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Teen drug and alcohol use


It has become more common while watching television, on social media or anywhere across the internet, to find teens consuming drugs or alcohol. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a study found that of the top 100 movies over a 9 year period, more than 7 in 10 movies showed characters smoking and 1 in 3 showed people getting drunk. 

We asked a General Pediatrician at Tufts Medical Center to share what myths and questions parents ask about drug and alcohol use.  

I don’t need to talk to my teenager because teachers go over this information in school.

It is important not to assume your child has access to accurate information regarding substance use, as many are receiving conflicting messages through social media and their peers. It is important to start talking with your child early (as early as the preteen years!) about the dangers associated with substance use. Many TV shows and movies that are popular among teens portray substance use, and this can be a good starting point for a conversation (i.e. is what is shown realistic?). Talk to your child’s doctor if you have questions about how to start this conversation or feel you need additional resources.

What happens to a teen’s brain when you use marijuana?

In the short term, marijuana causes memory problems, behavior changes, impaired judgment, and slowed reactive time (making it very dangerous to drive). The effects of long term use are still an area of active research. However, several studies do suggest there may be an associated long term decline in cognitive abilities, particularly among heavier marijuana users who began using at a younger age.

E-cigarettes are safer than smoking a traditional cigarette.

Many teens and young adults may think using e-cigarettes or vaping is safer than smoking traditional cigarettes. Unfortunately, like traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes contain the addictive substance nicotine. A JUUL pod can contain as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes. Long term effects of e-cigarette use are still be studied, as the devices are relatively new. However, we do know that adolescents who use e-cigarettes are more likely to later use traditional cigarettes than their non-smoking peers.

Learn more about e-cigarettes