career success.

Did you know that if you use marijuana as a teen, your IQ level could actually drop as an adult? Read about it on the NIDA Web site. Just type “IQ” and “marijuana” into the search box.

Research shows that about 9% of users become addicted to marijuana, but this number increases to about 17% among those who start young, and 25 to 50% among daily users. Ask our scientists about marijuana and addiction.

NIDA’s 2013 Monitoring the Future Survey showed that about 13% of 8th graders, 30% of 10th graders, and 36% of 12th graders had abused marijuana at least once in the year prior to being surveyed. Congratulations to all the other teens making healthy choices!

Marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug in the U.S.

Teens who use marijuana put themselves at risk for joining in or being pulled into other risky behaviors like driving (or riding with someone) under the influence, or taking other kinds of drugs. Remember, people who sell pot benefit from getting you addicted.

A common myth is that marijuana is harmless. But research has shown that it affects learning and memory, which can affect your schoolwork; coordination and judgment, which affects your ability to drive and play sports; and can be addictive.

Studies have shown a connection between regular marijuana use and increased rates of anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia, a very serious mental illness.

Marijuana is the most common illegal drug found in drivers who die in accidents, often in combination with alcohol or other drugs.

Marijuana’s impact on learning and memory can last for days or weeks after the other side effects wear off.

Fast Facts about Prescription Drugs

Taking prescription drugs in an inappropriate way IS drug abuse. Prescription drug abuse includes taking a controlled medication (like pain pills or ADHD drugs) without a prescription, in a way other than prescribed, or to get “high.”

Many people think that abusing prescription drugs is safer that abusing illicit drugs. This is not necessarily true. For example, opioid painkillers act on the same sites in the brain as heroin!

Did you know that more people die from overdoses from prescription painkillers (like Vicodin and Oxycontin) than die from heroin and cocaine combined?

Fast Facts about Alcohol

The minimum legal drinking age in all states in the U.S. is 21.

A 2013 survey showed that about 26% of 10th graders drank alcohol in the past month. That means about 3 in 4 teens chose NOT to do so.

It takes teens fewer drinks than adults to feel the same effects. Kids who drink alcohol are not only breaking the law, but they also risking dangerous and sudden consequences, such as alcohol poisoning.

People ages 12 to 20 drink about 11% of all alcohol consumed in the United States. That’s why companies that sell alcohol make ads that appeal to young people. (Source: NIAAA Underage Fact Sheet)

Each year in the United States, about 1,900 kids under age 21 die from alcohol-related car crashes. (Source: NIAAA Underage Fact Sheet [PDF - 542 KB])

Alcohol is the drug of choice for American kids—more kids drink than smoke cigarettes or do other drugs. We have alcohol experts here today—so ask a question about it!

24% of teens say they have been in a car when the driver has been drinking. Is that smart?

A 2011 study shows that about 52% of 10th graders have tried alcohol. That’s almost half who haven’t.

Binge drinking means drinking so much within about 2 hours that the amount of alcohol in your blood (also called blood alcohol concentration or BAC,) reaches 0.08g/dL, which is considered legally intoxicated. (Source: NIAAA Underage Fact Sheet [PDf - 542 KB])

Everyone is not drinking. Last year, only about 10% of 8th graders drank alcohol in the past month.

All states have ’zero-tolerance” laws, which make it illegal for anyone under age 21 to drive after drinking any alcohol. (Verified by Aaron White, Ph.D., NIAAA)

A 2013 study shows that about 70% of 12th graders have tried alcohol. That’s one in three who haven’t.

Each year in the United States, about 5,000 young people under age 21 die as a result of drinking. (Source: NIAAA Underage Fact Sheet [PDF - 542 KB])

In 2013, about 39% of 12th graders reported they drank alcohol in the past month. This means nearly 61% did not drink in the past month.

24% of 11th graders say they have been in a car when the driver has been impaired by alcohol or drugs.

Fast Facts about Cocaine

Cocaine users can experience acute blood or brain emergencies, such as a heart attack or stroke, which can cause sudden death.

Experimentation with cocaine can be deadly—literally. Sudden death can occur on or after the first use of cocaine. It doesn’t happen often—but it does happen.

Have you heard the name Len Bias? He was considered one of the greatest college basketball players of all time. But in 1986—two days after being drafted to the Boston Celtics—he died from a cocaine overdose. His family continues to speak out against drug abuse.

The high from snorting cocaine is brief—from 5-30 minutes. So to stay high, a cocaine user has to take the drug again and again. This is why cocaine is sometimes abused in binges—taken repeatedly within a short period of time, at dangerously higher doses each time.

Cocaine users risk a list of health problems: heart attacks, respiratory failure, strokes, seizures, abdominal pain, nausea, and more.

Fast Facts about Cough and Cold Medicine (DXM and Codeine Syrup)

Some teens think “over the counter” cough medicine (which can be bought at a drug store without a prescription) are safer to abuse than illegal drugs. But to get high, they need to take high doses, which can be dangerous.

Fast Facts about Inhalants

Inhalants prevent the necessary oxygen from reaching the brain, which can damage brain cells.

Some common household products used as inhalants to get high can have permanent effects including: hearing loss, limb spasms, central nervous system or brain damage, bone marrow damage, and possibly death from heart failure or suffocation.

Long-term inhalant use results in nerve cells not being able to do their job, which can cause muscle spasms and tremors or even permanent difficulty with basic actions like walking, bending, and talking.

If you inhale a large amount of a solvent or a gas, you could lose consciousness.

Inhalants are among the first drugs that preteens or teens abuse. In fact, they are one of the few types of substances that are abused more by younger teens than older ones. Inhalant abuse, if continued, can become chronic and continue into adulthood.

Sniffing dangerous chemicals in solvents and aerosol sprays to get “high” can result in irregular heartbeats, which can lead to heart failure and death within minutes.

Fast Facts about Tobacco, Nicotine, & Vaping (E-Cigarettes)

Each day in the United States nearly 3,300 young people under age 18 smoke their first cigarette, and more than 700 youth under age 18 become daily cigarette smokers. That’s way too many!

If you know someone who has recently quit smoking or is trying to quit, you can share these facts with them: Above all, be sure to let them know you’re proud of their decision to become smoke-free.

On average, every cigarette takes 11 minutes off of your life. Lifelong smokers lose an average of 13 years of life.

A menthol cigarette is still a cigarette—complete with all the chemicals and addictiveness of any other tobacco product. Flavoring isn’t going to make it any safer. In fact, research shows that menthol cigarettes may be more addictive than non-menthol cigarettes and could make it even harder for smokers to quit.

Although some believe that hookah (water pipe) is less harmful than smoking cigarettes, it still delivers the addictive drug nicotine and is at least as toxic as cigarette smoking. In fact, research shows that hookah smokers may absorb even more of the toxins found in cigarette smoke because a 1-hour hookah session involves inhaling 100–200 times the volume of smoke from a single cigarette.

More than 49,000 non-smokers in the U.S. die every year from heart disease and lung cancer caused by secondhand smoke.

“Social smoking“ is still smoking. Whether you’ve never taken a puff or if you have the occasional cigarette—if you’re on the fence about smoking, you’ve got to recognize social smoking for what it is. Even smoking just a little bit opens the door to addiction and smoking-related disease.

More than 1,200 people die each day in the United States because of cigarette use—that is 1 person every 71 seconds [link removed]

There’s nothing sweet about tobacco and your health. Flavors like strawberry and grape can mask the harshness of cigars, cigarillos and little cigars, but don’t be fooled! The flavoring doesn’t make them less harmful. All of these products can lead to nicotine addiction and contain toxic, cancer-causing chemicals that can cause serious health problems. Learn more here: [link removed]

Teens are getting smarter about smoking! The numbers of teens smoking cigarettes have been dropping over the years. In 2013, “past month” rates were reported at about 16% for 12th graders, 9% for 10th graders, and less than 5% for 8th graders.)

Many young people, especially females, believe that smoking can help them lose weight. But studies show that’s not true—young people who smoke are not thinner than those who don’t.

Each day in the United States, more than 1,200 youth under age 18 use smokeless tobacco for the first time (including chewing tobacco or snuff). Our health experts are online now. Ask them what this does to your mouth!

Nicotine addiction can be very powerful. 3 out of 4 teens who think they will stop smoking in a few years don’t!

Did you know that 9 out of 10 high school students don’t smoke? That’s a record low. So even if it seems like everyone around you smokes, it’s important to recognize that smoking is actually not the norm.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States, and cigarette smoking is responsible for nearly 90% of those deaths.

Fast Facts about Mental Illnesses

Most suicide attempts are expressions of extreme distress, not harmless bids for attention. A person who appears suicidal should not be left alone and needs immediate mental health treatment. Recognizing some of the warning signs is the first step in helping yourself or someone you care about. Learn more about the warning signs here:

People with mental illnesses are not “crazy” or “psycho.” Mental illnesses are real and can be treated. They are not something a person can just snap out of. A lot of people do not get help because they are embarrassed or afraid someone will make fun of them. Get the help you or a friend need here:

Studies showed that a type of psychotherapy (“talk” therapy) called cognitive behavioral therapy can reduce the rate of repeated suicide attempts by 50% during a year of follow-up. Therapy helps people consider alternative actions when thoughts of self-harm arise.  Learn more about suicide prevention here:

Sadly, more than 30,000 people die each year by suicide. Suicide is consistently the third leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24.

If you or a friend is ever in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, available 24 hours a day: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You can also use the Lifeline Crisis Chat online:

Mental illnesses are not as rare as some people think:

Fast Facts about Brain and Addiction

Research shows that brain development continues well into a person’s twenties. Alcohol and drugs can affect this development, and contribute to a range of problems.

Contrary to common belief, drugs are chemicals. They invade the brain and interfere with the way nerve cells normally send, receive, and process information.

Drugs can weaken the effects of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the body, the chemical that helps us feel happiness. If dopamine is weakened by drugs, the person feels flat, lifeless, and depressed. People then feel the need to take more drugs just to feel normal and it becomes a horrible cycle. If this is happening to you, ask for help.

What is the definition of addiction? Simple. You continue to use, despite negative consequences, such as losing friends, family problems, poor grades, other physical or mental problems or even getting arrested for stealing.

Fast Facts about Stimulants

Stimulants like Adderall or Ritalin are often prescribed for ADHD. When taken properly, with a doctor’s prescription, they are safe. If not taken properly, they can put people at risk for negative health effects, including addiction and overdose, because they act on the same brain systems as cocaine.

Some people take prescription stimulants without a prescription of their own thinking the drugs will make them “smarter” on a test. However, no clear evidence exists for improving performance in people who do not have ADHD. Some research suggests that stimulants may actually dampen creative thinking. Although more studies are needed, current research shows this does not work.

Fast Facts about MDMA (Ecstasy or Molly)

High levels of ecstasy in the blood stream can be life-threatening; they increase the risk of seizures and affect the heart's ability to maintain its normal rhythms.

Makers of MDMA (Ecstasy) can add anything they want to the drug, so you never know what you are really taking. Yuck.

You might have heard a lot about “Molly.” It is really nothing more than repackaged MDMA (Ecstasy)—and it can lead to memory loss or put you in the hospital. Some teens have even died from trying it.

Some people who use MDMA (Ecstasy) might feel so alert and “hyper” that they could keep dancing at a club for hours at a time and lose their sense of time. However, others can experience anxiety, agitation, faintness, sweating, or chills.

Ecstasy (“X” or MDMA) changes the body in many ways. It even interferes with the body’s temperature regulation, which leads to dangerous overheating, called hypothermia. This can lead to serious heart and kidney problems—or even death.

Fast Facts about Eating Disorders

Eating disorders often appear during the teen years. They are marked by extremes. Common types include anorexia (extremely restricted eating); bulimia nervosa (compulsive forced vomiting or laxative use to compensate for over-eating), or binge-eating (severe uncontrolled overeating). They are real, treatable medical illnesses, and nothing to be ashamed of.  Ask for help if you think you might have an eating disorder.

If you have severe distress or concern about body weight or shape, you might have an eating disorder. The media’s obsession with extremely thin models and celebrities can contribute to unhealthy weight goals among girls. The National Institute of Mental Health has supported studies showing that challenging this super thin ideal can reduce the onset of eating disorders. Learn more about eating disorders here:

Fast Facts about Alcohol, Fast Facts about Marijuana

Combining marijuana with drinking even a small amount of alcohol greatly increases driving danger, more than either drug alone. Just ask the CSIs who examine dead bodies at car accidents.

Fast Facts about Heroin

Heroin slows breathing, which means that an overdose can be fatal.

Regular heroin users develop a tolerance to the drug. This means their “high” gets less strong, and more heroin is needed to achieve the same effect. But, taking more heroin increases the risk of addiction and overdose.

Fast Facts about Alcohol, Fast Facts about Cough and Cold Medicine (DXM and Codeine Syrup), Fast Facts about Marijuana, Fast Facts about Prescription Drugs, Fast Facts about Tobacco, Nicotine, & Vaping (E-Cigarettes)

What are the most commonly abused drugs by 12th graders? Alcohol, marijuana, tobacco, prescription and over-the-counter drugs, like cold medicine.