Alcohol, Drugs, Tobacco, and Vaping

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Alcohol is by far the most widely used psychoactive drug in the United States. Yet while the possession, use, or sale of other drugs is against the law, alcohol is legal for those aged twenty-one or older. We know that makes it hard to understand why it might not be good for you when it's ok for others to use. It can be even more tempting because TV and advertising portrays alcohol as fun and trendy.

However, it’s important to remember that alcohol is a drug and can cause serious health problems, especially for teens. Scientists used to think that people’s brains were fully developed by the age of 10, but now there’s evidence that shows that the brain isn’t fully developed until people are in their 20’s, or even 30’s.

This means for you as a teen that your brain is still developing, and alcohol could impair that development. The last part of the brain to develop is called the frontal lobe, which affects both judgment and impulse control. So as a teen, you’re more likely to make risky decisions. While you’re smart and you think clearly, it’s harder to recognize what’s going to happen after you do something without that part of the brain prompting you to pause and think through things first. Your brain also allows you to learn and retain lots of new things. But the process of general learning is the same process as developing an addiction. So even if you think you're just having a few casual drinks every once in a while, you're exposing your brain to the learning process of drinking alcohol, which can lead to addiction later on. 

Learn the facts about alcohol and keep yourself safe! Trusted resources include:


With as much as drugs-- especially weed-- are shown on TV, in the movies, and talked about in conversations, it may seem like most teens use drugs. However, the majority of teens in Montana actually don't use drugs according to recent surveys -- even marijuana.

By far the most commonly used drug by teens is marijuana. It can be rolled into cigarettes (joints) or cigars (blunts), inhaled using glass pipes or water pipes called bongs, inhaled using vaping devices that pull the active ingredients from marijuana into the vapor, or consumed in food (sometimes called edibles).

Short-Term Effects Include:

  • altered senses (such as seeing brighter colors)
  • altered sense of time
  • changes in mood
  • slow reaction time
  • problems with balance and coordination
  • increased appetite
  • trouble thinking and solving problems
  • memory problems
  • hallucinations (seeing things that aren’t really there)
  • delusions (believing something that is not true)
  • psychosis (having false thoughts) (risk is highest with regular use of high potency marijuana)

Mixing marijuana with alcohol can cause increased heart rate and blood pressure. It can also cause further slowing of the ability to think, solve problems, and react.

Long-Term Effects Include:

  • Increased heart rate. When someone uses marijuana, the heart rate (normally 70 to 80 beats per minute)—may increase or even double, especially if other drugs are taken with the marijuana. This increases the risk of a heart attack.
  • Respiratory (lung and breathing) problems. Smoke from marijuana irritates the lungs, and can cause a chronic cough—effects similar to those from regular cigarettes. While research has not found a strong association between marijuana and lung cancer, many people who smoke marijuana also smoke cigarettes, which do cause cancer.
  • Increased risk for mental health problems. Marijuana use has been linked with depression and anxiety, as well as suicidal thoughts among teens. In addition, research suggests that smoking marijuana during the teen years might increase the risk for developing psychosis in people with a genetic risk for developing schizophrenia. Researchers are still studying the relationship between these mental health problems and marijuana use.

While there are generally no reports of people fatally overdosing (dying) on marijuana alone, people can feel some very uncomfortable side effects, especially when using marijuana with high THC levels. Some people who use marijuana land in emergency rooms, reporting unease and shaking, anxiety, paranoia, or hallucinations, and in rare cases, extreme psychotic reactions. Furthermore, pot can harm school performance, reduce life satisfaction, cause impaired driving leading to accidents and injury of yourself and others, and cause severe nausea and vomiting.

Learn the facts about drugs and keep yourself safe! Trusted resources include:


Surveys of Montana teens show a significant number of teens have tried smoking cigarettes or using smokeless tobacco. You have probably already heard the health risks of smoking. But for the same reason why teens are more at risk for alcohol addiction (alcoholism), they are also at risk for smoking addiction. The younger a person starts smoking, the quicker and stronger addiction can be. Therefore, we do not recommend any smoking at any age. If you have already started using tobacco, let your healthcare provider know so that we can help you quit!

You're probably more familiar with vaping, also called Juuling (based on Juul, the name brand of one of the most popular vaping devices).
While traditional tobacco use is on the decline, vaping rates have blown up in the last few years, particularly among teens. Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling the aerosol, often referred to as vapor, produced by an e-cigarette or similar device. The term is used because e-cigarettes do not produce tobacco smoke, but rather an aerosol.

You may think vaping is safe because it's just water vapor and because it comes in popular flavors instead of tasting like a cigarette. However, the vapor that comes from vape pens is not just water vapor, but also includes fine particles containing varying amounts of toxic chemicals. These chemical have been linked to cancer, lung, and heart disease. Furthermore, vaping may be more addictive than smoking because vape pods aren't regulated by the government the same way that cigarettes and other tobacco products are. 1 Juul pod contains as much addictive nicotine as a pack of cigarettes!

Learn the facts about tobacco and vaping and keep yourself safe! Trusted resources include:


All information on this page was pulled from the following sites:

Children's Clinic