Learn why drugs are especially dangerous for young people.

What is drug abuse?

Drugs abuse refers to misusing prescription medicines, including opioids. This means taking the medicines in a different way than the health care provider prescribed. This includes

  • Taking a medicine that was prescribed for someone else
  • Taking a larger dose than you are supposed to
  • Using the medicine in a different way than you are supposed to. For example, instead of swallowing your tablets, you might crush and then snort or inject them.
  • Using the medicine for another purpose, such as getting high

Why are drugs especially dangerous for young people?

Young people’s brains are growing and developing until they are their mid-20’s. This is especially true of the prefrontal cortex, which is used to make decisions. Taking drugs when young can interfere with developmental processes occurring in the brain. It can also affect their decision-making. They may be more likely to do risky things, such as unsafe sex and dangerous driving.

The earlier young people start using drugs, the greater their chances of continuing to use them and become addicted later in life.Taking drugs when you are young can contribute to the development of adult health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and sleep disorders.

Why do young people take drugs?

There are many different reasons why a young person may take drugs, including:

  • To fit in. Young people may do drugs because they want to be accepted by friends or peers who are doing drugs.
  • To feel good. Abused drugs can produce feelings of pleasure.
  • To feel better. Some young people suffer from depression, anxiety, stress-related disorders, and physical pain. They may do drugs to try to get some relief.
  • To do better in academics or sports. Some young people may take stimulants for studying or anabolic steroids to improve their athletic performance.
  • To experiment. Young people often want to try new experiences, especially ones that they think are thrilling or daring.

Can drug use in young people be prevented?

Drug use and addiction are preventable. Prevention programs involving families, schools, communities, and the media may prevent or reduce drug use and addiction. These programs include education and outreach to help people understand the risks of drug use.

You can help prevent your children from using drugs through:

  • Good communication with your children
  • Encouragement, so your children can build confidence and a strong sense of self. It also helps parents promote cooperation and reduce conflict.
  • Teaching your children problem-solving skills
  • Setting limits, to teach your children self-control and responsibility, provide safe boundaries, and show them that you care
  • Supervision, which helps parents recognize developing problems, promote safety, and stay involved
  • Knowing your children’s friends

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