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

Last year, about 13 percent of 8th graders who use e-cigs said they didn’t know what was in the device they used. Most teen say they inhaled flavoring alone, but it’s important to know that some products labeled "nicotine-free" may actually contain nicotine (an addictive substance).

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 nonmenthol cigarettes and could make quitting even harder.

Smoking accelerates skin aging and can lead to premature wrinkles. Wrinkles caused by smoking can appear in just a few years and may not go away.

Each day in the United States, nearly 1,300 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!  

If no one smoked tobacco, at least 88 million Americans could breathe freely without any exposure to secondhand smoke. Our experts are online right now and can tell you how secondhand smoke can affect your health.

Even smoking just a little bit opens the door to addiction and smoking-related diseases. In fact, research shows that just a few cigarettes now and then can lead to cravings and other symptoms of addiction in some teens.

If you know someone who has recently quit smoking or is trying to quit, you can share facts from this website with him or her: Above all, be sure to let that person know you’re proud of his or her decision to become smoke-free.

Did you know that nearly 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.

Nicotine addiction can be very powerful. Three out of four teens who think they will stop smoking in a few years actually don’t.

How do you add even more chemicals to a cigarette? Light it. Many of the dangerous chemicals in cigarette smoke are formed through the chemical reactions that occur as the cigarette burns. Cigarette smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals—many of those are toxic, and more than 70 have been linked to cancer.

Of every three young smokers, only one will quit, and one of those remaining smokers will die from cigarette smoking-/tobacco-related causes.

More than 40,000 nonsmokers in the United States die every year from diseases caused by exposure to secondhand smoke.

More than 1,300 people die each day in the United States because of smoking and secondhand smoke—that is nearly one person every minute.

Many young people, especially girls and young women, 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.

Quitting smoking when you are young is one of the best ways to lower your risk of getting smoking-related diseases, but never starting is the best way to stay free of smoking-related diseases.

On average, every cigarette takes 11 minutes off of your life. Smokers die at least 10 years earlier than nonsmokers.

Each day in the United States, more than 2,600 young people under age 18 smoke their first cigarette, and nearly 600 youth under age 18 become daily cigarette smokers. That’s way too many.

For each person in the United States who dies because of cigarette use, nearly two youth or young adults become daily smokers. Avoid becoming a statistic, and stay away from tobacco.

Quitting smoking at any age is beneficial, but quitting while you are still a teen will give your growing lungs a chance to reach their full capacity. This will make you healthier and more physically fit.

A study in 2015 showed the use of electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) is high among teens. In the past month, about 10 percent of 8th graders, 14 percent of 10th graders, and 16 percent of 12th graders used e-cigs. Ask our scientists about e-cigs.

You may think that using a hookah (waterpipe) is less harmful than smoking cigarettes, but it still delivers the addictive drug nicotine and is at least as toxic as cigarette smoking. In fact, research shows that hookah smokers inhale 100 to 200 times the volume of smoke in a 1-hour hookah session than they would from a single cigarette.

While electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) are often promoted as safer alternatives to traditional cigarettes, which deliver nicotine by burning tobacco, little is known yet about the health risks of using these devices.

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

Fast Facts about Brain and Addiction

It takes time to recover from addiction— not only for the brain to readjust, but to make lifestyle changes to avoid drugs. Think of how hard it is for people trying to lose weight—they try different diets, exercise for a while, and lose a few pounds only to gain them back… until they can make lasting changes to keep the weight off. Same with quitting drugs—it may take several rounds of treatment before it sticks.

Have you seen the Drugs & Health Blog for teens? It has all the latest information on drug and addiction research and news, and you can comment on what’s written. Check it out at

Drug addiction is a complex illness characterized by intense, and, at times, uncontrollable drug craving, along with compulsive drug seeking and use that continue even in the face of devastating consequences. While the path to drug addiction begins with the voluntary act of taking drugs, over time a person can lose control over his or her ability to stop using. If you or someone you know has a problem with drugs, this page has step-by-step guides that can help:

Like playing games? Try out these games and videos that explore what happens to the brain and body when drugs are used:

Some people think becoming addicted to a drug is just a character flaw, but it’s not. The first time people use drugs, it’s usually a conscious decision. But once people become addicted, they are dealing with a difficult brain disease.

Although we know what happens to the brain when someone becomes addicted, we can’t predict how many times a person must use a drug before becoming addicted. A person's genes and the environment each play a role. We are all different and unpredictable, so any use is risky.

If you are in high school and you are receiving treatment for drug problems—it is important to continue treatment after high school—whether you are in college or are working.

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.

Addiction is a brain disease and treatment is hard work, but it can work. We see it every day.

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

When you go college, you will experience a lot of changes in your life; there will be a lot of excitement as well as stress. It is important to continue to take care of yourself and not fall to peer pressure to do something bad for your health. Here are six tactful tips for resisting peer pressure to use drugs and alcohol:  

Want to learn more about the science of addiction?  Check out our booklet Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction at

People unable to stop using drugs can be helped with counseling, where they can learn to change their behavior. There are medications that can be added to the treatment plan for some drugs (including tobacco, alcohol, heroin, or pain pills). Treatment varies for each person, depending on the type of drug(s) being abused and the person’s specific situation. For a step-by-step guide on how to find the right treatment, check out:

Repeated drug use can reset the brain’s pleasure meter so that without the drug, you feel hopeless and sad. Eventually, everyday fun stuff like spending time with friends or playing with your dog doesn’t make you happy anymore.

Fast Facts about Marijuana

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

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.

NIDA’s 2015 Monitoring the Future Survey showed that about 12 percent of 8th graders, 25 percent of 10th graders, and 35 percent of 12th graders used marijuana at least once in the year prior to being surveyed. Congratulations to all the other teens making healthy choices!

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

Did you know that if you use marijuana regularly as a teen, your IQ level could actually drop as an adult—even if you stop using it? Read about it on the NIDA website:

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.

Marijuana users usually inhale 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.

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

Compared with their peers who don’t smoke, students who smoke marijuana tend to get lower graders and are more likely to drop out of high school.

Marijuana is linked to problems in school.  Marijuana’s negative effects on attention, memory and learning can last for days and sometimes weeks—especially if you smoke often. One major study suggests it can even lower your IQ.

Research shows that drivers on marijuana have slower reaction times, impaired judgment, and problems responding to signals and sounds. Learn more about the effects of different drugs here:

Marijuana affects skills required for safe driving—alertness, concentration, coordination, and reaction time. So it’s not safe to drive high or to ride with someone who’s been smoking.

No, everybody is NOT doing it. Only about 20 percent of 12th graders say they have smoked weed in the past month. 

Research shows that about one in six of those who start marijuana use as a teen will become addicted.

Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States. Short-term effects of marijuana use include euphoria, distorted perceptions, memory impairment, and difficulty thinking and solving problems.

Fast Facts about Inhalants

Younger teens are more prone to experimenting with inhalants that seem like harmless common products. A study in 2015 showed that about 5 percent of 8th graders, 3 percent of 10th graders, and 2 percent of 12th graders had used inhalants at least once in the past year.

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 such as walking, bending, and talking. 

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.

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

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 a real problem in adulthood.

Fast Facts about Mental Illnesses

A lot of big changes happen to your brain when you’re a teen. Learn more about these changes:

No matter what problems you’re dealing with, help is available 24/7 by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You’ll be connected to a trained counselor. All calls are confidential and free.

It’s normal to feel anxious or stressed sometimes. These feelings can help us deal with a tense situation, study harder for an exam, or keep focused on an important speech. But if your anxiety doesn’t go away or gets worse over time, it can make life harder, especially with school or relationships. Learn more:

Suicide is the third leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24.

If you have been feeling sad, hopeless, or irritable for like a long time, you might have depression. Girls are more likely than boys to experience depression. Teens who are depressed may be moody, get into trouble at school, be negative or grouchy, or feel misunderstood. Learn more about depression:

If you know someone who is considering suicide, do not leave him or her alone. Try to get your loved one to seek immediate help from his or her doctor, nearest hospital emergency room or call 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Learn more about the warning signs here:

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a very common childhood disorder that can continue through the teen and adult years. With ADHD, you may have difficulty staying focused and paying attention, difficulty controlling your behavior, and may be really hyper. Learn more about ADHD here:

People with mental illnesses are not “crazy” or “psycho.”  Mental illnesses are serious but can be treated. They are not something a person can just snap out of. The sooner you get help, the sooner you will get better. Learn how to get help here:

Did you know that mental illnesses are brain disorders?  There are differences in the structure and the way the brain functions in people with a mental illness. Researchers are still trying to understand the exact causes of mental illnesses, but it’s most likely that a combination of biological, genetic, environmental, and social factors play a part.

Evidence shows that mental disorders often begin in youth:

Fast Facts about Alcohol

Adolescents typically have an increased desire to experience new things, but experimenting with alcohol is not a good idea.

Drinking alcohol is NOT a healthy way to cope with stress.

Unfortunately, many young people do not fully recognize the negative effects that alcohol can have on their health and behavior.

Drinking can lead young people to make poor decisions about engaging in risky behavior, including drinking and driving, risky sexual activity (such as unprotected sex), and aggressive or violent behavior.

Sixty-five percent of 15-year-olds report that they have never had a drink in their lives.

Research shows that brain development continues throughout adolescence and into a person’s twenties. Alcohol can alter this development, potentially affecting both the brain’s structure and functioning, meaning how well it processes information.

An estimated 679,000 adolescents ages 12 to 17 had an alcohol use disorder in 2014.

Only about 1 out of 10 kids ages 12 to 17 drank alcohol in the past month. So MOST—about 9 out of 10—did not drink alcohol.

An estimated 55,000 adolescents ages 12 to 17 received treatment for an alcohol problem in a specialized facility in 2014.

If someone is pressuring you to do anything that’s not right or good for you—such as drinking alcohol—you have the right to say no.

More than 10 percent of U.S. children live with a parent with alcohol problems, according to a 2012 study.

Only about 1 in 16 kids ages 12 to 17 drank five or more drinks on one occasion in the past month. So MOST—15 out of 16—did not drink this way.

Research shows that drinking during the teen years could interfere with normal adolescent brain development and change the brain in ways that increase the risk of developing an alcohol use disorder later in life.

Teens who drink can suffer a range of consequences, including injury, sexual assault, and even death, including dying in an alcohol-related car crash.

Alcohol contributes to more than 200 diseases and injury-related health conditions—most notably, alcohol dependence, liver cirrhosis (loss of liver cells), various cancers, and injuries.

About one in four college students report academic consequences from drinking, including missing class, falling behind in their schoolwork, doing poorly on exams or papers, and receiving lower grades overall. High school students who drink can also experience these consequences.

Alcohol poisoning occurs when there is so much alcohol in the bloodstream that areas of the brain controlling basic life-support systems—such as breathing, heart rate, and temperature control—begin to shut down.

Symptoms of alcohol poisoning include confusion; difficulty remaining conscious; vomiting; seizures; trouble with breathing; slow heart rate; clammy skin; dulled responses, such as no gag reflex (which prevents choking); and extremely low body temperature and death.

If you suspect someone has alcohol poisoning, get medical help immediately. Cold showers, hot coffee, or walking will NOT reverse the effects of alcohol overdose and could actually make things worse.

Research shows that people who start drinking before the age of 15 are much more likely to meet the criteria for an alcohol use disorder at some point in their lives than people who delay drinking until past age 21.

Fast Facts about Cocaine

The high from snorting cocaine is brief—from 5 to 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.

Stimulants such as cocaine cause the body’s blood vessels to narrow, constricting blood flow, which forces the heart to work harder to pump blood through the body. The heart may work so hard that it temporarily loses its natural rhythm. This is why there have been many cases of people dying suddenly from heart attacks after using cocaine.  

A 2015 study found less than 1 percent of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders had abused methamphetamine in the year prior to being surveyed. That means about 99 percent of students don’t use methamphetamine. Get more facts about methamphetamine, cocaine, and other stimulants here:

Fast Facts about Heroin

Heroin often contains toxic contaminants or additives that, when injected, can clog blood vessels leading to the lungs, liver, kidneys, or brain, causing permanent damage to vital organs.

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

Fast Facts about Viral Infections (HIV, Hepatitis) and Drug Use

Drug abuse by any method (not just injection) can put a person at risk for contracting HIV. Drug and alcohol intoxication affect the way a person makes decisions and can lead to unsafe sexual practices, which puts him or her at risk for getting HIV or transmitting it to someone else.

Using any type of mind-altering drug can affect judgment and inhibition and can put you at greater risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).  To learn the link between drug abuse and HIV, check out:

Fast Facts about Opiates

One dose of naloxone (brand name: Narcan®) can save a person dying from an opioid overdose.

Did you know that opioid pain relievers act on the same sites in the brain as heroin? This is one reason why they can be so dangerous when abused.

Fast Facts about Prescription Drugs

Research tells us that most teens who abuse prescription drugs get them from friends or relatives and, to a lesser degree, from their own prescriptions. Is this a problem at your school? Ask our scientists about Adderall® and other commonly abused prescription drugs, such as Ritalin®, Xanax®, and Vicodin®.

Did you know that more people die from overdoses from prescription pain relievers (such as Vicodin® and Oxycontin®) than die from heroin and cocaine combined?

Taking prescription drugs that aren't prescribed for you IS drug abuse.  Prescription drug abuse includes taking a controlled medication (such as pain pills or ADHD drugs) without a prescription, in a way other than prescribed, or to get “high.

Teens abuse prescription drugs for a number of reasons, including to get high, to treat pain, or because they think it will help them with schoolwork. Explore what happens when teen use prescription drugs here:

Many people think that abusing prescription drugs is safer than abusing illicit drugs such as heroin because the manufacturing of prescription drugs is regulated, or because they are prescribed by doctors. But that doesn't mean these drugs are safe for someone other than the person with the prescription to use them.

Opioids (such as the pain relievers OxyContin® and Vicodin®), central nervous system depressants (such as Xanax® or Valium®), and stimulants (such as Ritalin® and Adderall®) are the most commonly abused prescription drugs.

Fast Facts about MDMA (Ecstasy or Molly)

Ecstasy (X, Molly, 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.

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.

Researchers have seen memory loss among regular users of MDMA, sometimes called Molly.

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

Call it Molly, MDMA, or Ecstasy—teens are using it less. In 2001 just more than 6 percent of 10th graders were using it, but last year, only about 2 percent were using it.

Fast Facts about Stimulants

Some people take prescription stimulants—without a prescription of their own—thinking the drugs will make them do better on a test. However, there is no clear evidence that this works at all. Some research suggests that stimulants may actually dampen creative thinking, although more studies are needed.

In 2015, a little more than 7 percent of high school seniors used the stimulant Adderall® (often prescribed for ADHD) for nonmedical reasons.

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

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

Some teens think cough medicine that can be bought at a drug store without a prescription is safer to abuse than illegal drugs. But to get high, they need to take high doses, which can be dangerous.

Fast Facts about Eating Disorders

Eating disorders often appear during the teen years. An eating disorder is an illness that causes the urge to eat extremely small amounts of food or to severely overeat beyond a person’s control. Severe distress or concern about body weight or shape may also signal an eating disorder. Learn more about eating disorders here:

Eating disorders affect both girls and boys, but they are more common in girls. Like girls who have eating disorders, boys also have a distorted sense of body image. Boys may have muscle dysmorphia, a type of disorder marked by an extreme concern with becoming more muscular.

Fast Facts about Spice

Sometimes called “synthetic marijuana,” K2/Spice is marketed as an alternative to marijuana, but in fact, it is a very different drug.  In 2015, 5 percent of seniors were using it, which is much lower than 11 percent reported 3 years ago in 2012.

Fast Facts about Salvia

Salvia (Salvia divinorum), an herb in the mint family found in southern Mexico, changes the chemistry in the brain, causing hallucinations (seeing something that seems real but isn’t). The effects can be very intense and frightening. Less than 2 percent of 12th graders used salvia last year, compared to more than 3 percent in 2013.