What Youth Should Know about Drugs and Alcohol

What Youth Should Know about Drugs and Alcohol

March 21-March 26 is National Drugs and Alcohol Facts Week. This time is set aside each year to help youth learn more about the science of drug use and addiction. L.A. CADA provides many prevention and treatment services for children, youth, and young adults. Our treatment staff know that scaring young people is not an effective way to help them avoid and deal with alcohol and drug use. Instead, we use science.

Here are some science-based facts you may not know:

  • The Adolescent Brain Can’t Handle Drugs and Alcohol. During youth and young adulthood, nerve cells that are frequently used during childhood are strengthened, while the ones that are not frequently used are eliminated. It’s a kind of “pruning” process. Until the brain is fully developed (around age 25), youth tend to make decisions that involve risk-taking and novelty-seeking to gain short-term rewards. That’s why adolescence is a developmental period associated with the highest risk for developing a substance use disorder (SUD).
  • Early alcohol and drug use is a predictor of future addiction. For example, research shows that 7.2% of youth who begin drinking at 11–12 years of age were found to have an alcohol use disorder within two years. Young people who waited until age 21 to get drunk for the first time only have a 3.7% chance of an alcohol use disorder within two years.
  • Most traffic accidents involve alcohol and/or drugs. Combined with inexperience in driving, drugs and alcohol are a deadly combination for young people. In 2016, 6% of drivers involved in fatal accidents tested positive for alcohol or drugs. Alcohol is the number one cause of these impaired driving incidents. Marijuana is the second drug most commonly found in the bloodstream of drivers involved in accidents.
  • The top 5 reasons that youth use alcohol and drugs are: 1) peer pressure; 2) escape or self-medication; 3) academic or performance pressure; 4) coping with anxiety, depression, or trauma; and 5) media representation of smoking, drinking, or using. The COVID-19 pandemic is the most recent cause of increased the use of alcohol and drugs among youth.
  • Teen substance use can be deadly. Nationwide, the drug overdose death rate has more than doubled during the past decade among people aged 12 to 25 (as per the Trust for America’s Health report). Young adults ages 19 to 25 are particularly at risk for a fatal overdose.

L.A. CADA’s skilled counselors and clinicians are trained to work with youth (ages 12-17) and young adults (ages 18-20). If you or someone you know is experiencing substance use issues, call L.A. CADA’s Youth and Family Department at (562) 906-2676.

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