Young woman holding a handful of pills.

Drug Abuse

You’ve heard drugs are bad for you but have you actually done the research on how they affect your body and your brain? We’ve compiled a list of some the frequently asked questions youth have about drugs, so you can start to find your own answers.

FAQs about Drug Abuse

What are the risks associated with drugs?

Synthetic Drugs
Synthetic Cannabinoids (K2), Molly, Flaka, and Bath Salts are all synthetic drugs. They all mimic the side effects of popular drugs like weed, ecstasy, and cocaine. There is one thing all these drugs have in common; their side effects are very unpredictable.

Underage Drinking
Alcohol affects your memory, decision-making skills, coordination, control of bodily functions, and in some cases can lead to death.

Besides the euphoric “high” feeling that comes with smoking marijuana, marijuana contributes to learning and memory problems, lack of coordination, and poor decision-making skills.

Prescription Drugs
Prescription drugs are categorized as opioids (pain medications), stimulants, and depressants. The side effects of Opioids like oxycodone and codeine include drowsiness, an upset stomach, constipation, shortness of breath, and in cases of overdoses, death.  Stimulants such as Adderall and Ritalin can lead to paranoia, a rise in body temperature, and an elevated heart rate. The side effects of depressants, like Xanax and Valium, include slurred speech, sleepiness, and disorientation. In severe cases, side effects can include seizures and death due to an overdose or the combination of depressants with alcohol.

Using tobacco can lead to cancer, respiratory problems, heart disease, cataracts (clouding of the eye), aging skin and teeth, and the loss of your sense of smell and taste.

Other Drugs
Read up on the risks of other drugs here.

How do I get addicted to drugs?

Drug addiction is a mental health illness. Addiction can be attributed to a chemical imbalance in the brain that gets worse when you initially use a drug or when you continue to use it. While not everyone who tries a drug will get addicted, earlier drug use can increase the chances of a young person developing an addiction.

Why do people use drugs?

There are many reasons people use drugs—sometimes it’s because they are bored, curious, or stressed. The problem is that using drugs will not cure any of these problems. In fact, using drugs will often make your problems worse.

What can I do to relieve stress other than drugs?

You may think drugs are relieving everyday stress that can come from family and school pressures, but drugs only make you feel like they are fixing the problem—you still have to deal with them later. To relieve stress, focus on things you like to do, like playing basketball or spending time with friends.

If marijuana is legal in DC, why is it illegal for anyone under 21?

Marijuana affects the hippocampus, the part of the brain that helps you process and store information. Marijuana can especially affect this important part of the brain in young people whose brains are still developing.

I have questions about drugs. How do I talk to the adults in my life about drugs?

Ask! Sometimes, it takes courage to start the conversation with your parents, but they were young once and can help you get answers to your questions. If you’re not ready to talk to a parent quite yet, visit your local Prevention Center.

How do I know if my friend has a drug problem?

Talk to your friend about your concerns and be open to listening to what they have to say, as well. Be safe about it and don’t confront them when they are drunk or high. Remember, it’s not your responsibility to solve the problem and you may have to ask a trusted adult to get your friend help.

What can I do to help my parents if they are using drugs?

You can’t control what your parent does about his or her problem, but you can get help for yourself. Consider speaking with a trusted adult like a teacher, aunt or uncle, counselor, or coach. They will be able to support you during this tough time. There are also many groups with trained professionals who are willing to help you and your family.

What do I say when people ask me to do drugs?

You can turn down drugs the same way you would turn down food when you aren’t hungry. There are tons of ways to turn down drugs—you can be friendly, firm, and in control.

Young boy drinking a beer

Within the U.S., the most commonly used and

abused drug is alcohol

Teenage girl helps her friend light a cigarette.

Most people who start smoking
in their teens become regular

smokers before they’re 18