Substance Abuse

Don't Go Up in Smoke

Smoking, cool? Definitely not. Every day, we see images (on the Internet, in tobacco company advertising, and in the movies) that depict smoking as cool, sexy, professional, and glamorous.

What we don't see is that every day 3,000 children become regular smokers. This youthful smoking can have severe lifelong consequences. In addition, teens who smoke are more likely to use illicit drugs and drink more heavily than their nonsmoking peers. Don't think that it's just cigarettes that can cause damage to your health, cigars and chewing tobacco also cause cancer.

Smoking can cause bad breath, permanently stained teeth, and early wrinkles ? not a big turn-on when you're dating. More importantly, it wrecks your lungs. You can't catch your breath, and when you try to do anything athletic, you feel like you're suffocating. Smoking also blocks oxygen from your bloodstream. Your heart works harder but accomplishes less. You can't move as fast and you're not as strong. Not only does smoking cause many major health risks, it is highly addictive as well.

A Quiz To Light You Up


You have probably heard of the dangers of smoking in health class or from concerned adults or friends. Let's see how much you really know.

True or False?

Overall, smoking among teenagers has decreased.
False, in recent years, the number of 12th graders who reported smoking daily has increased steadily.
Females smoke more than males.
False, there is little or no difference in the prevalence of smoking between males and females.
On the average, smokers do worse in school than non-smokers.
True, a national survey of high school students showed that non-smokers did better in school and went on to college at higher rates than did smokers.
Cigar and smokeless tobacco (chewing tobacco, dip, spit, or chew) are non-addictive and don't cause cancer.
False, cigars and smokeless tobacco are highly addictive and just as likely to cause cancer as cigarettes.
As long as you don't smoke, cigarettes can't hurt you.
False, secondhand smoke can kill you. Many people die each year from lung cancer caused by the smoke of others.
Most adult smokers started smoking in their teens.
True,  few smokers start after age 21.
No one suffers from the side effects of smoking until middle age.
False, aside from bad breath and stained teeth, smoking can hurt your stamina when you are walking, running, or playing sports, and it adds more misery to colds and other respiratory conditions.
Smoking cigarettes is related to use of other drugs.
True, teenagers using tobacco are far more likely to use drugs like marijuana and cocaine.
Buying cigarettes is legal if you're 16.
False, selling tobacco to anyone under 18 is illegal.
Teens who start smoking won't get hooked.
False, nine years after being polled, 75 percent of those teens who said they smoked were still lighting up.
You don't need that much cash to be a smoker.
False, a person who smokes a pack a day will spend at least $1,000 over a one-year period to keep up the habit.

Take Action

  • Don't start!
  • Start a nutrition program in your school to help teens, especially girls, understand that smoking is not a good weight control remedy.
  • Refuse to wear tobacco name brands on hats, T-shirts, jackets, and other articles of clothing.
  • Start a "smoke-out" week at your school where everyone at school, including teachers and administrators go an entire week without smoking.

Don't Lose a Friend to Drugs

Has a friend become moody, short-tempered, and hostile? Does he or she seem out of it or spacey? Is she suddenly cutting classes and hanging out with the "wrong crowd?" Stop and think about it. Your friend may have an alcohol or other drug problem.

Additional Signs of Drug or Alcohol Abuse Include:

  • Increased interest in alcohol or other drugs; talking about them, talking about buying them
  • Owning drug paraphernalia such as pipes, hypodermic needles, or rolling papers
  • Having large amounts of cash or always being low on cash
  • Drastic increase or decrease in weight
  • Sometimes slurred or incoherent speech
  • Withdrawal from others, frequent lying, depression, paranoia
  • Dropping out of school activities
  • Increased sexual activity.
  • If a friend acts this way, it is not a guarantee that he or she has an alcohol or other drug problem. You need to compare behavior now to behavior in the past. But it's better to say something and be wrong than to say nothing and find out later that you were right to be worried.

How To Talk to a Friend Who's in Trouble

It is not an easy thing to do. You may feel like your friend will think you are judging him or her. A friend in trouble may very well get mad at you for interfering in his or her business. Although it's not your job to get people to stop using drugs, you can and should express concern as a friend. Only the user can decide to stop.

Before you talk to a friend, it may be helpful to know some of facts about drug use:

  • There are an estimated 1.5 million Americans, ages 12 and older who use cocaine.
  • Drug-related deaths remain near historic highs.
  • Current illicit drug use among 8th and 10th graders has more than doubled in the past five years.
  • Teens who drink alcohol are 7.5 times more likely to use any illicit drug, and 50 times more likely to use cocaine than young people who never drink alcohol.

Think ahead about what you want to say, these tips can help you through the process:

  • Let the friend know that you care about them.
  • Plan ahead what you want to say and how you want to say it.
  • Pick a quiet and private time to talk.
  • Don't try to talk about the problem when your friend is drunk or high.
  • Use a calm voice and don't get into an argument.
  • Ask if there is anything that you can do to help. Have information about local hotlines and drug abuse counseling and offer to go with him or her.
  • Don't expect your friend to like what you're saying. But stick with it ? the more people who express concern, the better the chances of your friend getting help.
  • Look for help for your friend. Talk about the situation with someone who knows about drug abuse and helping abusers.
  • Seek advise from a trusted adult such as a guidance counselor, a teacher, a religious leader or a parent about how to talk to friends who may have a drug problem.
  • Be prepared for denial by the friend when you talk to him or her about his or her problem. The user may automatically turn aggressive and defensive.

Keeping Yourself Drug Free Helps Friends Stay That Way

  • Skip parties where you know there will be alcohol or other drugs.
  • Hang out with friends who don't use alcohol or other drugs to have fun.
  • Get involved in drug-free activities. Ask your friends to join.
  • Learn how to talk to your peers and younger kids about the dangers of abusing drugs and alcohol. Many communities have programs that teach teens how to counsel their peers about problems that teenagers face, including substance abuse.
  • Don't accept a ride from someone who has been drinking or doing drugs. Find someone else to give you a lift.
  • Offer to drive for the person who is high or drunk or call your parents or a friend for a ride.
  • Remind friends that buying or possessing illegal drugs is against the law. Being arrested and getting a police record may not seem like a big deal now, but could keep you from getting jobs, college loans, or licenses for many professions.
  • Remind friends that using intravenous drugs places them at risk of getting AIDS and hepatitis.

Take Action

  • Encourage your school to organize drug-free activities; dances, movies, community service projects, walk-athons, marathons, etc. to raise money for charities or local substance abuse programs.
  • Use plays, songs, and raps to show younger children the consequences of drug abuse.
  • Urge your school, faith community, or neighborhood to organize an anti-drug rally.
  • Tell a teacher, your parents, or the police about drug dealers in your school and community. Many areas have phone numbers that let people report these crimes anonymously. Don't ignore the problem by thinking, "that kid will graduate next year" or "they only deal to a few kids." The problem will only get worse.
  • Talk to school counselors about starting an alcohol or other drug abuse prevention program.
  • Check with recreation centers, youth clubs, libraries, or schools to see if they offer after-school activities ? classes for you and your friends. Ask your school or neighborhood to publicize these activities.
  • Encourage your school to start intramural sports for kids who may not be interested in competing on the junior varsity or varsity athletic teams but still want to play.

Dying to Drink? - The Hard Facts

Who Gets Hurt?

People like you . . .
  • Three out of five Americans will be involved in an alcohol-related car crash.
  • Someone is injured in an alcohol-related crash every 32 seconds.

Who Gets Killed?

People like you . . .
  • In 1999 alone, 15,786 people were killed in alcohol-related car accidents. Of those, 2,238 were young people.That's about 42 young people killed in drunk driving accidents every week.
  • Almost 40 percent of all traffic fatalities are alcohol related.

Who Pays?

We all do . . .
  • The estimated yearly economic cost of alcohol related car accidents is $45 billion.

Why Are Drinking and Driving a Lethal Combination?

  • Judgment is the first capacity affected by alcohol. People who've been drinking frequently believe that they're less affected than they are.
  • Coordination, vision, and motor skills are drastically impaired by alcohol consumption.
  • Being fatigued, stressed, under the weather, or using any medicine can dramatically increase alcohol's effect, making "one harmless little drink" lethally intoxicating to someone behind the wheel.

How Much Is Too Much?

  • The only completely safe alcohol consumption level before driving is ZERO.
  • If you or anyone else is concerned about your sobriety, don't drive. Get a ride or stay where you are (spend the night if necessary) until you are sure you're able to drive safely.
  • Plan ahead. Designate a driver who agrees to "down" only nonalcoholic drinks.
  • Watch Out for the Other Guy!
On an average weekend evening, approximately one out of every ten drivers is legally impaired or drunk. Any time of day or night, use seat belts, and be alert to signs of a drunk driver, such as:
  • Unusually wide turns
  • Weaving, swerving
  • Hugging the center line, or driving left of center
  • Excessively fast or slow speeds
  • Stopping suddenly without apparent cause
  • Inconsistent turn signals
  • Driving with headlights off in the dark
  • Driving with windows rolled down in cold weather.
  • If a driver ahead of you seems impaired, don't try to pass. Maintain extra distance, and be prepared to stop suddenly. If the driver is behind you, turn right at the next intersection to let him get ahead of you. If the driver is coming toward you, slow down, move to the right, and stop.

Beyond the Highway

Alcohol can be deadly anytime, any place. The dangers of drinking and driving are clear, but some other facts and situations to keep in mind:
  • As many as 40 percent of fatal accidents (falls, drownings, etc.) involve alcohol. Alcohol use on or near the eater is especially hazardous.
  • Alcohol and depression are a deadly duo. One third of all suicides occur while the person is under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
  • About 10,000 people die each year from alcohol related overdoses. Large amounts of alcohol are toxic ? as lethal as any other poisonous substance.
  • Drinking before or after heavy exercise (a tennis or softball game, volleyball or football scrimmages) can be particularly dangerous. Exertion coupled with alcohol can put a nasty strain on even the best-trained athlete.
  • Alcohol consumption plays a role in violence. About 10,000 murders occur each year in situations involving alcohol.
  • Anyone who is intoxicated is more vulnerable to crime, from muggings to rape.

Don't Get Bombed, Get Involved!

  • Start a campus group to raise awareness about alcohol issues. For example, many colleges have chapters of BACCHUS (Boost Alcohol Consciousness Concerning the Health of University Students). For more information contact BACCHUS of the U.S., Inc., PO Box 10430, Denver, CO 80210, or call 303-871-3068.
  • Team up with your highway patrol or AAA to present Safe Driving Seminars.
  • Volunteer to assist high school Drivers' Ed. classes to heighten the awareness of teens to the dangers of drinking and driving.
  • Kick off a special event, such as homecoming or graduations, with a mammoth line-up of smashed cars from alcohol-related crashes. The cops and the junkyard will be happy to help.
  • Start a "Tipsy Taxi" program to provide free rides to anyone who needs a safe ride home. Contact campus shuttle service or a local cab company.

Methamphetamines: Nothing to Rave About

"Meth," "speed," "chalk," "ice," "crystal," "crank," "fire," and "glass" are street terms for a man-made drug called methamphetamine. Methamphetamine is among the most addictive substances around. The drug can easily be made in secret laboratories from relatively inexpensive over-the-counter ingredients. This white, odorless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder can be smoked, snorted, injected, or swallowed. Teens may think that the bizarre way the drug makes them feel is cool; however, the drug is altering their brains, maybe permanently.

Methamphetamine is not usually sold and bought on the streets like many other illicit drugs. Instead, people obtain supplies through friends or acquaintances. It is typically a closed or hidden sale. Most teens who come in contact with methamphetamines will do so attending a "rave" or private club. It is at these clubs where the drug is often sold.

Because methamphetamines can be made with readily available, inexpensive materials, there is great variation in the processes and chemicals used. This means that the final product that is sold as "methamphetamine" may not be that drug at all. Uncertainties about the drug's sources and its content make it difficult to know how powerful this substance may be and what the consequences are of this potent mixture.

Signs of a Methamphetamine User

Users may experience:
  • Signs of agitation, excited speech, decreased appetites, and increased physical activity levels (other common symptoms include dilated pupils, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, and elevated body temperature)
  • Occasional episodes of sudden and violent behavior, intense paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations, and bouts of insomnia
  • A tendency to compulsively clean and groom and repetitively sort and disassemble objects such as cars and other mechanical devices.

Long-Term Effects of the Drug

Methamphetamines can:
  • Change the brain's ability to manufacture a chemical substance essential for the normal experience of pleasure and for normal psychological functioning (these changes in the brain can persist long after the user stops taking the drugs)
  • Cause a stroke
  • Create a mental disorder that mimics schizophrenia
  • Be extremely addictive.

Kicking the Habit

There are currently no medications available to treat addiction or overdose to methamphetamines. Withdrawal from this drug is typically characterized by drug craving, depression, disturbed sleep patterns, and increased appetite.

Take Action

  • Skip parties where you know there will be alcohol and drugs.
  • Get involved in drug-free activities.
  • Urge your school, faith community, or neighborhood to organize an anti-drug rally.
  • Talk to school counselors about starting an alcohol or drug abuse prevention program.

Sniffing Your Life Away

Inhalant abuse can kill. And if it doesn't kill you, it can leave you with severe brain damage or severe respiratory problems. There's no fooling around, even a first-time user can end up dead after "sniffing" or "huffing" inhalants.

Everyday products like glue, paint, lighter fluid, fingernail polish, permanent markers, Whiteout®, deodorants, and anything in an aerosol can are sniffed to get a rapid and dangerous high. While this type of substance abuse may seem harmless because the products are not legally classified as drugs, they are deadly chemicals and poisons. An inhalant "high" may give the feeling of well-being and reduce inhibitions, much like the effects of alcohol and other sedatives. Higher doses produce laughter and giddiness, feelings of floating, time and space distortions, and hallucinations. But the reality is inhalant abuse has serious short- and long-term side effects.

The Short Term

Sniffing can make you sick. For example, victims may become nauseated, forgetful, and unable to see things clearly. Some victims lose control of their body, including the use of arms and legs. You don't look real cool stumbling around high from inhalants. Side effects can last 15 to 45 minutes after sniffing. People who sniff often act intoxicated and experience short-term memory loss as well.

The Long Term

  • Potential "Sudden Sniffing Death" even for first-time users
  • Permanent brain damage
  • Hearing loss
  • Increased heart rate
  • Arm or leg spasms
  • Bone marrow damage
  • Liver and kidney damage
  • Damage to an unborn baby, if pregnant.
  • Chronic inhalant abusers may exhibit such symptoms as anxiety, excitability, irritability, or restlessness that can lead to violent behavior.

What Are Some Signs of Inhalant Abuse?

Inhalant abusers may show all or some of these symptoms:
  • Unusual breath odor or chemical odor on clothing
  • Slurred or slowed speech
  • A general drunken appearance
  • Paint or other products on the face or fingers
  • Red or runny eyes or nose
  • Spots or sores around the mouth
  • Nausea and/or loss of appetite.

What Should You Do if Someone You Know Is Sniffing and Seems To Be in Trouble?

  • Stay calm.
  • Call 911 or your local medical emergency number.
  • Open the windows and doors to let in fresh air.
  • Do not excite or argue with an abuser under the influence, as he or she can become aggressive or violent.
  • Administer CPR until help arrives if the abuser is not breathing.
  • Ask the abuser to sit down and stay calm, activity or stress may cause heart problems, which could lead to "Sudden Sniffing Death."
  • Talk with other persons present or check the area for clues to what was used.
  • Help the abuser get professional help from a school nurse, counselor, physician, or health care worker. Once he or she is recovered, offer to go with the abuser to his or her appointment.

What Can You Do To Prevent Inhalant Abuse?

Know the facts. Remember that inhalants are not made for the body. They are deadly chemicals and poisons. Know the many ways inhalants can damage your mind and body. Tell your friends about the dangers of inhalant abuse. And refuse to hang out with friends who sniff.

As with many prevention efforts, preventing inhalant abuse takes a community effort. Organize with other teens to take the lead in involving the media, retailers, schools, churches, health care providers, civic and volunteer organizations, elected officials, and the law enforcement community to work together to stop kids from sniffing. Churches could educate their youth groups. Retailers could monitor their sales of certain products. Health care providers could pass out literature to patients.

Take Action

  • Work with local middle and elementary schools to start an inhalant abuse prevention project. It is not unusual for this kind of abuse to start as early as 10 or even 7 years of age.
  • Educate your school about the dangers of inhalants through posters, newspaper articles, and announcements over the P.A. system at your school.
  • Participate in National Inhalants and Poisons Week. Contact the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition at 800-269-4237 for more information.
  • Educate adults about inhalant abuse. Many parents, coaches, and teachers may not know how widespread the problem, the extent of the danger, or how to recognize abuse.
  • If you're tempted to use, get help from a counselor, fast.

The Dangers of Drinking

  • Alcohol is the number one drug of choice for teenagers.
  • Alcohol-related car crashes are the number one killer of teenagers in the United States.
  • Alcohol is the number one drug problem in America.
  • If you think it can't happen to you, look around. Check your school's yearbooks for the last ten years. How many were dedicated to a student who was killed in a drunk driving crash?
Ask your friends how many people they know who have had bad things happen to them when they or someone else was drinking.

You don't even have to be the one doing the drinking. Most teenage passenger deaths are the result of crashes caused by alcohol-impaired teenage drivers. No matter what the situation, drinking alcohol under the age of 21 is illegal.

How Does Alcohol Affect You?

  • You see double, slur your speech, you lose your sense of distance.
  • Alcohol loosens your inhibitions; you make bad judgments that can result in car crashes, violence, unwanted pregnancy, sexual transmission of diseases, or rape.
  • A significant portion of violent crimes and vandalism among and by youth involve use of alcohol.
  • Using alcohol can cost you your freedom. You can be grounded by parents, lose your driver's license, or end up in jail.
  • You can get sick or die from alcohol poisoning.
  • Poor grades may be a result of increased use of alcohol.

Be Smart About Advertising

Take a good look at how the alcohol industry tries to convince people to use its products.
  • Wine coolers are displayed in stores next to fruit drinks. Maybe they don't think you'll notice the difference between a regular fruit drink and one with alcohol.
  • Different brands of beer and other alcoholic beverages are slipped into the movies you watch. They think if you see your favorite actor drinking it, you will too.
  • The models on the beer commercials are always young, fit, and beautiful. But alcohol has plenty of calories and little nutritional value. Drinking it will not make you fitter or more attractive.
  • Advertisements feature celebrities and sports figures, but drinking will not make you famous or athletic.
  • Alcohol advertisers are now reminding people not to drink and drive. But drunk driving is not the only way alcohol can mess up your life.
  • Advertisers hope you won't stop and think when you see their ads. Don't be conned. Use your own judgment, not theirs, and learn the facts.

More Facts About Alcohol:

  • The earlier young people start drinking and using drugs, the more likely they are to become addicted.
  • Drinking coffee, taking a cold shower, exercising, or breathing fresh air will not sober you up. The only thing that sobers you up is time ? at least several hours.
  • One beer, one shot of whiskey, and one glass of wine all have the same amount of alcohol. Don't fall for the myth that beer and wine are less intoxicating than hard liquor.
  • Only 3 to 5 percent of alcoholics are what we think of as bums. Most alcoholics are just like people you know. Anyone can become an alcoholic ? young, old, rich, poor, single, married, employed, or out-of-work.
  • Drinking alcohol does not quench your thirst; it causes dehydration.
  • Alcohol interferes with your central nervous system. You lose balance, coordination, and judgment.
  • Alcohol ages and damages the brain.
  • Alcoholism is hereditary.
  • Eight young people a day die in alcohol related crashes.
  • Teens who drink alcohol are 7.5 times more likely to use any illicit drug, and 50 times more likely to use cocaine than young people who never drink alcohol.
  • You are breaking the law by buying or using alcohol before you are 21 years old.

Take Action

  • Make a pledge with your friends that you will help each other avoid alcohol and other drugs. Leave parties where kids are drinking.
  • If a friend, or someone you know, has passed out from drinking too much alcohol, turn the person on his or her side and call 911 or your local emergency number for help. Too much alcohol can cause the central nervous system, which controls breathing, to shut down. Death can result.
  • Don't ride with someone who has been drinking. Call a taxi, your parents, or another relative or friend for a ride.
  • Encourage someone you think has a drinking problem to get help. Go with them to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings or to meet with a counselor.
  • Suggest that members of any club or youth group you belong to organize an anti-drinking project ? an alcohol-free post-prom, graduation, or New Year's Eve party.
  • Make a presentation to your school's PTA meeting about how teachers and parents can realistically help kids avoid drugs and alcohol.
  • Ask for help if someone is pressuring you to try alcohol or other drugs. Talk to someone you trust.
Crime Prevention Tips Provided by: National Crime Prevention Council