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

Do you like to play games? Check out these games that explore what happens to the brain and body when a person uses drugs:

More than 130 Americans die every day after overdosing on opioids. Go to this website to learn more about the opioid crisis:

Major depression is a common mental disorder affecting adolescents in the United States. In 2016, an estimated 3.1 million adolescents aged 12 to 17 in the United States had at least one major depressive episode in the past year. Learn more at:

If you have substance use and mental health issues and need someone to talk to, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has a free and confidential helpline available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can reach them at 1-800-662-HELP (1-800-662-4357) or go to for information on additional hotlines, counseling services, or treatment options in your state.

Teens may be more sensitive to the effects of nicotine & more likely to become addicted to cigarettes.

The most commonly misused prescription drugs are opioid pain relievers such as OxyContin® and Vicodin®, and other medicine to reduce anxiety such as Xanax®, Valium®, and stimulants such as Ritalin® and Adderall®.

Alcohol affects people differently; just because a friend or family member may have a few drinks and be okay doesn’t mean that the same will be true for you.

Electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) are often marketed as safer alternatives to traditional cigarettes, but research shows that the vapor can contain cancer-causing, toxic chemicals.

Marijuana is linked to problems in school. Marijuana’s negative effects on attention, memory, and learning can last for days or even weeks—especially if you smoke often.

Many drugs marketed as “pure” actually contain added chemicals or other drugs. Police have found MDMA pills that contain cocaine, ketamine, and cough medicine. Some drug dealers mix cocaine with cornstarch or fentanyl, a very dangerous drug.

Some substances, like alcohol and tobacco, are legal for adults but are not legal for youth. Taking these substances while your brain is still developing could have long-term effects on your health.

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

Drugs can affect men and women differently. For example, women may have more drug cravings and be more likely to relapse after treatment.

No, everyone is NOT doing it. Almost 80 percent of 12th graders say they have not smoked marijuana in the past month.

E-cigarettes are regulated by the government, like other tobacco products. You must be at least 18-years-old to buy e-cigarettes.

Naloxone (Narcan®) can save a person dying from an opioid overdose. Naloxone is a medication that can rapidly reverse an opioid overdose. It can be given as an injectable, an auto-injectable (a prefilled device), or a nasal spray.

Drug addiction is a complex disease characterized by intense, drug craving, drug seeking, and drug use that continues even after negative consequences. If you or someone you know has a problem with drugs, this page has step-by-step guides that can help:

Knowing the warning signs for suicide and how to get help can save lives. Learn more about suicide prevention here:

Drug use can have many different effects depending on the specific drug or drugs used, how they are taken, how much is taken, the person’s health, and other factors. Short-term effects can range from changes in appetite, heart rate, or overdose. But it can also have long-term effects such as heart and lung disease, memory problems, mental disorders, and even cancer.

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.

Chronic alcohol drinking makes pain worse. Withdrawal from chronic alcohol use often increases pain sensitivity which could motivate some people to continue drinking or even increase their drinking to reverse withdrawal-related increases in pain.

Prolonged, excessive alcohol exposure generates a painful small fiber peripheral neuropathy, the most common neurologic complication associated with alcoholism.

Research shows that about 9 percent of those who use marijuana become addicted, but this number increases to about 17 percent among those who start young. Those who use marijuana daily are also more likely to become addicted. Ask our scientists about marijuana and addiction.

If you are in a situation where people will be using drugs or alcohol, offer to be the designated driver and take away all the car keys from people who are using substances.

Drug use increases the risk of getting viral infections such as HIV and hepatitis. This happens when people share needles or other drug equipment. Also, drugs can impair judgment and cause people to make unwise choices related to sexual contact.

Standing up to peer pressure to use alcohol or drugs isn’t always easy. NIDA has helpful tips and videos to help you stay true to yourself the next time you feel pressured:

Left untreated, alcohol overdose can lead to permanent brain damage or death.

Obsessions with food, body weight, and shape may be signs of an eating disorder. Eating disorders are serious medical illnesses, but they can be treated. Learn more about eating disorders here:

Being a teenager can be tough. But if you have been overwhelmingly sad for a long time (a few weeks to months) and you’re not able to concentrate or do the things you usually enjoy, it could be a sign of depression:

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 14, and ages of 15 and 34. For more statistics on suicide, visit:

Research shows that brain development continues throughout the teen years and into a person’s twenties. Alcohol can change this development, possibly affecting both the brain’s structure and how well it processes information.

Suicide is complicated and tragic, but it can be preventable. Knowing the warning signs for suicide and how to get help can help save lives. Here are 5 action steps you can take to help someone in emotional pain:

Some people have both mental health and substance use problems. This is called “comorbidity” or “co-occurrence.” This is very common and your doctor will be able to help you find a treatment that works to help with all of your health problems.

Do you know what to do if a friend has a bad reaction to drugs or alcohol? Check out our blog for helpful information:

Drinking can lead young people to make poor decisions and engage in risky behaviors (e.g., drinking and driving, unprotected sex, other drug use), resulting in a range of consequences (e.g., injuries, sexual assaults, and even death).

Watch nine eating disorders myths get busted: [link removed - no longer active]

About 10 percent of U.S. children live with a parent with past-year alcohol disorder, according to one 2017 study.

An estimated 401,000 adolescents ages 12 to 17 had alcohol use disorder in the past year. (NSDUH, 2018).

Drinking alcohol during the teen years could interfere with normal adolescent brain development and change the brain in ways that raise the risk of developing alcohol use disorder later in life.

How common is suicide in children and teens? Read the answer in our fact sheet and learn more about suicide prevention, here:

E-cigarettes are the most common way young adults in the United States use tobacco. Early evidence shows that using e-cigarettes may lead young people to try other tobacco products, including cigarettes.

Knowing how to get help for a social media friend can save a life. If you see messages or live streaming suicidal behavior on social media, call 911 immediately and contact the social media site directly. Learn more about suicide safety on social media at:

Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States. Short-term effects of marijuana use include feelings of intense happiness, altered perceptions, memory loss, and difficulty thinking and solving problems.

Daily marijuana use among people of college age—whether or not they attend school----is at its highest level since the early 1980s.

It is difficult to determine how specific drugs affect driving, but we do know that even a small amount of some drugs can be very dangerous. Marijuana can slow reaction time or impair the judgment of time and distance. Drivers who have used cocaine or methamphetamine can be aggressive and reckless. Certain kinds of sedatives can cause dizziness and drowsiness.

Have you seen the Drugs & Health Blog for teens? It has lots of great information about drug and addiction science, tips for staying healthy, and even a place for you to comment and talk with others. Check it out at

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

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, get help as soon as possible. Call 911 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL), 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Lifeline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You’ll be connected to a trained counselor and all calls are confidential and free. You can also chat with NSPL online. Learn more at:

Only about 1 in 20 youth ages 12 to 17 drank 5 or more drinks on one occasion in the past month. So MOST – 19 out of 20 – did not drink this way. (NSDUH, 2016)

Using inhalants can cause heart damage, liver failure, and nerve damage. These effects are usually not reversible.

MDMA, or Molly, can make you feel really happy for a few hours, but negative side effects can last much longer. After taking MDMA, you might feel irritable, depressed, and anxious for up to a week.

Do you have an idea that could change the way we treat addiction? Every year, NIDA gives an Addiction Science Award to three high school students who compete in the International Science and Engineering Fair. Learn more here:

Last year, about 25 percent of 12th graders who used a vaping device said they were only inhaling the flavoring. But it’s important to know that often teens don’t know what’s in the e-vaporizers they are using and the most popular vaping devices on the market do not offer options that are nicotine-free.

A study in 2018 showed vaping is popular among teens and use has been rising to record numbers. In the past year, more than 17 percent of 8th graders, 32 percent of 10th graders, and 37 percent of 12th graders vaped. Have a question about vaping? Ask our scientists!

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.

If you will be in a situation where people will be using drugs or alcohol, offer to be the designated driver and take away all the car keys from people who are using substances.

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 might work so hard that it stops. This is why people can die suddenly from a heart attack after using cocaine.

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 age 21 or older.

Because e-cigarettes contain nicotine, they are now regulated by the government, like other tobacco products. You must be at least 18-years-old to buy e-cigarettes.

Drugged driving is driving under the influence of alcohol, over-the-counter medications, prescription drugs, or illegal drugs. Drugged driving puts the driver, passengers, and others who share the road at risk.

People who use marijuana long-term and are trying to quit can have withdrawal symptoms including irritability, sleeplessness, decreased appetite, anxiety, and drug craving, making it even harder to quit.

Many addictive substances increase levels of a chemical in the brain called dopamine. Circuits in the reward system use dopamine to “teach” the brain to repeat actions we find pleasurable—a process called reinforcement. When people take drugs, the brain releases a lot of dopamine, which strongly reinforces the action of taking the drug. Over time, dopamine is released less by taking the drug itself than by other activities, people, and places that are associated with drug use. This leads people to feel highly motivated to take the drug whenever they encounter those cues.

It is common for people who try to quit using drugs and alcohol to start using again. It is important to remember that successful treatment for addiction will take continual adjusting or reinstating, or you may need to find other approaches to treatment.

Prescription drug misuse means taking medication, like pain pills or ADHD drugs, without a prescription, or in a way other than prescribed, to get high.

Using inhalants, such as spray paint, markers, or cleaning supplies, can result in nerve cells not being able to do their job, which can cause loss of coordination and lead to permanent difficulty with basic actions such as walking, bending, and talking.

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

Do you find it hard to pay attention? Do you feel the need to move constantly during times when you shouldn’t? Do you find yourself constantly interrupting others? If these issues are ongoing and frustrating, it could be a sign of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Learn more at:

Smoking while pregnant can lead to fetal growth retardation, decreased birthweight, or SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).

Past year misuse of Oxycontin® is also at a historic low among 12th graders. In 2018, misuse was at 2.3 percent, compared with 5.5 percent at its peak in 2005.

Did you know that mental illnesses, like depression and anxiety, 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 a combination of biological, genetic, environmental, and social factors likely play a part. Learn more about different mental disorders:

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're dealing with a difficult brain disease and it can be hard to stop.

Mental disorders are medical illnesses and they can be treated. Learn how to get help here:

Well-meaning friends or family members may try to tell someone with depression to “snap out of it,” “just be positive,” or “you can be happier if you just try harder.” But depression is not a sign of weakness or a character flaw. Most people with depression need treatment to get better. Learn more about depression:

Alcohol misuse contributes to more than 200 diseases and injury-related health conditions, most notably, alcohol use disorder, liver cirrhosis (liver cell death), various cancers, and injuries.

Symptoms of alcohol overdose 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); extremely low body temperature, and death.

Alcohol effects people differently; just because a friend or family member may have a few drinks and be okay doesn’t mean that the same will be true for you.

Do you have a question you’d like our scientists to answer? Ask us during this chat or leave a comment on a blog post at

Did you know that sadness is only one part of depression? Someone with depression may also experience many physical symptoms, such as aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems. Learn more about the signs of depression at:

Everyone feels stressed from time to time. But what is stress? How does it affect your health? And what can you do about it? Here are 5 things you should know about stress:

Fewer and fewer teens are using K2/Spice. In 2018, 3.5 percent of seniors were using it, which is much lower than 11 percent reported in 2012.

Many people think that misusing prescription drugs is safer than using other drugs, like cocaine or heroin, because prescription drugs are used as medicine. But using prescription drugs that were not prescribed for you can be just as dangerous as using other types of drugs.

People who use marijuana usually inhale more deeply and hold their breath longer than people who smoke tobacco, which further increases the lungs' exposure to chemicals in the smoke, resulting in irritated lungs.

Research shows that college students who regularly consume energy drinks may be at greater risk for future alcohol use disorder, cocaine use, or misuse of prescription stimulants.

Medication that is prescribed by your doctor, even if it isn’t addictive, can have negative effects if not taken as instructed. Take medicine exactly as the doctor says, and don’t mix your medication with alcohol, which could have dangerous side effects.

About 1 in 4 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.

Behavioral treatments, nicotine replacement therapies, & other medications are effective treatments for tobacco addiction.

Smoking cigarettes can give you an adrenaline boost, which increases blood pressure, respiration, and heart rate. It also increases levels of dopamine in the reward circuits, which over time can result in addiction.

K2/Spice, or “synthetic marijuana” is marketed as a “safe” alternative to marijuana, but, it can actually have unpredictable, dangerous effects.

It is not possible to 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're all different and unpredictable, so any use is risky.

Are you interested in studying how drugs affect the brain, or even being a scientist at NIDA one day? Check out this list of over 400 college addiction study programs:

Did you know that traces of marijuana stay in your body for several days after use and can cause someone to fail a drug test weeks after use stops?

Eating disorders can affect people of all ages, racial/ethnic backgrounds, body weights, and genders, but they often appear during the teen years or young adulthood. Learn more at:

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

Drinking too much alcohol can cause blackouts, an inability to remember what happened during a night of drinking.

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

When you go to college or start living on your own, you will experience a lot of changes in your life. There will be a lot of excitement as well as stress. It's important to continue to take care of yourself and not fall to peer pressure to do something bad for your health. Here are six tips for resisting peer pressure to use drugs and alcohol:

Methamphetamine is highly addictive and can lead to serious withdrawal symptoms, including severe depression, psychosis, and intense drug cravings.

Evidence shows that the symptoms of mental disorders often begin in youth.

The high from snorting cocaine is brief—from 5 to 30 minutes. People take it again and again to keep feeling good, but they need to take dangerously higher doses each time to feel high.

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 could be a sign of an anxiety disorder. Learn more:

“Comorbidity” means that a person has two or more disorders at the same time. This occurs frequently with addiction and mental disorders. People addicted to drugs are twice as likely to have a mental health issue, like depression or anxiety, and vice versa.

Did you know that everything written on the NIDA website is based on scientific research? Make your first stop for any questions about alcohol and drugs to make sure you’re getting the right information!

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

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

Only 8.6 percent of 12 to 17-year-olds who had an alcohol use disorder in the past year received treatment. This includes 9.3 percent of males and 8.1 percent of females with AUD in this age group. (NSDUH, 2016)

Stimulants such as Adderall® or Ritalin® are often prescribed for ADHD. When taken as a doctor prescribes, they are generally safe. But because prescription stimulants act on the same brain systems as cocaine, taking them to get "high" can put people at risk for negative health effects, including addiction and overdose.

NIDA’s 2018 Monitoring the Future survey confirms the recent trend that daily marijuana use has become more popular than daily cigarette smoking among teens in school. More than 10 percent of 8th graders, about 27 percent of 10th graders, and about 35 percent of 12th graders used marijuana at least once in the year prior to being surveyed. Let’s work together to make healthy choices and bring these numbers down next year!

Misuse of Vicodin® is at an all-time low among high school seniors, with just 1.7 percent reporting past year misuse.

Some students use stimulant drugs, like those used to treat ADHD, because they think it will help them do better in school. In fact, there is no evidence that this works and it may put their health at risk.

There are many things you can do to help a friend or family member who is having trouble with drugs or alcohol. Listen to your friend when they share with you and encourage them to talk to an adult they trust. Asking for help is the first important step.

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 won’t make you happy anymore.

“Bath salts” are human-made drugs that are chemically related to cathinone, a stimulant found in the khat plant, a shrub grown in East Africa and southern Arabia. But don’t be fooled—bath salts are not natural and can be much stronger and more dangerous than the plant.

A hangover refers to a set of symptoms that occur as a consequence of excessive alcohol use. Typical symptoms include fatigue, weakness, thirst, headache, muscle aches, nausea, stomach pain, vertigo, sensitivity to light and sound, anxiety, irritability, sweating, and increased blood pressure. A hangover can vary from person to person.

Nearly two in five 12th graders report using some kind of vaping device in the past year.

Alcohol overdose 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.

It takes time to recover from addiction. Not only do you have to learn to make healthy lifestyle changes to avoid drugs, but your brain also has to learn to live without drugs. It may take several rounds of treatment before it sticks—but treatment can work.

In the past five years, daily marijuana use among non-college adults continued to rise, reaching its highest level in 2017 at 13.2 percent. Daily use is almost three times higher in the non-college group.