The percentage of underage drinkers has actually decreased by one third over the last 10 years. However, there is still work to be done! Research shows that young people’s brains keep developing well into their 20s. Alcohol can alter this development, potentially affecting both the brain’s structure and its function, meaning how well it processes information.
By age 15, about 33 percent of teens have had at least 1 drink. By age 18, about 60 percent of teens have had at least 1 drink. In 2015, 7.7 million underage youth reported that they drank alcohol beyond “just a few sips” in the past month. About 4 in 10 people who begin drinking before age 15 eventually become alcoholics.
More than 70 percent of high school seniors do not view regular marijuana smoking as being harmful. However, if you smoke marijuana a lot in your teens, it can lead to problems studying and learning new things, skills you may never get back.
Most drugs of abuse target brain’s reward system by flooding it with dopamine. Repeated drug use can reset the brain’s pleasure meter, so that without the drug you feel hopeless and sad. Eventually, everyday fun stuff like spending time with friends or playing with your dog won’t make you happy anymore. Drugs mess with your brain’s wiring and signaling.
Many things can influence use, but the most common is peer pressure. Did you know that you are getting bombarded with messages about drugs in songs and movies all the time? A study of popular music found that 1 in 3 songs said something about drug, alcohol or tobacco use. And in the top 100 movies over a 9-year period, 7 in 10 movies showed characters smoking and 1 in 3 people getting drunk. We urge you to get the facts and make your own decisions!
When teens are given the facts about drugs, they can be better prepared to make good decisions for themselves and they can share this information with others. It is important to be educate teens so that they may be empowered.