According to the CDC, the majority of adults who meet the criteria for having a substance use disorder started using substances during their teen and young adult years. Common drugs used by teens include: tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, synthetic marijuana, amphetamines (Adderall), prescription painkillers, inhalants, cough medicine, sedatives, tranquilizers, hallucinogens, MDMA (ecstasy), and salvia. Click here to see data on drug use among Hillsborough County high schools students.
The more risk factors a person has, the greater the chance that taking drugs can lead to addiction. Risk factors include:
Biology – genetics, gender, ethnicity, presence of other mental disorders
Environment – peer pressure, lack of parental guidance, physical and sexual abuse
Young Age – the earlier drug use begins, the more likely it will progress to addiction due to brain development still occurring
Drugs and the Brain
Signs of Drug Use
According to NIDA, if an adolescent starts behaving differently for no apparent reason it could be a sign they are developing a drug-related problem. Parents may overlook such signs, believing them to be a normal part of puberty. Other signs include:
• A change in friends
• Carelessness with grooming
• Decline in academic performance
• Missing classes or skipping school
• Loss of interest in favorite activities
• Changes in eating or sleeping habits
• Deteriorating relationships with family members and friends
According to NIDA, most drugs affect the brain's reward circuit by flooding it with the chemical messenger dopamine. Surges of dopamine in the reward circuit cause the reinforcement of pleasurable but unhealthy activities, leading people to repeat the behavior again and again. Over time, the brain adjusts to the excess dopamine, which reduces the high that the person feels compared to the high they felt when first taking the drug—an effect known as tolerance. They might take more of the drug, trying to achieve the same dopamine high.
At school, Student Services staff such as guidance counselors, school psychologists, and school social workers are trained to provide mental health intervention services and can help in finding appropriate resources outside of school. You can also contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).