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June 2018: Adolescent Substance Use - What You Should Know

The HHS Office of Adolescent Health has in-depth information on adolescent substance use, including prevalence data, health impacts, risk factors, prevention strategies, and treatment options.

  • Adolescents use alcohol more than any other drug. One in three high school seniors reports having had a drink in the past month. Underage drinking is associated with many dangers to adolescents, including risky sexual behavior and physical assault.
  • Marijuana is the second most commonly used substance among adolescents. Because adolescence is a time of rapid brain development, teens who use marijuana before age 18 are four to seven times more likely than adults to develop problem use.
  • Tobacco use by adolescents has declined substantially in the last 40 years. However, in 2017, 13.2 percent of high school students reported vaping nicotine at least once in the past 30 days. Although the health impact of vaping is not yet fully understood, products such as e-cigarettes may be harmful to adolescents.
  • Any adolescent can be at risk of misusing opioids, even those who have not previously used drugs and who disapprove of illegal drug use. Even when a high school student uses opioids as prescribed, their risk of future opioid misuse increases by 33 percent. The National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens has more on opioids and adolescent health.
  • Positive connections with parents and other adults can help adolescents stay drug-free. Talk with teens about alcoholtobacco, and other illegal drugs so that they understand the risks and feel empowered to make healthy choices.

In addition, new data on adolescent substance use are available. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released results from the 2017 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey. While there are many promising health-related trends, trends in behavior and health disparities remain that put youth at risk for death and disability. Among its many findings, the report includes data on substance use and a measure on non-prescription use of opioids.

Share on Social Media

  • Youth-serving professionals and health care providers can reach adolescents who are at risk for misusing #opioids by collaborating with other organizations http://bit.ly/2i1fH9u via @TeenHealthGov #healthtalk
  • Smoking among adolescents has declined but #ecigarette use is growing in popularity. See trends on teen #tobacco use and regulation efforts http://bit.ly/1EE2lpG via @TeenHealthGov
Content created by Office of Adolescent Health
Content last reviewed on August 23, 2018