National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week

It is National Drug & Alcohol Facts Week, a national health observance created by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for teens to learn about the myths and facts surrounding drugs and alcohol. As part of the week, NIH provides valuable information you can use to go over with your teen. Please share some of these important facts from the NIH with your son or daughter this week:

Drug Facts

According to the NIH, different drugs do different things to your brain, but ALL drugs mess with your brain’s wiring and signals. 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, doesn’t make you happy anymore. Additionally, getting drunk or high affects your thinking, which means you may do things that you wouldn’t ordinarily do. When you can’t think straight, you may get in fights or forget to take precautions, such as unprotected sex, which could lead to sexually transmitted diseases. Here is some information about specific drugs:

  • Marijuana
    • The chances of becoming addicted to marijuana, or any drug, are different for each person. For marijuana, around 1 in 11 people who use it become addicted.
    • The immediate effects of using marijuana include: rapid heartbeat, disorientation, and lack of physical coordination, often followed by depression or sleepiness.
    • Studies show that the mental functions of people who have smoked a lot of marijuana tend to be diminished. THC, which is the mind-altering ingredient found in marijuana, disrupts nerve cells in the brain, affecting memory.
    • Long-term, marijuana smoke contains 50% to 70% more cancer-causing substances than tobacco smoke.
  • Alcohol
    • About 4 in 10 people who begin drinking before age 15 eventually become alcoholics.
    • Approximately 10% of 9- to 10-year-olds have started drinking. Nearly one-third of youth begin drinking before age 13.
    • Over the long term, alcohol damages your brain, liver, and heart.
    • Drinking also changes the way you think, which means that you will do things that you normally would not do and will likely regret later, and it can make you feel depressed and even suicidal.
    • When large amounts of alcohol are consumed in a short period of time, alcohol poisoning can result, which can lead to death. About 90% of the alcohol consumed by minors in the United States is in the form of binge drinking (5 drinks for men and 4 for women in the space of two hours or less).
  • Tobacco
    • Most people who start smoking cigarettes in their teens become regular smokers before they are 18. Approximately 80% of adult smokers started smoking as teenagers.
    • Smoking causes cancer, emphysema, heart disease, infertility, bad skin, yellow teeth, reduced athletic performance, depression, and increased risk of respiratory illnesses.
    • E-cigarettes and flavored tobacco have just as much nicotine as regular cigarettes, and are NOT safe ways of using tobacco.
  • Heroin
    • 1 in 4 people who try heroin will become addicted.
    • Common conditions that plague heroin users include infection of the heart lining and valves, liver disease, lung disease, collapsed veins, and hepatitis and HIV/AIDS from needle use.
  • Prescription Drugs
    • A survey conducted by the Foundation for a Drug-Free World found that almost 50% of teens believe that prescription drugs are much safer than illegal street drugs, but that is not true.
    • More people die from prescription pain reliever overdoses (like Vicodin and OxyContin) than from heroin and cocaine combined.
    • Abusing prescription drugs has serious risks including vomiting, mood changes, decreased ability to think, addiction, and even coma or death.
  • You can get more Drug Facts at the National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens website.


You are getting bombarded with messages about drugs in songs and movies. One in 3 songs say something about drug, alcohol, or tobacco use. One in 3 movies show people getting drunk. Seven in 10 movies show characters smoking. Research says that teens who see a lot of smoking in movies are more likely to start smoking themselves. Sometimes characters smoke to look edgy or rebellious, but sometimes it’s just about “product placement” – the tobacco industry pays to have their products included in movies to plant those ideas in your head.


So many people struggle with going in and out of rehabilitation. You may wonder if treatment really works.

It takes time to recover from addiction— not only for the brain to re-adjust, but to make lifestyle changes to avoid drugs. It can take several rounds of treatment before it truly works. The NIH wants everyone to know that there are different types of addiction treatments to meet your specific needs. You can get referrals to treatment programs by calling 1-800-662-HELP (a confidential hotline) or by visiting the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration online at


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