Yes, yes they are a big deal. Especially for teens and young adults. Your brain and body are still developing. This is a dangerous time to introduce, tobacco, alcohol, and other substances. Using substances as a young person can affect your learning, memory, and cognitive function. You increase your chances of developing a substance use problem later in life. Since the decision-making parts of your brain are still developing, use can lead to many other choices or situations that risk your well-being, such as:
- Risky driving
- Unwanted sex
- Physical assault
- Onset of depression
There are many sources of information including the media, the web, adults, and peers. It can be confusing. You will want information that is up-to-date and based in research. Look for sites that start with https. Avoid sites that are making claims from one person’s point of view. The most accurate information about drugs will come from sites that are based on research and many studies. You can start your search at:
Indeed, there are many products sold at stores that may seem safe enough. After all, they are in the store, and the packaging is nice. Right? Not always true. The most important thing you can do is read the label whether it be a beverage or other product. If ever in doubt about a product, you can ask a manager, pharmacist, or a trusted adult. Not from a store but from someone else? The rule of thumb is to never put anything in your body that you are not sure of. Many illegal drugs can look like candy or can be put in everyday drinks and foods. When in doubt, leave it out.
Saying no can be hard. You may want to fit in, feel pressured, or are curious yourself. Remind yourself that there are many people who do not use substances. You are not alone in saying no! The majority of Maine teens do not use! Also, remember what’s important to you and what is at risk if you choose to use. Ask yourself: Will you lose your parents’ trust? Could your choice interfere with future career plans? Will substances get you kicked off the sports team, or affect your performance? It takes the body days to recover from the use of alcohol. Running becomes hard for someone with damaged lungs from smoking or vaping tobacco and marijuana. There are many influences to start using alcohol and other drugs, and there is never a good reason to start. The Above the Influence website is a great place for you to learn more about drugs, influences, and reasons to resist.
It can be tough to have someone in your life who is using alcohol, other drugs, or tobacco. You may be worried. You may be sad, scared, or angry. Remind yourself that no one starts out using thinking that they will develop a substance use disorder or upset the people in their lives. The reality is that every day there are people who do develop a substance use disorder. Every day people lose things they care about due to substance use, including: trust, family, friends, money, interests, health, and more due to drug and alcohol choices.
It is hard to watch people lose things because of their substance use, especially when we care about someone. It is important to:
Have your Eyes and Ears Open. Everyone is at risk.
- Learn the signs and symptoms of someone who may be in trouble with drugs or alcohol. This can be a friend who
- Goes to a lot of parties,
- Gets in trouble at school or with parents,
- Starts to hang around with people that are using substances,
- Does risky things like drink and drive.
- Report your concerns. It may be tough. A friend may be upset with you. The first step to helping someone you care about with substance use, is to inform a trusted adult. If you know of illegal drug activity, report it to the authorities.
- Speak with others who share your concerns about substance use issues. Find a local youth advocacy group, teen leadership program, or community coalition.