These days, drugs can be found everywhere, and it may seem like everyone is doing them. Many teens are tempted by the excitement or escape that drugs seem to offer. But learning the facts about drugs can help you see the risks of chasing this excitement or escape. Here’s what you need to know.
Thanks to medical and drug research, there are thousands of drugs that help people. Antibiotics and vaccines have revolutionized the treatment of infections. Medicines can lower blood pressure, treat diabetes, and reduce the body’s rejection of new organs. Medicines can cure, slow, or prevent disease, helping us to lead healthier and happier lives. But there are also lots of illegal, harmful drugs that people take to help them feel good or have a good time.
How do drugs work? Drugs are chemicals or substances that change the way our bodies work. When you put them into your body (often by swallowing, inhaling, or injecting them), drugs find their way into your bloodstream and are transported to parts of your body, such as your brain. In the brain, drugs may either intensify or dull your senses, alter your sense of alertness, and sometimes decrease physical pain.
A drug may be helpful or harmful. The effects of drugs can vary depending upon the kind of drug taken, how much is taken, how often it is used, how quickly it gets to the brain, and what other drugs, food, or substances are taken at the same time. Effects can also vary based on the differences in body size, shape, and chemistry.
Although substances can feel good at first, they can ultimately do a lot of harm to the body and brain. Drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco, taking illegal drugs, and sniffing glue can all cause serious damage to the human body. Some drugs severely impair a person’s ability to make healthy choices and decisions. Teens who drink, for example, are more likely to get involved in dangerous situations, such as driving under the influence or having unprotected sex.
And just as there are many kinds of drugs available, there are as many reasons for trying them or starting to use them regularly. People take drugs just for the pleasure they believe they can bring. Often it’s because someone tried to convince them that drugs would make them feel good or that they’d have a better time if they took them.
Some teens believe drugs will help them think better, be more popular, stay more active, or become better athletes. Others are simply curious and figure one try won’t hurt. Others want to fit in. A few use drugs to gain attention from their parents.
Many teens use drugs because they’re depressed or think drugs will help them escape their problems. The truth is, drugs don’t solve problems — they simply hide feelings and problems. When a drug wears off, the feelings and problems remain, or become worse. Drugs can ruin every aspect of a person’s life.
For more information on drug facts and the science behind drug abuse, visit the National Instutite for Drug Abuse Teen Center.
 The Children’s Hospital website, July 2008.