Allies for Substance Abuse Prevention(865) 457-3007

Frequently Asked Questions For Teens


Can a person be too young to become addicted to alcohol and drugs?

No. And, research and experience show that the younger someone starts using alcohol and drugs, the greater the chance that they will become addicted.

Can you get addicted even though you only do it once in a while?

Yes.  For most, addiction to alcohol and drugs is a process — not an event.  Most people who use alcohol and drugs do so with an intention of only using once or “once in a while.”  No one decides that they want to become addicted to alcohol and drugs.  But, addictive drugs directly affect the brain.  It is easy for occasional use to change to frequent use or constant use — that is addiction.  The only thing we know for sure:  if you don’t drink alcohol and don’t do drugs, you definitely won’t become addicted.

Why is age of first use of alcohol so critically important?

Kids who start drinking alcohol before age 15 are 5 times more likely to develop alcohol abuse or dependence than people who first used alcohol at age 21 or older.  A study published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine showed that 47% of those who began drinking before age 15 experienced alcohol dependence at some point in their life, compared to 9% percent of those who began drinking at age 21 or older.

Besides alcohol, what are the most commonly abused drugs among young people?

Along with alcohol, the most commonly abused drugs among high-school students are:  marijuana, Vicodin, amphetamines, cough medicine, Adderall, tranquilizers, salvia, hallucinogens, OxyContin, sedatives, MDMA/ecstasy, inhalants, cocaine and Ritalin.

Is drinking and driving the biggest alcohol-related risk for college students?

No, there are many alcohol-related risks faced by college students. While an estimated 1,900 young people under the age of 21 die each year from alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes, approximately 600,000 college students are unintentionally injured while under the influence of alcohol; approximately 700,000 students are assaulted by other students who have been drinking; and about 100,000 students are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.

Marijuana is just a plant. Is it really that dangerous?

Yes, marijuana is a plant but it has very real health consequences, including drug addiction.  While some people think marijuana is a “harmless drug,” actual experience and the real science show a different reality.  More teens are in treatment with a primary diagnosis of marijuana dependence than for all other illegal drugs combined.

Does marijuana use lead to the use of other drugs?

While most marijuana smokers do not go on to use other illegal drugs, long-term studies of high school students show that few young people use other illegal drugs without first using marijuana.  Using marijuana puts people in contact with people who are users and sellers of other drugs and are more likely to be exposed to and urged to try other drugs.

Is marijuana use increasing among youth?

While the trend over the last 10 years has been largely positive, there have been some troubling increases in the rates of marijuana use among young Americans in the recent years. After a steady decline and flattening in the prevalence of past month use of marijuana among youth (12 to 17 year olds) from 2002 through 2008, the rate increased from 6.7 percent in 2008 to 7.9 percent in 2011. Surveys also show that there has been an upward trend in use over the past three to five years among 10th and 12th graders.

Why is marijuana use increasing among youth?

The proportion of students seeing great risk from using marijuana regularly has fallen over the past few years and personal disapproval of trying marijuana use has dropped considerably among high-school aged students. In addition, marijuana has become increasingly more available, with between 81% and 90% of 12th graders each year saying that they could get marijuana fairly easily or very easily if they wanted some.

What are some of the reasons teenagers decide to try drugs?

There is no single reason for teenage drug and alcohol use. But here are some of the core issues and influences behind early experimentation: other people (parents, peers); popular media; escape and self-medication; boredom; rebellion; instant gratification; lack of confidence; and misinformation. But ultimately, the reasons for teenage drug and alcohol use are as complex as teenagers themselves. Given these reasons, it’s important that parents understand and talk to their kids about the dangers of drinking and using drugs.